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Your SA S15 preview: Week 1

2012-02-23 08:02

SPORT24 PICK OF THE CROP

BULLS v SHARKS, Loftus


When: Friday, 19:10
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
Long-range weather forecast: Partly cloudy, warm, gentle breeze.

Background: The Sharks, many judges’ tips for SA conference supremacy this year, go straight into two treacherous away fixtures – the Bulls this weekend, the Stormers next – that could have a critical impact on their aspirations. And they dangerously do so without three pivotal, ball-carrying forwards in Beast Mtawarira, Jean Deysel and Willem Alberts. It’s the sort of leveller the Bulls may well relish, given their own liking for a confrontational game. An ever-present hunch tells me the Bulls will fare rather better than many expect this year: they aren’t suddenly blooding a whole bunch of pimply youths to compensate for the mass exodus of seasoned Springboks. And they’d be silly not to try to pressure via Juandre Kruger and company an ongoing Sharks soft spot: their lineout.

Key head-to-head: Unquestionably, I think, the flyhalf duel between Morne Steyn and Patrick Lambie ... it is a tasty clash of styles with Steyn the established “dictator” of play if he’s on the front foot and peerless place-kicker. (He’ll also have taken heart from Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s confirmation in an interview in the latest Sports Illustrated that he pretty much picks his kicker first!). Lambie, meanwhile, offers an altogether silkier, less predictable package, and ought to relish an expected solid run at No 10 now. Also look out for a good scrumming duel between Jannie du Plessis and Dean Greyling; the battle of the slippery No 9s, Messrs Hougaard and Michalak, will be worth keeping a beady eye on as well.

Recent history: Who can forget the epic corresponding clash in the last round of last year’s ordinary season in Super Rugby? It was a winner-makes-the-playoffs affair, with the Sharks breaking home hearts with a 26-23 steal of the honours – the result also snapped a gutsy late-season victory streak of six matches by the once ailing Bulls. It was during that charge that the men from Pretoria had won the Durban meeting: 32-23 with a 22-point kicking haul by eternally dead-eye Steyn. I suspect that a home side prevailing in this fixture is very due ...

Rob’s prediction:
Bulls by six points.

SA GAME 2

STORMERS v HURRICANES, Newlands

When: Saturday, 17:05
Referee: Marius Jonker
TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
Long-range weather forecast: Sunny, moderate breeze

Background: Defeat in this game is just not an option if the Stormers want to quickly reassure their uneasy faithful that they retain the firepower (despite the maddening surrender of stalwarts like Francois Louw and Jaque Fourie) to be “last four” material at the very least for the third season on the trot. They believe they retain plenty of depth, via the careful nurturing of young guns, but the proof of the pudding ... you know the rest. This non-derby supposedly counts as a relatively “easy” fixture for the home side – some pundits reckon the Hurricanes, now minus several stellar names themselves, may be the weakest New Zealand franchise in 2012. The men from Wellington have a reputation for seldom fielding a truly gnarly pack; it probably only increases the likelihood of the Stormers getting off to a winning start. 

Key head-to-head:
The midfield duel holds special promise, with two seasoned Springboks – Jean de Villiers and relatively out-of-position Bryan Habana – up against at least one established All Black favourite in Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith. With Habana notably out of sorts for much of last year at his traditional left wing, there are people who wonder whether this opportunity at centre might just rejuvenate him and even be the start of more regular activity there. The Stormers duo will look to exploit possible rustiness in Smith, who has had an extended off-season and been on a worldwide “jolly”. Mind you, that may only make him a fresh, dangerous package ...

Recent history: The teams bypassed each other last season, the maiden year of the conference system. But they did meet fairly early in the Super 14 campaign of 2010, also at Newlands. Then the Stormers produced a rousing, high-tempo performance in which they ran in five tries in a 37-13 walloping of the ‘Canes. The visitors were punch-drunk in other respects: Cory Jane was knocked cold by a charging Sireli Naqelevuki (remember him?) en route to one of the home touchdowns, so the slippery All Black will wish for better fortunes this time. 

Rob’s prediction: Stormers by seven points.

