It’s JP v Digby in Brisbane

2012-07-20 10:31

Cape Town - Rob Houwing, in his Super Rugby finals series qualifiers preview, believes only the Sharks, of the remaining SA teams, will join the Stormers in the semis


REDS v SHARKS, Brisbane

When: Saturday, 11:40
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SA)
TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

Long-range weather forecast:
Partly cloudy, mild, light breeze.

The Reds clearly feel Quade Cooper is so vital to their mojo that they tried (in vain) up to the last minute to overturn the sometimes stormy flyhalf’s suspension and have him in the ranks for this potential sizzler. How they cope with Ben Lucas in the slot instead might go a long way to influencing who progresses to the semis here. The Sharks, on paper, look capable of establishing forward dominance if they properly “arrive at the races” mentally and even without Messrs Lambie and Steyn, key men of their own, there is enough nous in their backline to provide a counter to the home team’s up-tempo attacking play.

Key head-to-head:
There are quite a few to potentially savour between two often crowd-pleasing teams, but I’m particularly keen to observe the battle between DIGBY IOANE, the livewire and muscular Reds left wing, and his powerful, long-striding rival on the Sharks’ right, JP PIETERSEN. These men are game-breakers in the best sense, so if the game is as tight as anticipated, one of them producing a moment of magic across the advantage line could swing it either way. They are also highly likely to encounter each other shortly in the new-look Rugby Championship, so call this an opening salvo in their private battle, if you like ... 

Recent history:
In the ordinary-season portion of the 2012 campaign, the Sharks entertained the Reds in Durban and recovered from a significant 0-17 deficit to prevail 27-22. Mind you, the Reds were particularly at sixes and sevens through injury then. The last Brisbane meeting was in 2009, when the home team won 25-13, and they have won five of six clashes in total whenever these foes have met on the Aussie east coast.

Rob Houwing’s prediction:
The Sharks can be their own worst enemies at times, with a penchant for going quite violently off the boil just when you think they’ve got a handsome head of steam: that applies both from match to match and for portions of specific ones! But they’re on a pretty good roll right now and confidence must be high. Man for man, I suggest they’re just a morsel better at present ... Sharks by two points, despite the travel disadvantage.


CRUSADERS v BULLS, Christchurch

When: Saturday, 09:35
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA)
TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

Long-range weather forecast:
Cloudy, chilly, light breeze.

Although the Crusaders have also hiccupped more often than most pundits would have anticipated this season, the Bulls seem to have been on a bit of a downward curve in the last few weeks – after once looking like being finals series qualifiers with a rather higher ranking. Even as they restored an overdue winning habit against neighbours the Lions last weekend, the first half exposed once more some defensive frailties -- although they have remained well capable of crossing the whitewash themselves. The ‘Saders are one of the wilier sides in Super Rugby, and will probably feel that they offer up a much broader range of dimensions to get over this hurdle. 

Key head-to-head:
Kieran Read being ruled out by injury might make the battle at No 8 look less appealing on any other day ... but not this one, with rival captains and experienced internationals RICHIE McCAW and PIERRE SPIES now in direct opposition. The former is reasonably accustomed to the slot when required, meaning the Crusaders can afford the luxury of fielding Matt Todd as a second fetcher. As for Spies, he could do with a consistently energetic outing in his specialist position as he seems to have slipped into a bit of comfort zone again after a good Test series against England. The underdog Bulls need their skipper to lead from the front here!

Recent history:
The Bulls pipped the ‘Saders 32-30 at Loftus earlier in the season, but there were heart-stopping moments at the end as they seemed to run out of puff and the visitors charged back from a 32-16 deficit. In recent times, the Bulls boast a strong knockout-phase record against these opponents. But that’s only because Pretoria has previously hosted so many of the clashes ...

Rob Houwing’s prediction:
Much as so many of us would like to, you can’t just brazenly back the Bulls to win when their track record has been so abject in Christchurch for 16 years! (Mind you, that applies to just about every other South African team too.) I have to back the ‘Saders to get home comfortably ... hopefully by not many more than eight or 10 points

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • francopeyper.vantollen - 2012-07-20 10:33


      francopeyper.vantollen - 2012-07-20 10:46

      This is now a Bulls article. Hougaard vs Ellis should be an exciting match-up. I reckon the flair and strength of young Hougie will be too much for the experienced and ageing Ellis. Discuss

  • deon.louw.7505 - 2012-07-20 10:41

    Rob was wrong before in the Bulls against Sharks game in Durban, let us hope he is wrong in this one too. The Stormers will probably prefer a Bulls or Sharks team in the semi's than the mighty Crusaders. Go SA teams, (and Proteas).

