Can Sharks stop prolific prop?

    2012-04-17 13:20
    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Doubtless with his tongue lodged somewhere in his cheek, at least one New Zealand rugby scribe has ventured that barrelling Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo is the current rugby equivalent of Robin van Persie for scoring prowess.

    That may be stretching the truth a tad, given the Arsenal hit-man’s almost unfailing success as a goal-scorer throughout the almost-completed English Premiership soccer season.

    But in the unlikely shape of a front-row forward, Tongan favourite Taumalolo, lies the standalone top try-scorer in Super Rugby at present.

    Yes, we are headed into week nine of the competition, yet the bald 30-year-old ball-carrier proudly sits at the head of the bunch with six touchdowns, albeit closely pursued by the Bulls’ Bjorn Basson and Andre Taylor of the Hurricanes (five each).

    Another South African, the Sharks’ fullback Riaan Viljoen, features among a five-strong group to have dotted four times thus far.

    Loose-head Tauamalolo was visibly tickled pink to beef his tally by two last weekend, against the unsuspecting Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, where the Chiefs won 39-33 to power their way to the top of the overall table.

    And why not? Props traditionally tend to be the least likely sources of tries in rugby ... never mind just front-rankers, you don’t find a forward of any kind yet among at least the top two dozen try-scorers in Super Rugby history.

    Taumalolo’s speciality is barging over at close range to the try-line, and appreciative Chiefs captain and second-rower Craig Clarke has been reported as saying this week: “He loves it when we get close to the line ... he’s got a good technique at the pick-and-go, so we use him.”

    Simple – and clearly effective.

    So it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to deduce that the Sharks will be well advised, in Saturday’s big clash which could have an important bearing on the ordinary-season competition, to police Taumalolo especially carefully if the Chiefs are gaining a head of steam deep in the home team’s quarter at Mr Price Kings Park on Saturday (17:05 kick-off).

    For his part, the burly Tongan may take more than a passing interest in the fact that the inconsistent Sharks, although not collectively shy in the try-scoring department themselves this season, also have the second-worst concession rate to the Cheetahs among South African teams as things stand. They have leaked 19 in eight outings.

    The home team may also rue the fact that they are still without a likely perfect counter to Taumalolo in the leg-drive aspect, Springbok Beast Mtawarira who, even if not crossing the whitewash himself, is often instrumental in securing momentum for the Sharks in driving, mauling play.

    Dale Chadwick is currently standing in pluckily and industriously for him at No 1, but is not quite the same threat with the ball tucked under an arm ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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