Kruger v Bekker: a tasty duel

2012-02-25 08:23

Cape Town – Most “north versus south” clashes between the Stormers and Bulls are spicy affairs anyway, but there is suddenly an additional reason to keenly await the first 2012 Super Rugby meeting between them on March 31 here.

Of course both sides have several other hurdles to jump first, but when the three-time champions lock horns with last season’s best-placed South African franchise a mighty duel in the air - and elsewhere - looms at Newlands between athletic locks Andries Bekker and Juandre Kruger.

The former has for some time been widely considered to be the natural heir apparent to great Springbok lineout icon Victor Matfield, now on the pitch only in a new capacity as SuperSport television critic.

Not only is Bekker near-freakishly gifted in a height capacity (2.08m) but in the last couple of seasons he has also gone a very long way to shedding a suspicion that he came up a little short for “grunt” work outside of his most beloved lineouts.

In fairness, he remains the logical, likeliest next cab on the rank to occupy the Matfield vacancy in the Springbok No 5 jersey ... fitness-permitting, of course, because the 28-year-old has not been short of worrying injury setbacks in his otherwise burgeoning career.

But Friday night at Loftus, in the maiden SA conference derby of the season between the Bulls and Sharks, saw Juandre Kruger, two years more youthful than Bekker, issue a powerful message that the latter may not be guaranteed a mere walk-in to the Bok starting XV.

Ironically Kruger is a product of the Western Cape too, educated at Paul Roos and Stellenbosch University, but he switched allegiance to the Bulls in 2008 and is very much part of the rebuild job going on at Loftus in the wake of so many legendary figures retiring or moving on at once.

Quite obviously, satisfactorily replacing Matfield in the Pretoria-based side was always going to be a huge ask, but in Super Rugby terms Kruger could hardly have made a better fist of it in the 2012 opener, being a richly-deserved choice for player of the match as the Bulls eked out a merited triumph.

He was outstanding on all fronts more or less from start to finish of a largely grim, grinding affair that rather typified all-South African clashes in the competition.

Kruger had been a decent element, I thought, of an otherwise problematic Blue Bulls season in last year’s Currie Cup, where they unusually failed to reach the semi-finals.

And at the next notch up on rugby’s ladder on Friday, he was one of relatively few players on view to compellingly stick his hand up for involvement in Bok plans under new mastermind Heyneke Meyer, who doubtless already knows plenty about him anyway.

Whether it was collecting kick-offs, roaming energetically, making tackles, banking his own lineout ball or putting real pressure on the Sharks’ throw-in - the visitors were rather shown up once again in this department, where Kruger won a crucial steal near the finish – the Bulls man made a wonderful impression.

He certainly called the lineouts with all the relish and clarity Matfield used to, and just as satisfying was his central involvement in Bulls rolling mauls, which made some productive inroads on the night.

Clearly his stint in the gruelling, no-nonsense forward environment of England with Northampton Saints, where he was highly valued, has rubbed off advantageously.

One awesome game doesn’t qualify you for a role in Test plans, it is true, and when he opposes Bekker we will get a better idea of Kruger’s mettle.

But he has made an eye-catching start to the Super Rugby campaign.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Jason - 2012-02-25 09:01

    As a Stormers supporter I thought young Kruger had an outstanding game. It might have been scrappy but the juice was in the physical battle among the forwards at ruck and maul time. The backline moves were almost a different game.

      Paul - 2012-02-25 13:35

      Good to have so much talent at lock. Will somebody please send a few to Joburg?

  • Doug - 2012-02-25 09:23

    When Juandre was playing in the UK he was the first choice lock for his county, whilst Lawes sat on the bench. He was told that he could get the nod for England if he stayed on but decided to come home and try for the boks, Lawes then got the nod for England at the world cup. Juandre, who is a Paul Roos lad, decided to head for Pretoria, despite the bulls having all four bok locks at the time.........he def is focused and I reckon with a few more Kilo's will become a Bok this year

      Patrick Cawood - 2012-02-25 09:54

      County? Club u mean pal

      coolshoesouthafrica - 2012-02-25 15:30

      what a bunch of chops on here...I correct something and get a thumbs down you guys need to grow up

      Taetjo - 2012-02-26 17:03

      coolshoesouthafrica, you know exactly what he meant. /to make matters worse, he isn't even wrong. No need for being so pedantic. Tip: Look at the name(s) of the European club names, and then look at the map(s). And lastly, look up the meaning of the word "county".

