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Random toughts of a Sports Lover…

End of the road for Bulls?

End of the road?

The Bulls have all but been written off for their encounter against the Crusaders this weekend, while there is some hope for the black and white dynamites to come good against the Reds in Brisbane.

Crusaders vs Bulls

Kick off is at 09:35. Have a light breakfast to avoid heart burn for this one!

Crusaders are bringing back Robert Freuen at 13 and Adam Whitelock goes to 14 in place of Maitland who drops to the bench. In the front row, Wyatt Crocket comes in for Ben Franks who drops to the Bench. They will be missing Kieran Read though who has not recovered from injury, and the referee  Captain will be McCaw.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Richie McCaw (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett Substitutes: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sean Maitland

The Bulls will largely field the same squad as against the Lions last weekend, with just Flip van den Merwe replacing Wilhelm Steenkamp.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling

Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Deon Stegmann, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter

To be honest, the Crusaders have a very strong side from 1 straight to 15. They have a front row that have dominated for the past two seasons. Whitelock and Romano has been doing quite good at lock and McCaw, somehow, just always manages to do as he pleases on the ground. Matt Todd has proven to be a thorn in the flesh of opposition before and I’ve actually rated him better than McCaw last season, but he doesn’t get away with murder the way McCaw does. George Whitelock is a bit unknown to me but he cannot be much worse than Pierre Spies.

Looking at the Bulls forward pack, their scrum was taught several lessons by the Springbokless Lions last weekend and I think they will be in for a very very long night in Christchurch. Jacques Potgieter has fired hot and cold this season and despite getting a Springbok cap, he just isn’t as effective as a ball carrier as a blindsider should be. Dewald has all the experience and he has the heart, where Pierre has the size but his strength doesn’t match it. If Spies had Dewald’s heart, he’d be back to his old self we came to know pre World Cup 2007…

So in the forwards, it’s pretty much all in favour of the Saders. And that’s only on paper. The Crusaders’ work ethic at the breakdowns is a rush type of attack, taking away everything in their path and counter rucking like demons. The Bulls on the other hand are slow to the breakdowns and are slow the clean the ball out, placing pressure on Morne who then, more often than not, has no option but to kick.

So the breakdown contest will also be won by the home side.

Going to the backline, I think Ellis and Hougaard, Crotty and Olivier, and Whitelock and Basson match each other pretty well. But Carter is a mastermind and will outsmart and outplay Morne (and even outkick based on Morne’s kick record this season) . Freuen is a monster and JJ Engelbrecht will wish he was a wing again. Guildford is lightning quick and is going to make Ndungane look as if he is looking for a parking spot, and Dagg is just pure pace and Kirchner has no chance in hell to stop him.

I’m sorry Bulls, but based on the evidence of the past season, the quality of the Bulls players and the little issue that most of them have played non -stop rugby for 19 weeks, including 3 tests (ok there was those two little byes) just makes the Crusaders firm favorites and I don’t see any way in which the Bulls will upset the Crusaders this weekend.

 

Reds vs Sharks

Kick off is at 11:40.

By now you would have had a couple of beers after breakfast and if you are a Bulls supporter you will want to watch this game to make you feel a little bit better about where South African rugby is going.

It’s not for nothing that the majority of the Springbok starting squad that defeated England in the second test were Sharks payers…

The Reds team is not announced as yet, but I expect the following team to take the field:

Reds:

1. Greg Holmes, 2. Saia Faingaa, 3. James Slipper, 4. Rob Simmons, 5. Adam Wallace-Harrison (vc), 6. Jake Schatz, 7. Liam Gill, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Will Genia (c), 10. Ben Lucas, 11. Digby Ioane, 12. Mike Harris, 13. Anthony Faingaa, 14. Dom Shipperley, 15. Luke Morahan.

Reserves: 16. James Hanson, 17. Ben Daley, 18. Radike Samo, 19. Beau Robinson, 20. Jarrad Butler, 21. Nick Frisby, 22. Ben Tapuai.

Cooper has been suspended, so Ben Lucas will take his place, and I think Nick Frisby, after several good performances will take Lucas’ place on the bench.

The Sharks team has been announced as follows:

Sharks

1. Tendai Mtawarira , 2. Bismarck du Plessis , 3. Jannie du Plessis , 4. Willem Alberts , 5. Anton Bresler , 6. Keegan Daniel (Captain) , 7. Marcell Coetzee , 8. Ryan Kankowski , 9. Charl McLeod , 10. Frederic Michalak , 11. Lwazi Mvovo , 12. Tim Whitehead , 13. Paul Jordaan , 14. JP Pietersen , 15. Louis Ludik

Replacements , 16. Craig Burden , 17. Wiehahn Herbst , 18. Steven Sykes , 19. Jacques Botes , 20. Cobus Reinach , 21. Meyer Bosman , 22. Odwa Ndungane

In a very interesting move PLumtree has decided to plug Alberts into the lock position rather than openside flank. Instead, he is putting his best players on the park and is playing Alberts out of position to have him on the park. How this will pan out is yet to be seen but I personally welcome the idea.

Comparing the two sides,  the Sharks are the obvious favorites when it comes to the front row with the Springbok front row striking fear in most of their opponents. In the second row I would also call the Sharks the favorites despite good performances by Harrison of the Reds. Alberts just pips it for me.

The back three of the Reds is pretty impressive and Liam Gill has made things tough for opponents this season. The Sharks rely on Bismarck to do their fetching but in Gill the Reds have a geniune fetcher. In Higgenbotham the Reds also have a very good player and in my mind I would give the loose forward battle to the Reds.

In the backs I think things are pretyy much even but the Sharks should be careful of the Red’s back three who are evry dangerous and ligthing quick. One gap and they will run straight through. But they key for the Sharks to win this match will be how they close down Will Genia.

He is their talisman and if he is allowed too much space the Sharks will not win this encounter. Genia almost on his own won the Super rugby title in 2011 for the Reds when he ran through the entire Crusaders side to score the winning try and he’s repeated that run several times this season.

McLeod is not good enough to measure up to Genia one on one. So it will have to be a team effort to close him down. How the Sharks are able to close him down will determine their success in this match.

Overall, I think the Sharks and Reds have both been on the up in recent weeks but the Sharks were the more impressive side, especially with their convincing win over the Bulls. Hopefully they will bring back some of that this weekend and come back to face the Stormers in the semi final next Saturday…

But I’m confident with Coetzee, Daniel and Alberts in the Sharks side, they should come out on top this weekend.

It’s going to be a long afternoon on Saturday after the Rugby since no other worthwhile rugby will be on, but at least the first test will be going on in England and I am thoroughly looking forward to that as well!

 

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One Response

  1. Roly says:

    Don’t be too quick to write off the Bulls. It was done before when the Bulls needed a moerse score to go through, and they did it 🙂

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