Currie Cup

Brok back in WP mix

2009-10-14 13:35
Brok Harris (File)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Bellville - The restoration of Western Province’s “old firm” front row of the 2009 Absa Currie Cup looked increasingly likely after a training session here on Wednesday for the semi-final against the brawny might of the Blue Blues at Newlands.

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Unless there were some red herrings involved at the open practice, Brok Harris will return at tighthead prop to link up with Wicus Blaauw and Tiaan Liebenberg - this is the combo who have done much to bury the notion this year of WP as a soft touch at scrum-time.

The 24-year-old Harris has been one of the quiet revelations of the season in a position not exactly robustly stocked in South Africa generally, even if Blaauw’s exploits at No 1 have tended to hog more of the Currie Cup headlines.

While not “dominating” loosehead opponents in the fullest sense of the word, Harris has also not conceded an inch and, like the proverbial good shiraz, appears to be blossoming with age and experience.

Province gave a start to the highly-rated, but even more greenhorn JC Kritzinger at No 3 in the unexpected defeat to the Lions in Johannesburg last Saturday, where the visitors did not establish quite the foothold they would have liked in the set-piece.

In fairness to Kritzinger, his season has begun extremely belatedly after a lengthy absence through injury and he is probably not nearly as match-sharp as the rest of his WP squad-mates.

Harris sat out the Lions match nursing some swelling around an eye – apparently the product of a punch in the derby a week earlier against the Cavaliers – but he appeared to be back among the first XV and in chipper spirits in the morning training session.

Province were due to name their match-day lineup at a media conference in the early afternoon.

The return of Harris would give WP the psychological comfort of fielding the same front-row who eclipsed their Bulls counterparts in the round-robin meeting in Cape Town a few weeks ago.

They will be up against similarly familiar faces in Gurthro Steenkamp, Derick Kuun and Werner Kruger, and how the boiler-room battle goes could play an influential role in determining the outcome of the semi-final.

A couple of factors strongly suggest, however, that the Bulls will not retreat in the front row quite so markedly this time - Kruger will have the iron-man Bakkies Botha scrumming behind him in the second row and he ought to make the sort of difference in aiding his tighthead as he does when he cajoles and inspires John Smit (to all intents and purposes also a relative No 3 rookie) at international level.

And Province, conversely, may not get quite the luxurious “go-forward” they did when gnarly All Black veteran Chris Jack locked their scrum in the last meeting – the awkwardly tall Andries Bekker’s shoving strengths may be a little inferior.

But the chunky Liebenberg, at hooker, will probably fancy himself to slightly out-muscle his mobile opposite number Kuun, reportedly moving back to loose forward next year as the Bulls phase old favourite Gary Botha back into the mix.

Which of the looseheads -- established Springbok squad member Steenkamp (Bulls) and WP’s “find” Blaauw -- features more strongly in the semi could just be influential in determining which of them earns an end-of-year Bok tour ticket as a back-up to first-choice Beast Mtawarira.

It is not out of the question that both will yet crack the nod, as South Africa intend taking a swollen squad on a trip that will feature a brace of midweek matches as well as the three Tests against Italy, France and Ireland.


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