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Oh to be at Newlands when the cricket is on

Who can ever forget this immortal uttering by the late Charles Fortune?

Ryan Harris, Australian fast bowler, is something of an amateur author. His column in the Sydney Morning Herald contains some pointers to what is happening in the Aussie camp after being swamped in Port Elizabeth:

We knew the South Africans were going to come back hard. It’s not just something we said publicly; we raised it in the dressing room as well. They’re the best team in the world, and they have been for a long time. Even so, we still weren’t ready for it. We can still look back and be happy with how we approached it, with the intensity we showed: the guys hit enough balls, we bowled enough balls. It’s just that they came even harder than we expected. That was clear at about 4-100 on day two, when their pacemen, especially Morne Morkel, came around the wicket and bounced us.

 We’re now back in Cape Town – yes, site of ”the 47” just over two years ago. It was just one of those days where you don’t play and miss, you just nick, where everything went wrong. It was a weird feeling because we’d bowled so well – Watto just kept taking wickets – after Pup [Michael Clarke] had batted out of his skin and we’d got a really good total. He put us in a position where we should never have lost the Test.

It is good to know that this humiliating innings is still on their minds. It can have one of two effects – it will either inspire them, or cause doubt if their top three goes quickly. I respect their fighting spirit, and regard Michael Clarke as an excellent captain, but his own lack of form with the bat may just have a negative influence on his side.

South Africa has to make two selection choices which could have a bearing on the outcome of the match.

  1. Do they retain Dean Elgar as opening batsman, or move him down to number 6? His resolve, should we fail upfront, can be extremely valuable. I would therefore suggest we reinstate Alviro Petersen in his usual opening role and reinforce the backups with Elgar.
  2. McLaren, Kleinveldt or Abbott? I suspect they will play conservative and retain McLaren, but would love to see Abbott be rewarded for his great form this season. The Aussies will not role over as easily as they did in PE, and we need a wicket taking seamer, not a container. Kleinveldt has home ground advantage in his favour.

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Super Rugby Roundup

Rebels/Cheetahs

The Cheetahs kick off their Australasian tour against a side likely to be wooden spoonists, and should run out comfortable winners. The Rebels dumped James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Cooper Vuna in a rebuild exercise which should culminate in a more competitive side in a year or two.

Naka Drotske says his side will focus on what they do best, rather than try and fathom the unknown. Wise choice, I think, and the ideal start for the overseas leg of the competition for the Cheetahs.

Stormers/Hurricanes

There are three factors favouring the Stormers: home ground advantage, their hurt pride and the fact that the ‘Canes play their second tour match, traditionally a bit of a voodoo for most touring teams.

It remains to be seen whether this will carry the Stormers through on the day. Most die-hard supporters were devastated with the lack of application by the side in Johannesburg last weekend, and are sceptical about their chances on Friday night.

If the last week’s match is anything to go by, the visitors should be taken on up front, and the Stormers have the personnel to do this – well, on paper any way. A tight game, with minimal risk of allowing the Hurricanes to swing the ball wide, and they may just do it.

Bulls/Lions

At this early stage it is difficult to use form as a barometer to gauge a likely outcome, but the confidence of the visiting side after beating the Cheetahs and the Stormers must be a strong factor in their favour.

The Bulls have really been crippled through injuries and, after two defeats, must be a little low in the self-belief department. The replacement of their flyhalf by Jacques-Louis Potgieter, ahead of Handré Pollard, comes as a surprise, but was much needed after Fouche appeared to have lost confidence as their woes continued. It remains to be seen whether he was the problem, or whether it was caused by Hougaard at scrumhalf,.

The Lions only made two injury enforced changes, and appear to be much stronger in at least one department where the Bulls battled in their previous matches – at the breakdowns.

With the current form of the Lions, expect the home ground advantage of the Bulls to be negated by a Groot Trek across the Jukskei River by vociferous Lions fans.

This is going to be one very tight contest.

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