  • mark.grant.77920 - 2012-07-20 10:50

    Wys hulle JP wys hulle!!!

      mark.grant.77920 - 2012-07-20 12:16

      GO SA TEAMS!!!!

  • richard.compere.7 - 2012-07-20 13:01

    I read Rob Houwing's comment on the Sharks game first and had a little flutter of joy when I saw that there was more than just me hoping for a Sharks victory on Saturday. THEN I read what he had to say about Pierre Spies's input into the test series against England, and my heart sank. His comment "after a good Test series against England".... what is this guy a comedian???

  • sportmal.legrangemarais - 2012-07-20 13:30

    JP for me (take note that this is just my opinion) is the best wing in world rugby at the moment. He's got size and strength and a lot of pace to burn. He's got the skills of a NZ wing and the high ball capabilities of an Aussie/English wing. On top of that he's defensive capabilities is unrivalled by any wing in the world. Add to that his composure in matches that count and you have the perfect winger! My predictions was exactly the same as Rob's, but really hope the Bulls can rewrite the history books. Going to be a good Saturday morning.

      sharksfever.sharks - 2012-07-20 13:41

      I agree. He was a bit out of form the last 2 years but this year he's been on fire. The lines he runs, his aggression in the tackles and the abillity to just open things up are excellent. You will also notice how much he's on the other side of the field looking for work, which is basically what any wing should be doing.

      sfrancoisdevries - 2012-07-20 19:50

      Habana was out of form last year. But this year he showed us what he can actually do. In a more attacking team he'll be a try fest. JP is good, but he's no Habana - 2012-07-20 23:05

      u rite, jp is no brian banana and we all know how useless banana is!!

      gsaker1 - 2012-07-21 01:09

      Hi ball skills of an Aussie English wing? the best winger in the world under the high ball, and has been for a few years now, is Cory Jane. He's been out nearly all season but he is astonishing under the high ball at times. We have forgotten about him because we haven't seen him most of the season but he has to be one of the world best wingers, and he has the best fend of any winger - in fact of just about any player in world rugby and no I don't say that lightly. That being said JP is in great form and I'm not sure who is actually the best the winger but JP and Jane would be in my top three and in no particular order.

  • andrew.cooks.5 - 2012-07-20 13:30

    High time the Sharks play some consistent rugby... 1st half against the Cheetahs proofs the fact that they fire like a loose cannon. They played 80min of exciting rugby against the bulls BUT just continued their poor laid back Durban surfers’ attitude the next weekend against the Cheetahs, to be lifted again in the 2nd half. They have the power, skill and players to win anyone in the S15, but do they believe it, would be another question… Come on SHARKS, it’s time to show those Ozzies that your there for business. Sorry for the Bulls supporters but I’m with Rob on this one. It’s going to take a huge effort from them to beat the Saders, and I don’t think they have the manpower of confidence to pull through.

  • mack.myburgh - 2012-07-20 14:48

    Sharks to win this one by 3 or less

  • lean.sadie - 2012-07-20 15:16

    JP true class. Go Sharks. And read this folks, great article, re posting it here too. The other threads are so full of trolls, Sorry.

  • jacobus.rautenbach - 2012-07-20 15:56

    gogogogo crusadersssssssssssssssssssssssss

      tom.tardis - 2012-07-20 20:19

      u would know about gogos bud. one equation: ISAAN IN BANGKOK = GOGO

  • whusselmann - 2012-07-20 18:34

    The Bulls have no chance at all to beat the Crusaders. They also made the mistake of leaving CJ Stander out of their team. The Crusaders are at full strenght, with only the injured Kieran Reid missing. The Bulls will have a better chance swimming back home and making it back alive than beating the Crusaders.Next year they might stand a better chance. The Stormers and the Sharks look like the most dangerous sa teams.

  • Frank - 2012-07-20 22:55

    I think the Sharks will win comfortably, 15+ points. 35-20.

  • skinfaxi.mordor - 2012-07-20 23:55

    Ioane isn't the danger man. Genia is they key. Neutralise him and the game is yours.

      gsaker1 - 2012-07-21 01:12

      Absolutely bloody right Skinfaxi - if you can ruffle Genia - his box kick is a weak part of his game - and stop him sniping around the ruck it goes about 70% to beating the reds. I think he is far more valuable than Cooper who is still hit and miss and is yet to be really tested under the high ball.

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