  • Soetdoring - 2012-02-25 09:32

    Hoekom kan Kruger en Bekker nie altwee vir die Bokke speel nie? Victor en Bekker het tog op 'n kol saam gespeel.

      Terence.Craig.Berry - 2012-02-25 10:35

      Because both players are 'number 5 locks'.

      Danny - 2012-02-25 15:50

      Axactly - from a Sharks supportewr. Kruger is young and good enough to make the switch to No. 4 lock. The 2 of them would be fantastic in the green and gold.

      clivegoss - 2012-02-26 07:16

      Want , want Kruger gaan al die harde werk doen terwyl Bekker op buite senter staan en wag vir n blom geleentheid

  • Patrick Cawood - 2012-02-25 09:55

    No other news that u have to come up with this article??

      Jason - 2012-02-25 10:03

      Whats wrong with the Article! Its a good opportunity to build up a challenge within a challenge for the much anticipate game between the Stormers and Bulls! especially after young Kruger's play last night. Im sure if the article was about an EP King you wouldnt say anything?

  • paulredlegs - 2012-02-25 10:45

    It is good to see good rugby (only a flash or two last night) and a player playing well but F-F-S lets not push for a young player to be in the boks so you have a story to write, Rob. It would be good to see a Bok coach having more back up players identified & given game time and never go to a world cup with one no 5. I think the Bulls:Stormers lock comparisons are good although the Stormers have two young no 4s to watch.

  • Alan - 2012-02-25 12:29

    What is it with the Bullbarians that they can't keep their lottery money hands off players from the Cape? Initially I thought they only plundered Stormers talent until I did some research: both locks Flip - Ceres and J.Kruger - Cape Town, F.Hougaard - Ceres, M.Steyn - Bellville, J.Sadie - Malmesbury. Then I found out some of the others come from elsewhere mostly the EP: Basson - King Williams Town (EP), Kirchner - George (EP), Ndungane - Umtata (EP), J.Potgieter - PE (EP), D.Stegmann - Craddock (EP) and finally F.Venter - Bloem (FS). This is poor reading for you Tswane okes... are there no players available from the Tswane region to choose from or are you local lads just to sleg to make the team? OK so Speiretjies Spies is a Tswane boy but he has been in poor form since 2009, W.Kruger - Kempton Park, Chiliboy - Tzaneen, D. Greyling - Potgietersrus - wherever that is. How about putting some money into developing decent players rather than poaching them with lottery money. No wonder the BB as a franchise was bankrupt (no supporters in the lean years and no players either), you had to be rescued from liquidation by the lottery. In credit to the Bulls though since the lottery money and purchasing all of SA best talent from elsewhere they have done very well and carried the SA flag nicely for some time. However me thinks it is time to put something back and develope your own players for a change.

      Alan - 2012-02-25 12:32

      Good luck to all the SA teams I will always cheer for you all!!!!!! Gets difficult with local derbies but I then cheer for great rugby, excellent skills and no injuries :-)

      Jack - 2012-02-25 12:37

      Well said Alan! I forgot how much they profitted from the Lotto - guess they should be named the Vodacom Lotto Bulls!!!

      bernhard.b.baatjies - 2012-02-25 13:04

      HAHAHAHA....well researched Alan...just another point to note...Even with all that LOTTO money and purchases , they still not the most popular team in Rugby.....they have won a few SR titles but still cant unseat WP and STORMERS as the most supported team and stadium in rugby ...........,(wait for it), in the WORLD!!!!!!!!!

      clivegoss - 2012-02-26 07:24

      Dear Allen, The "other" teams are only doing the work , and fulfilling the function of the Western Cape selectors (they have selectors in the WP?). The selectors (talent scouts) from up country come to the W P and Boland club games, (you know club games ?) and scout (look for talent) to augment and develope their rugby programmes. Go Lotto! !

