Currie Cup

Semis: Bleak, bright aspects for Boks

2016-10-15 21:40
Julian Redelinghuys (Gallo)

Cape Town – A suspected neck break or dislocation for Springbok tighthead prop Julian Redelinghuys put an unfortunate dampener on Currie Cup semi-finals day.

The Golden Lions anchorman suffered the injury in a heavy, awkward collision with Free State Cheetahs hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld during the first fixture in Bloemfontein, which saw the hosts romp to an unexpectedly one-sided 55-17 triumph over the 2015 champion outfit.

They will host the Blue Bulls in next Saturday’s showpiece after the Pretoria outfit edged out Western Province 36-30 late in a considerably more ding-dong affair.

But the final probably has its most deserved contestants, as they were the top two on the ordinary-season table and the Cheetahs, blooming impressively under Franco Smith’s charge, were especially imperious in winning all eight pre-semis matches.

SuperSport pundit and recent Bok captain Jean de Villiers revealed the unsettling news to television-watchers of the severity of Redelinghuys’s injury in summary of the semis after the second clash had ended.

The rugby community will be uniting to wish the popular front-ranker, 27, strength in his recovery from one of the most worrying forms of on-field misfortune.

As an eight-cap Bok who has seen plenty of service this year – albeit mostly off the bench -- Redelinghuys would have been earmarked for an important role on the looming tour of the northern hemisphere.

He and Vincent Koch, the incumbent starter, have been the two tightheads most in vogue with national coach Allister Coetzee of late, and both would have been tipped to be part of the end-of-year trek.

The Boks are already under-staffed in that particular spot, as Stormers-based tighthead Frans Malherbe has been sidelined since July with a neck injury of his own, which was initially anticipated to keep him out of the game until the end of October – that is cutting it fine to make the cut for any green-and-gold activity during the November trip which includes Tests against England, Italy and Wales.

On a more positive note on Saturday, several hitherto uncapped wings staked solid claims at an opportune time for involvement on the Bok tour.

The national side struggled in the position during the Rugby Championship, with veteran Bryan Habana below his best and utility factor Francois Hougaard – still more accustomed and arguably better suited to scrumhalf -- also failing to thoroughly convince despite no lack of pluckiness.

With Ruan Combrinck (broken fibula) also short of a gallop after his budding Test season was interrupted by the setback in the Salta reverse to Argentina – it is not yet clear whether he will be fully fit in time for the tour – the Bok coach should have been heartened by a handful of young fliers sticking up their hands in Bloemfontein and Pretoria on Saturday.

Right wing Sergeal Petersen, the elusive 22-year-old from Humansdorp, registered a hat-trick of tries for the Cheetahs in their thrashing of the Lions -- nothing less than he deserved after a performance bristling with energy and alertness even to half-chances.

Meanwhile on the left, team-mate Raymond Rhule, the Ghanaian-born but SA-qualifying speed merchant, combined his customary attacking relish with a thunderous showing on defence, in line with a broadly impressive Cheetahs effort in that department.

But when the action switched to Loftus, the Bulls’ wide combo of big Travis Ismaiel and Jamba Ulengo also played decisive roles in helping to tilt the balance against Province, the old enemies from the south who arrived as underdogs but came to within two minutes of spoiling the local party.

The long-legged Ulengo was particularly hard for the WP defence to handle with some damaging breaks, and earned rightful praise from commentator De Villiers for “ticking all the boxes” as a wing package for much of the 2016 season.

He seems an attractive option for the Boks as a freshening, enthusiastic new figure for the European venture after several weeks of mostly awful results with existing personnel.

The tour opens with a non-Test “warm-up” against the Barbarians at Wembley Stadium on November 5.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    lions  |  currie cup  |  julian redelinghuys  |  rugby


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