This old adage, from a Protea perspective, refers more to the second part: “…where angels fear to tread.” The prospect of facing Mitchell Johnson must be a daunting one, yet AB de Villiers, and Hashim Amla, to a lesser degree, showed that he is not unplayable. On a fairer wicket, this may be even more so, yet we must remember that Australia batted better than us in both innings in Centurion.
Just a final thought on the first test: if Graeme Smith knew that Dale Steyn was slightly under the weather due to a tummy bug, would it not have been wiser for SA to bat first?
Picking a replacement for McLaren is not an easy task – Parnell is a bit of a gamble, but his left-arm swing bowling does add variety to the SA attack, and it is his home ground. Dean Elgar is possibly the more solid batsman – Morné Morkel says he is tough as nails, something which is very much needed against the rampant Australians.
The locals reckon that day one may be the better day for betting, with day two likely to assist the seamers. At least we are 1-0 up in so far as winning the toss is concerned, so let’s hope Smith seals this part of the series, at least.
Super Rugby Roundup
The crunch game, from a local perspective, will no doubt be the one in Bloemfontein on Friday night. The Cheetahs are probably still smarting from the humiliation handed out to them by the Lions in front of their home crowd, and pride, as much as points on the log, will be a huge motivating factor for them. The Bulls will no doubt have gone back to the drawing board to rectify their inability to absorb the pressure applied by the Sharks in their opening match. Should the Cheetahs continue to play the expansive game they employed in the first half last weekend, it could just open the door for the men from Pretoria to swoop on failed forays and convert it into points.
The Sharks should have little difficulty in beating the Hurricanes in Durban on Saturday afternoon. In contrast to the Bulls, the ‘Canes enjoy giving the ball air, and with the Springbok nemesis, Beudan Barrett, opposing Pat Lambie at number 10, it could actually be a great game of rugby. Jake White also mentions the number 15, Martie Banks, as deserving a watchful eye. The combination of jet lag and Durban’s humidity should, in my view, take its toll in the second half, and I predict that the Sharks will get maximum points out of the match.
The Lions host the Stormers in Johannesburg in the last game on Saturday. The home team has several factors in their favour, including a lot of confidence gained at the expense of the Cheetahs, and having their first Super match under the belt. The Stormers have an unsettled backline, and will miss the fiery play of Eben Etzebeth up front. I suspect that the visitors will try and keep the game tight, and use Vermeulen, Burger and Kolisi to gain the hard yards. They fancy their chances with rolling mauls, but Franco van der Merwe will make good line-out possession difficult. No doubt, Allister Coetzee would have noted the new spring in the step of the Lions, and will not be over confident of a victory. I expect this to be a closer one than I would have thought a week ago, but expect Catrakilis to be the difference that Marnitz Boshoff was for the Lions last Saturday.
Oh, and I do not want any praise for predicting that the Stormers will NOT score four tries.
As far as the rest of the competition is concerned, I will definitely watch the Crusaders at home taking on the Chiefs on Friday morning. They have opted to leave quite a bit of experience on the bench, and excluded Zac Guildford totally, possibly in response to his decision to play in France next year. The side was selected on form in the pre-season trials, but just how valid this is, facing the reigning Super Rugby champions, will only be revealed on Friday. Perhaps this is a ploy to counter the usual slow start to the season the Crusaders are renowned for?
The Chiefs showed last year that rugby is a fifteen man game. Lacking some of the big names, they ground out a week-in, week-out performance, ultimately winning the coveted crown. I expect nothing different this year, and predict a win in their opening match against their fancied opponents in Christchurch.
For dessert, read this article by Gregor Paul: Alarms going off regarding overseas-based Springboks
In the Springbok match-day 23 that played France in November last year, there were nine overseas-based players: there were 11 in the 30-man squad.
Is this good or bad in the long run?
Lekker kyk, ou Grote.