Vodacom Super Rugby
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Ollie: Deysel 'phenomenal'
Cape Town - Blindside flank Jean Deysel will play a vital role in the Sharks' quest to down the Crusaders in their Vodacom Super Rugby playoff match at Nelson on Saturday.
So says an old Sharks battering ram of a slightly different kind, burly loosehead prop Ollie le Roux.
The Springbok front-ranker scored a brace of tries in the last quest by the men from Durban to conquer the Crusaders in a straight knockout fixture - the semi-final of 1998 in Christchurch, when the hosts edged it 36-32 despite being outscored 5-4 in try terms.
Le Roux remembers bumping off Mark Hammett, the Crusaders' All Black-capped hooker, en route to one of his dot-downs, but says ruefully that Andrew Mehrtens's polished tactical and place-kicking made the difference in that encounter.
He finds it hard to bet against the Crusaders coming out on top this weekend, as he believes the New Zealanders are "a good finals team" with a long-established culture of excellence.
"They just do a lot of things right in their system, and really play for the joy of rugby. Their culture even allows some unsung players, or ones who have perhaps been rejected elsewhere, to shine.
"I remember how Mac (then-coach Ian McIntosh) tried to convince us all those years back that Norm Berryman was too fat to be a factor on the wing against us, and he scored a couple of tries in each of the games we played against them in successive weeks (a Durban round-robin meeting immediately preceded the semi-final).
"So never judge a book by its cover!"
Le Roux says an "immense effort" will be required if the Sharks are to prevail, but says the "phenomenal" Deysel, and similarly in-your-face hooker Bismarck du Plessis, will be essential tools in the bid to throw the Crusaders off their normally elegant stride.
"He and Bissie will have to smash into them and steal some balls. It will also be important that the Sharks don't concede possession themselves.
"The Crusaders are a clever team in that they actually allow you metres, but they're very fit and wait for the one turnover at a ruck from which they can strike back at you.
"The Sharks showed a lot of character in their Loftus win last weekend, but I do struggle to put my money on them for this one, even if someone like JP (Pietersen) is playing exceptional rugby and making big line-breaks.
"But it'll be a good scrap and I can hardly wait for it."