Bulls, Sharks equal for lineouts
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The Bulls and Sharks, who meet in an attractive Super
Rugby derby at Loftus on Saturday, have identical, high-ranking statistics for
lineout efficiency this season.
According to latest stats issued on the official website, the two SA conference
sides are joint second-best for lineout “success percentage” at 91.7% each.
That places them only adrift of last season’s beaten
finalists the Brumbies, who top the table at 94.9% as they prepare to face the
currently struggling Stormers in Canberra.
It is just another reason to look forward to the rapid
second-time encounter in 2014 between Frans Ludeke and Jake White’s charges in
Pretoria (19:10 kickoff).
The overall log-leading Sharks won 31-16 at Kings Park in
mid-February, although the Bulls are busy making up ground determinedly now after
their shaky start.
On the earlier occasion, the Bulls were only just beginning
to filter back Victor Matfield, one of the world’s best ever lineout
specialists, from his retirement and he joined the fray in the second half – he
has since been starting anew for the three-time champions and looking more
convincing with every appearance.
The Sharks have also suffered a hefty blow since the first
encounter with their own emerging No 5, Pieter-Steph du Toit, cruelly sidelined
for the rest of the year with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Saturday should see the Bulls field Matfield and Flip van
der Merwe in their second row, with lineout support at the back coming from
Jacques du Plessis and another returning favourite in Dewald Potgieter.
The Sharks are likely to stick with the lock alliance of
Anton Bresler and the raw but promising stringbean Stephan Lewies in Du Toit’s
place again at No 5, with spring-heeled Ryan Kankowski leading their lineout
charge on deeper throw-ins.
Of the remaining South African teams for lineout competence,
if the figures are to be believed, the Cheetahs come in eighth overall at
present (83.1%), the Lions ninth (82.9), and the Stormers a poor 11th
by their standards (81.0).
Apart from sacrificing 2.07m giant Andries Bekker to Japan
this season, the Capetonians have a major injury crisis in their second row
which has probably had some effect on lineout efficiency.*Follow
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing