Can Sharks stop prolific prop?
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
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
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
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 ...
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