This weekend sees four of the five SA sides take on Aussie opponents. All local supporters are hoping for a “four Aces” hand, but that could be wishful thinking, unless we see a change of attitude in the approach of some of our sides.
Crusaders vs Kings
As the only SA side not facing an Australian one, the Kings could hardly ask for a more difficult overseas baptism than this one. Last week was the first time that the Crusaders fired on all their pistons, at the expense of a game Bulls side. The Kings not only lack the experience of the Bulls, they also field substantially lesser known names. Who knows, this may just work in their favour. It could mean that the Crusaders will not be able to plan as efficiently as they would against better known opponents, and there may be a little bit of complacency as well. If the Kings manage to hold their own again, I suspect this little advantage will start drying up. Besides, the Crusaders focus on their own game, not their opponents, which is why they are the leading trophy winner in Super history.
Reds vs Bulls
The news that the coach of the Reds since 2009 have opted out from the end of the year may not influence the side yet, but it will not do much to bolster their shaky start to the season. Last weekend’s loss to the Force is not likely to bolster their confidence, either. Will Genia’s return did not do much for Quade Cooper, but he is one of those players who seem to lift his game when playing a South African side. Yes, it’s old hat, but the Bulls’ lack of anything other than their drilled game plan backfires when facing strong counter attacking sides. If they are to win this one, their driving play up front should be the platform from which to attack, not the aerial route.
Force vs Cheetahs
This must be the one game that the Cheetahs would have pencilled in as a potential win in their pre-tour planning, but last week’s result for the Force would have had the same effect for them as the two in a row victory had for the Cheetahs. This is a tight one to call, with the Force possibly getting the nod, if only for the fact that they are playing at home, and have an ex- Cheetah in the tank in the form of Sias Ebersohn. This may, of course, also be a disadvantage. Goosen’s injury is a big loss for the Cheetahs and South Africa, just as he was hitting form again, but they have two ample replacements.
Sharks vs Rebels
The Rebels, with one win in four games, and a -25 points deficit to show for the season thus far, should be sardines for the Sharks, provided the latter can bounce back from last week’s disaster. I suspect that hurt pride will fire up the Sharks, and they will want to show their true talent. What all of us would like to see, is for this to happen consistently. To be very frank: the time for slapgat senior players is over. If you regard yourself as too good for the Super series, should you be there? Young Peter-Steph du Toit made a marked impact when he came on as replacement, and is but one of a few youngsters who deserves a place in the starting line-up, replacing the complacent koolkoppe.
Stormers vs Brumbies
The Sharks did the Stormers a huge favour by alerting them to just how dangerous the Brumbies can be. Indications are that a more conservative selection process will be employed, with stalwarts from last year like Peter Grant and Dewald Duvenhage replacing the more adventurous Jantjes and Nick Groome. One thing is sure: Jake White would have done his homework, but so would Allister Coetzee. They know each other from their success together at the World Cup. Expect a game of chess on Saturday, with a number of casualties along the way before checkmate is called.