SA GAME 3

LIONS v CHEETAHS, Ellis Park

When: Saturday, 19:10
Referee:
Mark Lawrence
TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
Long-range weather forecast: Mild, chance of light drizzle, gentle breeze

Background: Never mind the mere “first game of the season” tension, the derby stakes are raised even further here by the politics of South African
Super Rugby: the Southern Kings will definitely be added to the mix next season, potentially endangering the status of the bottom-placed local franchise in 2012, so both of these old adversaries (traditionally strugglers in the competition) will be desperate to steal an early march on the other here. Expect plenty of bared claws, and a necessary strong hand from whistle-man Mark Lawrence, perhaps. The teams are closely matched on paper and it is a tough game to call, especially with no form yardstick yet.  

Key head-to-head: This is another game where the flyhalf battle will be closely monitored by discerning critics: the Lions’s slightly more experienced (but essentially still youthful) Elton Jantjies comes up against Johan Goosen, embarking on his maiden full Super Rugby season. Expect the former to be as effective off the tee from short range, but the latter to have a clear-cut advantage at altitude if he gets some key penalty cracks from “distance”. The Lions No 10 may have an edge in option-taking nous at this stage. There’s potentially a good battle on the deck, as SA master fetcher Heinrich Brussow pits himself against a dual Lions threat of Messrs Minnie and Grobbelaar.  

Recent history:
In the corresponding game in the Big Smoke last year, the Lions suffered an extremely demoralising 53-19 defeat before their miffed faithful in the midst of a four-game winning streak by the Cheetahs. Still, it was a bit of a nadir for them because they then went on their overseas tour and upset both the Brumbies and Highlanders! The earlier Bloemfontein game curiously saw another win by the away team: the Lions ran out 25-20 winners, aided by two late Jantjies penalties.

Rob’s prediction: With little conviction, Lions by two points.

Sport24

Comments
  • Bulldozer - 2012-02-23 09:27

    The Kings deserve a S15 spot more than any other franchise. Stop being morons and accept the inevitable. LONG LIVE THE MIGHTY KINGS!!!!!!!

      Kevin - 2012-02-23 10:46

      . You have an anc mentality. You earn it .You do not deserve it. They acnnot even win a game or qualify for Currie Cup so how can they qualify to play in Super Rugby. You also have rather suspect leadership there. Makes you want to cotch.The best strategy to get rid of a non deserving team is to not support the games and ensure they remain a useless side.

      albert.scholtz - 2012-02-23 11:11

      I would love to see the Kings in the Super 15 so that Pierre Spies can get his chance to step on Luke Watson's face :-) He can't now because they are not even good enough to play with the big guns in the Currie Cup LOL LOL :-)

      Jc - 2012-02-23 17:29

      HaHa! Brilliant stir Dozer!!!

      Faan - 2012-02-23 17:43

      Hahaha.... You are a funny man!.... Anyway, looking forward to bone cruncher this weekend.... Go Bulls!

  • Groenkoors - 2012-02-23 09:42

    Can't wait!!!!

  • Christopher - 2012-02-23 10:58

    @ Malcolm. The only thing dumber than Bulldozers comment is yours. I agree that the Kings dont deserve Super Rugby status. But personally insulting somebody on what you percieve their team is, based on a colour only shows your lack of socially accpetable behavour. allow me to quickly put things into perspective for you. If IQ dictated your fan base, the only team that would have any support is the Bulls. Winners feel good and a sense of achievement while a losing teams supporters open themselves up to riddicule and taunts. Based on historic data the most succesful team in South africa is the Bulls, With three super Rugby trophies in the past five years there is no argument that can disprove this. No other South African team have managed to win this trophy. As for Rugby, I can appreciate your excitement about your teams prospects, I assume you are a sharks supporter since you would rather break another team down than build yours up, but why dont you keep it shut and let your team do the talking on the field. No excuses. By the way I am a Bulls supporter, I got my accounting degree before I was 21 and I am a member of a proffesional accounting body. Chances are my IQ is just a little bit higher than yours. Good luck at the Bull Ring tommorrow night. Go Bulls.

