This public holiday in the middle of the week really messed up my biological clock. When I woke up this morning, going to work was the last thing on my mind. Then, when I opened my newspaper, I realised that there is still a whole weekend of rugby ahead, and only two working days. I’ll settle for that!
After ten weary weeks, the Cheetahs take a breather this weekend. Ironically, they only have a couple of injured players, and those are minor ailments.
The Stormers proved last week that they can win on a Friday. Facing the Blues will be yet another very tough encounter, and they will hopefully not have to make over 200 tackles again, like last weekend. I see that, as part of the media warfare, Allister Coetzee praised the referee for his strictness in the ruck and maul situation, implying that our man Dickenson failed the test last week, particularly as far as the rolling maul is concerned. There are two Blues players that the men from the Cape need to be wary of – Rene Ranger and Keven Mealamu. Ranger has aspirations of playing for the All Blacks again, and his uncanny ability to score tries will form part of the strategy to be employed by Sir John Kirwan. Mealamu is your typical All Black number 2 – tough as nails and always giving 100%.
The Sharks will breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they face the bottom of the log side, the Highlanders. Five points is not negotiable, it is a must. Key for the Natal boys is to start off the way they finished the first half last week, and then to maintain that pressure throughout. The rugby writer of the Herald on Sunday, Gregor Paul, has this to say about the Highlanders: Statisticians say the laws of probability are stacked in favour of the Highlanders breaking their losing streak this week. Maths isn’t really the best guide, however, as the number crunching might not reveal that the Highlanders look broken mentally and appear to have virtually no faith in their core skills or basic plan.
The Waratahs will be determined to make up for last week’s loss. The Kings have lost an important advantage that they held at the start of the season. Other teams no longer regard them as a walk-over. Still, they will have all their rugby-starved, ardent fans behind them in PE, and whilst I do not expect them to win, they will very likely give a good account of themselves. The return of Seargal Petersen will no doubt draw a maximum crowd. I hope he continues with magic making moments.
The Bulls will have learnt from the Stormers game last weekend that they should starve the Hurricanes of possession, or commit themselves to tackling the whole night. The two botanists, Pottie and Steggie, know each other’s play very well, and should be effective in the breakdown situations. Jan Serfontein will be missed in the backline, but his replacement, Wynand Olivier, will run on for his 106th Super match. Ek moes myself inhou toe ek sien wie sy direkte opponent in die nommer 12 trui gaan wees: ene Tusi Pisi. Kom ons hoop maar die veld is nie nat nie.
My “Match not to miss” is played on Sunday, when the Brumbies host the Crusaders in Brisbane. The same Gregor Paul quoted above made the following comment about the performance of the Crusaders this year: “… the worry for the Crusaders is that they have become flat-track bullies – brilliant at really toasting the weaker sides but vulnerable against the best.” My money is on them proving this wrong against Jake White’s charges.