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Wales to the Rescue?

Warren Gatland, the Welsh coach who is also in charge of the B & I Lions, put a cat amongst the pigeons when he announced that two thirds of his starting line-up would be Welshmen. He is possibly hoping for better cohesion, but whether, for example, Mike Phillips is a better scrumhalf than Ben Youngs, remains to be seen.

Imagine if you opened your paper and discovered that Heyneke Meyer had chosen ten Bulls players for the Springbok starting fifteen. When I put this question to my colleague Bobby, he reacted: “That would only be to keep the Stormers fans quiet. He should have picked the whole side.”

Nou ja, ons praat dalk later hierdie jaar weer met mekaar.

Dit was ‘n baie dapper stap van Gatland, maar een wat baie onaangename gevolge kan hê as dit nie werk nie. Die Britse media is ongenaakbaar as dit by kritiek uitdeel kom wanneer hul spanne verloor. Hulle het immers baie ondervinding hiervan.

The omission of Brian O’Driscoll is a shock, and personally, a very sad farewell to one of the greatest centres ever to have graced a rugby field.

The Aussie coach seems likely to recall George Smith after saying earlier this year that he does not need him. I hope this opens the door for Heyneke to change his mind about Heinrich Brüssow too, should the need arise, or maybe even if it does not.

Bulls/Sharks

Jannie du Plessis put this match in perspective when he said that the biggest challenge for the Sharks will be to stay disciplined when the Bulls apply pressure. He singled out the ability of the Bulls to retain possession, and the clinical execution of their movements as the biggest hurdle facing the Sharks. I would like to add to this the infusion of pace and class in the Bulls backline. It will be a typical SA derby, hard and uncompromising, but the Bulls have more to gain from a victory than the Sharks, so I will put my money on the home team.

Cheetahs/Blues

Hopefully, the team from New Zealand will be listening to Elton John singing this song on their way home. If the drubbing by the Stormers last week did not wake the Cheetahs up, then nothing will. The Blues, in turn, still has much to play for, and the way they came back at the Sharks in the second half last Saturday, should be a warning to the Cheetahs to play the full 80 minutes.

Kings/Stormers

The home team played their finest rugby in front of their home crowd, and the Stormers should not expect to win this one easily, given their injury problems. It is an old saying, but true – there are few teams more difficult than those with nothing left to play for but pride. They are also the two teams at the bottom of the SA log, which is another indicator that this match is unlikely to be over by half time. A comment by the Stormers captain worries me. He said in an interview that patience with the ball in hand is important, which I agree with, but then added that the team making the fewest mistakes will win. Deon, die enigste ou wat nie foute maak nie, is die ou wat niks doen nie. Dalk moet julle hieroor herbesin. Dit kan dalk net beteken dat julle meer drieë gaan druk.

Crusaders/Chiefs

This is the game I will be sure not to miss, as the right result could benefit the Bulls no end. On paper, the Crusaders look formidable, and they are playing at home. I predict that, after this round, the Bulls will top the log.

Weet julle wat dit vat van ‘n Stormers ondesteuner om dit te sê? Gelukkig is ek darem meer patrioties as provinsialisties.

Wimbledon

Just as the Open is the major Major in golf, so the Wimbledon title is the big one in tennis. Over the years, the final often had upsets, and this year could be no exception. Anyone watching the two Poles play each other for a place in the semi-final, and how they shared in the joy afterwards, despite one losing, was really touching. Quite often the pride of one player, versus the pressure from the home team, can lead to an unexpected result.

The ladies section is even more of a surprise. According to Supersport, the odds on Marion Bartoli, Kirsten Flipkens, Sabine Lisicki and Agnieska Radwanska making the semi-finals were 33 379-1. In my house, Lisicki has become a new favourite, but playing last year’s runner up, Radwanska, will be another steep hill to climb. Ek hoop sy maak dit, want sy is nogal iets vir die oog ook.

Nou, wie het gesê die winter is ‘n vervelige tyd?

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