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