Will this be a doom and gloom weekend for South African rugby fans? Or will results and the announcement of the Springbok training squad give us reason to smile and be happy?
JJ Harmse writes in his weekly column that come Saturday night around 21:00 and the above questions will be answered.
The Sharks or Stormers could end up hosting a semi-final or finish in the top four. Or, of course, they could be finished with the Super 14 entirely.
Then there will be the announcement of Peter de Villiers’s first national squad. Much of the anticipation surrounding this might be nullified if either or both of the two local sides progress to the Super 14 semis, as they will not then be named in the Bok squad.
I find that a tad sad. I understand De Villiers is acting on a request from the two franchises, but that is something I don’t agree with. They are stealing the new coach’s big moment.
I can clearly recall Jake White’s first announcement of his squad and how important it was to him. And how proud he was to read out the names of his chosen ones.
Now the Stormers and Sharks expect De Villiers to pass his big moment for the sake of their playoff chances. It is not fair on the coach, I believe.
The announcement of the Bok squad is very important for any national coach. He’ll be sending out a clear message when he does name the 45-man squad, but we will now have to wait until after the Sharks v Chiefs game to know if he will be able to do that. It is unfair to the coach and the rugby public.
De Villiers should name his preferred squad on Saturday night. So what if there are new faces in the group and they need to play for their franchise the next week? They are professional players, not pampered little babies, for goodness sake!
If any player named on the weekend cannot perform in the semi-final of the Super 14 a week later, he does not deserve to become a Springbok in the first place.
Both the Sharks and Stormers are close-knit units. They play for each other, they play for their coach and they play for their supporters. How being named for a Springbok training group can change that is beyond me.
Come on Sharks and come on Stormers. Please think again. Give Peter his rightful place in history. Don’t spoil it. After all, it is a very significant moment in our game.
How the squad will look if he is allowed that moment, is another debate. And it will be a topic of discussion for the next week at least. I for one am looking forward to some of the main selection issues.
Don’t forget, the Welsh and Italian Tests will be played without the ELVs. We may think the change is not important, but don’t tell the Welsh that. They don’t need any mental adjustments in playing the game, whereas the Springboks will have to.
I spoke to Marius Jonker recently, who jumped from Super 14 to Six Nations and back to the full set of ELVs in the Vodacom Cup. He was adamant that it’s easy to slip back into old rules mode, but not that easy to get back into ELV mode again.
He took charge of the Wales v France Six Nations match and believes that the Springboks will have to be on the button if they want to beat the Red Dragons.
How much of a factor the old rules will be in De Villiers’s thinking, only time will tell. Do you subdue them with a kicking game or do you run them off their feet?
You will be allowed to pass the ball back into your 22m area and kick it out on the full. So do you go the territorial route and keep them down in their territory? Or will De Villiers take the attacking option and play the situation, as the ELVs have forced our players to do?
Predict the results
All of these questions will be answered in the next couple of weeks. I for one cannot wait. There was much hype and debate surrounding the appointment of the new coach. He’s talked a lot since then. The proof will be in the pudding. Soon.
Allow me to predict the results on the weekend. Both teams will find it tough. The Stormers again fell away badly in the second half of the Waratahs game as they have been doing in the last couple of weeks. This may just be the weekend where they pay dearly and fall agonisingly short of a playoff spot.
The Sharks at last scored some tries, but it took them 76 minutes to get the bonus point. They will have to open the game up against the Chiefs. What would the Chiefs prefer? An open game. So expect the score to be something like 44-38… to the Sharks, who will then have another trip down to ChristchurchTweet