From a South
African perspective, the Stormers' victory over the Hurricanes was in my view
the most significant result of Round 11.
from home is crucial and it would have instilled plenty of confidence and
belief within the side for the remainder of their Australasian tour.
A side that
would have taken heart from their performance rather than the result this past
weekend are the Sharks. They have been decimated by
injury and were roundly written off ahead of their clash with the Chiefs.
They had a nightmare
opening quarter and were 24-0 down before they knew it. However, we must admire
the Sharks’ grit and determination in fighting back so gallantly.
They remain a
resilient side and will rightly draw positives from their performance, but
there is no question that their injury count is taking its toll.
At this stage of
the season, it becomes challenging for all the Super Rugby sides to manage
injuries and fatigue.
Like us, I
imagine that the vast majority of sides are now cutting down on practice time
as much as possible. It’s vital to have a top-notch medical and conditioning
team as rest and recovery becomes paramount.
We are, for
example, playing our ninth game on the trot against the Waratahs this Saturday
and only enjoy our bye in round 14.
Some of the
players are now starting to feel the effects. As a management team, we will
therefore rest players nursing bad bumps and bruises until later in the week. At
this point, intensity trumps volume.
As the modern
season is ever-expanding, younger players are getting more game time to prove
their worth. Youngsters such as Jan Serfontein, JJ Engelbrecht, Raymond Rhule
and our own Cornell du Preez, who was playing for the SA Under-20 side just two
seasons ago, have caught the eye this season.
Another young star
who I have been impressed with is the Sharks’ Pieter-Steph du Toit. While lock
depth is a little bit of a concern for the national side, I believe that with
youngsters like him, South African rugby is in safe hands.
lock who I believe will come to fore this weekend is 21-year-old Eben Etzebeth.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Stormers have missed his towering
presence and physicality.
On Friday, the
Stormers will be in for a tight-fought encounter with the Blues, who are an
ever dangerous side.
Stormers are welcoming back key players at just the right time and the fact
that Allister Coetzee has a full 26-man touring squad to pick from is
While Gary van
Aswegen is a competent young flyhalf, whose development has been stunted by a
litany of injuries, I think the fact that Elton Jantjies has more
experience edges the battle for the No 10 jersey in his favour.
If Jantjies is
able to demonstrate the form we all know he is capable of, I think he has the
potential to make a telling contribution to the Cape side’s cause.
The Stormers are
well aware that the Blues are dangerous from broken play and will therefore
look to strangle them through an accurate kicking game and a strong defence.
I’m tipping the Stormers to come out on top.
Much like the
Stormers, I expect the Bulls to attempt to suffocate the Hurricanes. They will
primarily play for territory and aim to dominate the set-piece exchanges.
By their own
high standards, the Bulls were disappointing against the Waratahs. We can
therefore be assured that they will have the bit between their teeth this
Saturday. Expect the Bulls to charge to victory.
Sunday sees the
Brumbies host the Crusaders in what I predict will prove an entertaining
nearly lost to the Rebels this past weekend, so will have to go hell-for-leather
to win this game. Especially at home, the Brumbies are no easy-beats.
employ more of a South African approach in that they boast a sound kicking
game, focus on gaining territorial ascendancy and possess a solid set-piece.
meanwhile, prosper most by utilising the full width of the field.
Alan Solomons was assistant coach to
Nick Mallett when the Springboks went 17 Tests unbeaten. He is currently EP
Kings’ Director of Rugby and is a consultant to the IRB.