Backing our boys

2012-07-13 09:42
Sport24 columnist Alan Solomons (File)
The Stormers secured the South African conference after a hard-fought win against the Cheetahs. Partly owing to the poor conditions, it was clear that the Stormers were only interested in securing the four log points.

I know that everyone bangs on about their lack of four-try bonus points, but they have had a really good season and deserve credit for being an extremely consistent side in an unrelenting Super Rugby competition.

One can certainly argue with some merit that despite being blessed with a host of tremendous backs, the Stormers lack creativity on attack. They employ a conservative strategy with a good kicking game and a watertight defence, key components.

Whether this game strategy takes them to the title, only time will tell, but they are no easy team to beat and bear in mind that competitions are often won by sides that defend well and play largely error-free rugby.

The Stormers and Rebels clash at Newlands on Saturday, with both sides missing a number of influential players.

The Stormers have greatly missed the influence of Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger in their pack, but that said, Siya Kolisi has had a magnificent Super Rugby tournament. 

The Rebels, without their star backs, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connnor, ensures that the Stormers will walk this game and could well score that all elusive four-try bonus point. I expect the Stormers to finish the regular season with a flourish.

Turning to the New Zealand conference, hats off to the Chiefs for finishing first. The Chiefs have always had some good backs, but this year for the first time in a long while, they have the pack to match.

They lacked discipline and consistency in season’s past, but that has all changed this year. Their coaching staff, with Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith at the helm, must take enormous credit.

If the Chiefs are fully focused, I see them overcoming the Hurricanes this morning. Mark Hammett’s side has done really well this season, but I believe the men from Waikato are better balanced and have more talent in their arsenal. With both sides having plenty to play for, it should make for an entertaining game.

I was not that taken aback by Sonny Bill Williams’ announcement this week. Professional sports careers have a limited lifespan, and the professional era now sees plenty of movement.

I have no quibbles about him doing the best possible deal he can to secure his future. It’s not to say that if you move on, you weren’t loyal to the side that you played for.

The Brumbies have all but secured the Australian conference, and have had an exceptionally good season. With just a point needed against the Blues, I expect them to finish ahead of the chasing Reds.

One has to give credit where it’s due. Jake White and his coaching staff have done an incredible job, having taken over when things were at sixes and sevens. The Brumbies have some good young players, but in order to progress even further, they need to strengthen their squad. David Pocock would certainly be a key acquisition.

With the Chiefs, Stormers and Brumbies sure to finish as conference leaders, it is now effectively a case of five sides fighting for three play-off places. I expect the Crusaders to secure fourth spot, which leaves just two places up for grabs.

With the Bulls and Sharks enjoying home ground advantage in their final round-robin matches, I see them securing the final two spots.

The Bulls didn’t do themselves any favours last week against the Sharks, but I’m backing them to come away with maximum points against the Lions at Loftus.

I believe the Sharks will also earn five log points and whack the Cheetahs in the Shark Tank on the back of some real momentum. I reckon we will have three South African sides in the play-offs, which is a fantastic achievement for South African rugby.

I expect the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks to win their games by more than ten points. I don’t see the Cheetahs or Lions spoiling the South African party.

While the Brumbies will finish a credible third and winners of their conference, in my opinion, the Chiefs, Stormers and Crusaders are the top three teams in the competition.

Alan Solomons was assistant coach to Nick Mallett when the Springboks went 17 Tests unbeaten. He is currently EP Kings’ Director of Rugby and is a consultant to the IRB.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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