Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - It
is the most attractive game of the South African weekend, albeit on a lean
Super Rugby programme for sides from the local conference - leaders the Lions
experience a bye round.
fast-turnaround return derby between the Sharks and Bulls at Kings Park is a
key encounter as the losers - unless we get an unlikely draw - will slip to a
humdrum 50 percent win record after six matches and their ever-demanding
Australasian tours, in each instance, yet to negotiate.
winner on Saturday (15:05 kick-off) is a treacherous exercise: on the one hand,
the Bulls notably dominated the first meeting at Loftus only three weeks ago,
but then last weekend they were suddenly humiliated at home by the Chiefs
whereas the Sharks comfortably enough disposed of the Rebels.
Many of the
jury, then, will be scratching their heads for Saturday; I know I am.
moment the Lions, so often the country’s premier force over the past three or
four seasons in the competition, have snuck back to the top of the admittedly
tight SA table, and second overall.
Not for the
first time in recent years, either, their attack, in general terms, has looked
brighter than that of compatriots.
their particularly debilitating run of injury hassles lately, it is reflected
in their extremely healthy “tries for” record: 25 from six games at an average
of 4.16 per outing.
significantly better than the averages of all of the Sharks (3.2), Bulls (2.2)
and especially Stormers (1.8).
concession rate (18 tries) is also the worst of the quartet, but that offensive
punch also goes a long way to explaining their dominance of the South African
scene in the tournament since 2016.
gone to possibly damaging, unbalancing extremes lately, given the absence
through long-term injury of bigger specimens like Cyle Brink (imminently fit
again, apparently) and Warren Whiteley, but the fleet-footedness of their loose
trios, I believe, is a major contributor to the relative ease with which they
cross the proverbial whitewash.
In the shape
of Kwagga Smith, Marnus Schoeman, Hacjivah Dayimani and others, they have
athletes with a special relish for linking play and the pace to effectively
serve as extra backliners, in many senses - a surefire additional way of
keeping opposition defences guessing.
both of Saturday’s Durban combatants - as well as the travelling Stormers -
have been fielding, by contrast, starting loosie alliances with an altogether more
lopsided emphasis on physicality.
There is no
notable whippet, that’s for sure, among the Bulls loose trio to take on the
Sharks, for all the plentiful qualities of world-wise No 8 Duane Vermeulen, in
particular, plus flankers Ruan Steenkamp and (sometimes second-rower) Hanro
But if the
Bulls cry out for a “stepper” and fast-from-the-blocks runner in their back
row, so do the KwaZulu-Natalians, really, as they have not yet adjusted
satisfactorily in that regard to the gradual phasing out in recent seasons of stirringly
long-serving men like Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes.
were at their respective peaks, those two shared many of the open-play
qualities - largely rooted in mobility - of current Super Rugby stars like
Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes, the Waratahs’ Michael Hooper and Crusaders’ Matt
Thus far in
2019, the Sharks, like their latest visitors from Pretoria, have been relying
on rather more juggernaut individuals to make their hard yards - and often pretty
slowly - from the loosie berths.
respect to staple figures like Dan du Preez and Jacques Vermeulen, neither is
ever likely to make the sort of cheeky break through a half-gap, dummy or
double sidestep of a Bob Skinstad, say, in his electric prime.
Nor are the
Sharks loosies going to look any more subtle, of course, when Dan’s
co-Springbok twin brother Jean-Luc, about as robust and uncompromising as they
get, finally returns to fitness roughly for the second-half “turn” in ordinary
in the considerably shorter term, it will be interesting to see how rookie
starter Luke Stringer, the former Rondebosch Boys High School dynamo, fares in
his taxing promotion to No 6 against the Bulls this weekend.
the most proven of open-siders (he has served in both other loose-forward
spots) he looks a little more geared to rebalance the Sharks back three with an
injection of fleet-footedness that could give the battle between the trios a
useful point of difference ...
Aphelele Fassi, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen 11
Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8
Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4
Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai
Substitutes: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18
Khutha Mchunu, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Grant
Williams, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Curwin Bosch
Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal,
11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Embrose Papier, 8
Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4
Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Conrad van Vuuren, 19 Jannes
Kirsten, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze
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