For all practical purposes, we only have two horses left in the Super 15 race. The Sharks and the Stormers are paying the price for an indifferent start to the season, and few expected the Kings to do as well as they did. Their bye is a huge relief for the men from the Baai.
Stormers versus Rebels
While the Cape team had a tough draw in the opening rounds, their conservative approach cost them dearly. Choosing to milk penalties, rather than score tries, has left them stranded, with an outside chance of making the playoffs. Their fate is no longer in their hands, and if they do make it, they will have to follow the same suicidal route the Sharks faced last year. After a visit by Graham Henry, they have now decided that attack is also important. This makes me wonder why the coaching staff themselves did not realise that the likes of Aplon, Habana and De Villiers are far better applied on the attack, rather than as extra fetchers in the loose. With their opponents, the Rebels, also playing an expansive game, it should be fun to watch. Like a Vodacom Cup match, the result is not really that important.
Sharks versus the Force
All is not well in the Sharks setup. Trying to blame language differences sounds more like sensationalism than fact. If this was a problem, it would have manifested in the days when AJ Venter and the like emigrated from the Free State to the Last Outpost. Interestingly enough, my local paper this morning had articles on all the sides, except the Sharks. Could it be as a result of the language exposé? What I said about the Stormers, goes for the Sharks as well. Who would have thought this at the beginning of the season, given the players at their disposal? Sure, injuries did play a huge part, but with their depth, they should have performed better. The Force is not one to be reckoned with, and hopefully the Banana boys can regain some sort of form, particularly in the first half.
The Cheetahs versus the Reds
The Cheetahs have hopefully learnt from last week’s rude awakening. With Elgar Watts at flyhalf, they obviously opted for an even more attacking approach than they have already shown throughout the season. With only one key player, Labuschagne, as a doubtful starter, their chances of beating the Reds must be good. One factor in this game will be the performance of Quade Cooper, who appears to have to learn to walk on water before he will be considered for selection for his country against the Lions. This will make great demands on the defence of Watts, who will need assistance in this department.
Bulls versus Highlanders
The biggest challenge for the Bulls, who face the Highlanders, will be to get out of the starting blocks from the kick-off. They would have learnt from the mistake made by the Cheetahs last week, and should have little difficulty scoring full points on the log. The fact that their opponents have only won one match from 10, could lull them into a false sense of security, but the professionalism and discipline of the Bulls should prevent this. The return of Jan Serfontein, alongside JJ Engelbrect, promises exiting rugby for their fans, and anyone who chooses to remove his or her provincially tinted spectacles.
Ondanks my aanvanklike skeptisisme oor die sukkelaars met die baie potensiaal, gaan ek tog maar weer Vrydag met my hart in my keel kyk, en Saterdag sonder my Stormers bril.