      hvanderlinde - 2012-02-23 13:12

      Hey Chris, we all know bulldozer is an avid bulls supporter and if you spent more time on this blog you'd know that too. You'd also know that bulldozer regularly insults anybody not pro bulls. Mostly on a personal level. So if you have anything to say about something / someone you know nothing about rather keep quite. Allow me to put things into perspective for you Chris. Firstly, winning or losing is a by product of allowing yourself to be associated with a team with regards to what that team represents and how you on a personal level connect with that representation. That is why you would have Lions supporters supporting them through thick and thin regardless of what their performances echo. Supporting a team merely because they are "the most succesful team in South africa" lacks everything that make people fanatic about certains sports and/or teams. You are no supporter, you're just scared to be ridiculed and taunted and have no clue what Rugby is about. Secondly, quoting that you have a degree and that you belong to a professional body (as is a prerequisite to almost any professional degree, by the way) reeks of your immeasurable immaturity and yearning to be somebody special. Just because your mom told you that your whole life doesn't mean you are. It's like having a fast car Chris, as soon as you go out there, challenging people, thinking that your car is the fastest, somebody always kicks your arse. So put away your thesaurus and stop trying to be a smart ass.

      Christopher - 2012-02-23 15:35

      Dear Hannes. You are right I do not spent a lot of time on this blog. After I read your post I investigated your claim and have to concede you are right again. Bulldozer does throw insults the whole time, but not just Bulldozer it seems that is what is done on this blog, therefore I am thankful towards my lack of knowledge as a direct result of not reading the blogs. However I did read Malcolm’s post and it was an insult not just towards Bulldozer but towards Bulls fans in General. Secondly, regarding supporters you are only making my point for me I agree with everything you say. However I did not say that my reasons provided is why we support who we do, I said that if who we supported was as a result of our IQ then smart people would support winning teams, therefore you have no need to put things into perspective to me, I hope this clears up your confusion. Given my explanation above I would like to know on what basis you derived at the fact that I do not have a clue about rugby, you do not know me or know what I have a clue about or not. I am sorry you felt that I was trying to feel special by saying I have a degree and a professional qualification, and you are right, it is a prerequisite however everybody does not know this, I was merely trying to prove that all bulls supporters does not have a low IQ as implied by Malcolm. please read next post

      Christopher - 2012-02-23 15:36

      Then lastly, if you do not know what to say to somebody, refrain from bringing their mothers into the conversation it does not prove anything except that you are mean and ill mannered. This would also point to your immaturity rather than mine. I was never trying to be a smart ass, you were. In future it would be beneficial to you if you could read a post properly before jumping to a conclusion and trying to take someone out, and by insulting somebody, you will never win any debate you will only lose your own credibility.

      hudds - 2012-02-23 16:21

      took one look at the length of your comment and decided not to read it.. spare us the essay!!

      Jay - 2012-02-26 10:56

      wow wow christopher you have a high IQ wow u got a degree before u were 21 wow wow thats so awesome! u probably a 40yr old virgin with a small cock! loser!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Pieter - 2012-02-26 11:03

      You try to make your point that not all bulls supporters are idiots by saying all Sharks supporters break down other teams instead of building up their own team... and you have a degree!? So much for your bulls supporter argument :-)

  • steven.chiaberta - 2012-02-23 12:23

    The Kings deserve a chance because the prevailing stuck-in-the-past mentality of SARU's all-powerful president's council didn't do a THING to help build up rugby in the Eastern Cape and Border region, despite having had since 1994 to do so. All they did for the past 18 YEARS was make one false promise after another, thereby giving the Kings NO CHANCE to try and earn their place. I agree that the ANC mentality, tragically, is one of entitlement and not actually earning anything, but in the case of the Kings there is no other way - and that's overwhelmingly SARU's fault. I bet you that the only reason the Kings will get a chance next year is because the government threatened SARU. Usually this is utterly wrong, but in this case I support it. Fair is fair. Go LIONS!!! And then go any other SA team!!

  • Luc - 2012-02-23 17:57

    So after reading this why don't you have a look at my 2012 Super Rugby pre-season review and voice your opinion. http://rugbymccannics.blogspot.com

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