  • bernhard.b.baatjies - 2012-02-25 13:11

    and just to confirm the official stats: Newlands, home of Province and Stormers Rugby, has become world renowned for being the most supported teams in the modern game, regardless of log position – with its spectators now commonly known as “The Newlands Faithful”. In 2002, Newlands welcomed its millionth spectator, to watch a Stormers match, through the gates, with more than 2 million fans having come out to support the popular Super Rugby franchise over the past 12 years. In both 2008 and 2009, Newlands recorded a total annual attendance of more than 500 000 spectators, with an average of 17 rugby fixtures a year. 2010 saw 666177 of the Faithful through the gates, with the Stormers attracting an average crowd in excess of 43000 per game. (capacity 48000)

      Chris - 2012-02-25 17:04

      @Ken: Hou maar jou rasisme daar bo in jou 'agtergeblewe' Pretoria. Dit maak regtig nie saak of iemand voortande het of nie...hier beskou ons sulkes as MENSE net soos die met tande en ten minste is ons hier lojaal aan ons span - al het hul nog nie die Super 15-trofee gewen nie. Ons is nie mooiweersondersteuners soos ons weet van SEKERE spanne daarbo in die Noorde nie!

  • bernhard.b.baatjies - 2012-02-25 15:12

    @BLUERAVEN hehehe...i hear all that and never disputed that we been going thru a slum of late.And if you know your stats you will also know that all that winning stats from the CC means nothing too as we still have the record of wins in the CC as well...hehehehe..., so lets just say its your time to shine,enjoy it, our boys may just be taking a bit of a rest after wipping you and every other team so badly in the start :-) for wining the S14 a few times and that being the objective only..well, consider this..How does it make you feel to keep wining and still have to play ugly duckling and second fiddle to WP? hehehehe...the public decides success!! it must be painful deep down to know that no matter what you do you will still not fill as many seats or get the public to respond to your brand as WP has done from day1.So , yes we havent won a cup lately , but we also dont have the ominous and disgusting tag of being the worst performing SR team ever from SA....dont forget how you guys got the wooden spoon, never won a game, and was the wipping boys of SR for years..Disgusting for SA-RUGBY i think, as WP never ever even in our slum brought such disgraceful stats onto our rugby.....Got It ;-) there you go...all the facts!!! hehehehehehehehehehehehehe

      Chris - 2012-02-25 16:58

      @Bernard: hierdie Blou Narre (of is dit nou pienk?) vergeet so graag hul maer jare...jare toe selfs ek - 'n stoere Stormer - hul opreg jammer gekry het. Gaan gerus in op Wikipedia en check so 'n bietjie stats van daai 'spesiale' jare. Genadig het die Stormers nooit so laag gedaal nie en juis daarom sal 'n Stormer altyd met trots kan loop al het hul dalk nooit 'n final gewen nie.

      henco.swart - 2012-02-25 20:13

      @ Chris: jis, m.a.w. dis uitstekend om middelmatig te wees, maar 'n span wat 3 S14 titels het, is onder-presteerders. Jislaaik it, jy voer een-ogigheid tot nuwe laagtes. Gaan vra vir Rassie hoekom hy geloop het by die WP/Stormers. Die WP/Stormers Rugby unie word slegter bestuur as enige ander unie in SA. Dit sluit die amper bankrot Lions in. Julle herinner hoe swak die Bulls was. Sedert 1994 het die Stormers maar 3 titels gewen. Die Bulls het 6, Sharks het 5, en beide die Lions en Cheetahs was meer suksesvol as julle. Maar julle is mos die Man. Utd van Rugby? Ek wonder, miskien is dit net omdat julle ondersteuners 'suckers for punishment' is, dat hulle nog steeds die WP ondersteun. Dit maak nie eintlik saak wat julle van Bulls Rugby dink nie. 3 SR titels, 6 CC titels, 3 Vodacom Cups, teenoor julle 3 CC's in die laaste 20 jaar. Herinner ons aan die maer jare... Julle maer jare gaan nog lank aanhou, en baie beslis met Toby Titus daar... Die feit is, self met ons 'swak' rekord van die verlede, het ons nog steeds meer rede tot trots as wat julle OOIT kan he. Dis die top punt van arrogansie om te dink dat julle die beste SA span is, maar julle rekord is nog altyd net 'middelmatig'. Ek sal dink dat dit meer 'n skande is dat julle nog nie gewen het nie, as iets om oor trots te wees, volgens jou eie woorde. Die Leeus, Cheetahs en Sharks verdien nog respek, want hulle probeer hulle bes, maar met jou houding, verdien die Stormers nie om in die S15 te speel nie.

  • Butch - 2012-02-26 11:38

    Kruger and Bekker - together for the the Boks - luckily Meyer is a mastermind = what a pleasure = I shall enjoy the boks again with moron snorre out on the stand still thinking he is "coach"

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