Sharks take on Scots

Well, I thought to myself, if this Kiwi team wants to take its name from the Highlands of Scotland, they had better live up to the glorious past they choose to represent. The song, “Flower of Scotland”, relives the famous Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 when an English army, led by Edward II, tried to relieve Stirling Castle which controlled the road to the Highlands. They were met by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn where the over-confident English army was soundly defeated, losing 34000 men, while Scottish casualties were light.

The Sharks need to be wary of making the same mistake as proud Edward’s army. In the previous match in Durban between the two sides, the Hurricanes outplayed the home side up front and won 34 – 18, scoring four tries to none.

The Sharks won 11 of their 16 matches in the tournament thus far, while the Highlanders could only win half of their 16 encounters. The home ground advantage favours the Sharks, and travelling will count against the visitors as well.

While the Sharks were clinical in their demolition of the Stormers in their last game, the Highlanders were not. As the NZ Herald puts it:

Jake White’s men, masters of the tight stuff and having got back on to winning ways with their 34-10 win over the Stormers in Cape Town, will have seen the way the Highlanders’ set piece was ruthlessly dismantled by the Crusaders and are unlikely to stray too far from the template provided by Todd Blackadder’s men.

The Sharks get back two key players in Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie, while the Highlanders will be delighted to have their inspirational fullback Ben Smith back after a leg infection last week. The Beast’s failure to pass a fitness test opens the door wider for young Thomas du Toit (pictured above) to establish himself in a high pressure match.

The winner of this match will be the team who manages best to forget about the next match and focuses on the game at hand. The visitors may opt to retain their open style of play, rather than adopt a typical knock-out style of rugby, given the enormous talent available in their backline.

The Sharks showed their defensive skills at Newlands last week, and are unlikely to be intimidated by the reputation of the Highlanders. As Bismarck puts it:

“Even if it is just by one point, I will be happy. If you look too far ahead of yourselves you can trip at the first hurdle. All we are focused on now is playing well and winning in front of what hopefully will be a full house.”

Nou toe, manne en vroue – doen wat julle kaptein vra en daag Saterdag op in julle duisende, anders kan die besoekers dalk meer as net jul “Bannocks Burn”.

Proteas in Sri Lanka

One of the changes I was hoping to see under the new captain was a more positive start, as opposed to having to fight back after having put themselves under pressure. At the time of writing, it appears that we will again manage to mess up the decent foundation laid by the top three batsmen.

Test cricket is a team sport. The likes of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers allows you to rise above most of the other teams, but with the solidity provided by Jaques Kallis gone, the rest of the team are going to have to put their hands up and contribute. We cannot rely on Amla and AB in every game – they are human, after all.

Thank goodness we do not have to bat last in this match.

Naksrif: Daar bekeer die Duminy toe al my swartgalligheid. Dis wonderlik om te sien hoe volwasse hy geraak het vandat daar meer verantwoordelikheid op sy skouers geplaas is.

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