Vodacom Super 14

Crusaders sweat on 'enforcer'

2009-05-21 11:35
Touch and go (File)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – All Blacks hard man Brad Thorn remains a touch-and-go prospect for Saturday’s Super 14 semi-final showdown with the Bulls at Loftus.

It was reported in New Zealand on Thursday that Thorn, an initial pick for the starting XV, had now been “bracketed” with the rather more lightweight and inexperienced Michael Paterson for a lock berth.

Similarly, there is enough concern about their international scrumhalf Andy Ellis (persistent hip injury) for the Crusaders to have pencilled him alongside Kahn Fotuali’i for No 9 and scrambled third-choice Tyson Keats on a flight to South Africa as possible bench-occupier in the position.

It is Thorn’s fitness the Crusaders probably pin their hopes on the most, although the New Zealand Herald reported that medical staff were having to “work overtime” on the tight hamstring which forced him out of the final league encounter with the Blues last weekend.

The tough customer had been quoted on Wednesday as saying he was “positive” about his chances of running out at Loftus.

He is very much the enforcer of the Crusaders pack and fulfils a similar role for the All Blacks, while his eight-year Super rugby experience would also come in handy for a crunch encounter like Saturday’s.

It is sometimes said that the Bulls' own iron man of the second row, Bakkies Botha, can be less visible than usual when he comes up against Thorn, although the Springbok has been in snarling fettle since his comeback from suspension and might relish the opportunity to set the record straight in this game if there is, indeed, any truth to the theory.

Certainly, if the Crusaders are forced to field Paterson, they will surrender a lot in both grunt and battle-wisdom to the ace Bulls pair of Botha and Victor Matfield.

If the official Super 14 media guide for 2009 is to be believed, Paterson stands 1.95m and tips the scales at a surprisingly light 98kg.

Indeed, the 24-year-old started his career at centre and is described as “a dynamic lock with good speed and ball skills”.

Of course losing Ellis would be a big blow as well, as he would be expected to try to keep revered opposite number Fourie du Preez in check.

Standby scrumhalf Fotuali’i turns 27 on Friday, but he only sported eight Super 14 caps going into this season. He is nevertheless a pretty physical customer for the position at 96kg.


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