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    Sharks scrum v Bulls lineout?

    2012-07-03 13:31

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – The collision aspect is always a monumental factor in South African derbies and with the stakes so high for Friday night’s Super Rugby meeting between the Sharks and Bulls in Durban, expect little or no change to that hallmark.

    Talk of “momentum” in sporting parlance has become an overworked cliché to the point of amusement, but with both teams sporting potentially destructive ball-carriers in their packs, the side that gets on the front foot in the tight-loose the most may very well prevail on the scoreboard.

    Even given the apparent likelihood that prime South African loose forward “wrecker” Willem Alberts will miss this one through ongoing effects of his knee problem picked up in the Johannesburg Test win over England – frustratingly for the Sharks; comfortingly for the Bulls – there are still more than enough powerful units on either side who will attempt to bludgeon their way toward key dominance at Mr Price Kings Park.

    Just for one thing, even an absent Alberts could still mean a spicy tussle between blunt, uncompromising blindside flanks Jean Deysel for the home side and the Bulls’ latest Springbok cap Jacques Potgieter.

    Quality primary possession will go a long way to dictating which team’s freight trains rumble the loudest on the night ... and the duel in this regard could be fascinating because the visiting Bulls almost certainly possess the more competent lineout whilst the Sharks are likelier to sport a superior heave at scrum-time.

    It has been several seasons, frankly, since the Sharks could be said to belong among the super league of lineout units – they suffer through not really possessing a genuine second-rower banker in this regard.

    Their vulnerability looks even more pronounced when you consider that experienced No 4 Steven Sykes, like Alberts, has been labouring with a knee injury and misses this vital date. The franchise has also off-loaded to European clubs such tall-timber customers as Alistair Hargreaves and Ross Skeate.

    It leaves Anton Bresler, the 24-year-old who is in only his second season at Super Rugby level, as their senior second-rower right now, and he is tipped to be partnered on Friday by either of Jandre Marais or utility forward Pieter-Steph du Toit – the latter ever more impressive at blindside flank as the Baby Boks marched to the IRB Junior World Championship title recently.

    The Bulls, certainly on paper, hold the aces in the “skies” through Victor Matfield’s nicely-progressing successor for both country and Super Rugby side, Juandre Kruger, and also Pierre Spies’s effectiveness at the tail of the lineout.

    Say what you like about the consistency (or rather lack thereof?) of his broader game, but this is one department where the Bulls captain is in particularly sprightly form in 2012, both off his own intended ball and as a havoc-wreaking poacher.

    But at the scrums, things could just even out.

    The front rows, it goes without saying, will be strong determinants of which eight goes forward more markedly, and this could pretty much be said to be a battle between the Bok ‘A and B’ groups of front-rankers.

    Here the Sharks hold all the present aces because their combination of Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis is also the favoured first-choice trio of Bok coach Heyneke Meyer as things stand.

    Between them, they do appear to have more destructive qualities at the set-piece than the Bulls alliance of Dean Greyling, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Werner Kruger.

    Greyling is an emerging star, though primarily at this stage due to his strength as a “bulldozer” with ball in hand, while the undoubtedly hard-grafting, no-fuss tighthead Kruger faces lingering question marks over his ability to become a really effective provider of that key right shoulder at scrum-time.

    These two, remember, were the props of choice when the Boks, then under Peter de Villiers’s tenure, opted to put out under-strength sides on the away leg of the 2011 Tri-Nations, and both Australia and New Zealand saw them off rather comfortably.

    A suitably resilient showing from them on Friday against the senior Bok incumbents would go a long way toward hiking their reputations once more – certainly the same applies to hooker Ralepelle, who appears to have debatably slipped to No 3 in the national pecking order, now beneath Adriaan Strauss as well as formidable Sharks rival Du Plessis.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    Read More On:  sharks super 15 jean deysel rugby

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