]It’s going to be a Springbok-laden Sharks outfit that will welcome the Lions to Durban on Saturday. Jacques van der Westhuyzen of the Pretoria News dissects the key players of the big clash and finds it’s no surprise the home side are overwhelming favourites.
Bismarck du Plessis
The powerful hooker will probably keep John Smit out of the run-on side, allowing coach John Plumtree to test the Lions at scrum time throughout the 80 minutes. Du Plessis has shown good form in recent weeks and will bring a lot of aggression and energy to the rucks and mauls, with his forceful play at the breakdowns a major asset to the Sharks. He’s also very lively in the loose and regularly links with his back division, while his lineout throwing is rarely off the mark.
It’ll come as no surprise should the “Beast” be among the five nominees vying to be named South Africa’s Player of the Year. Mtawarira enjoys cult hero statuts in Durban and will draw on the fans to again produce a masterful display from the front row. While he made his mark thanks to some barn-storming runs, crashing through players and defences, he’s actually turned into a formidable scrummager. He’ll put lots of pressure on the Lions’ Ross Geldenhuys at the set-piece.
Phew, this man is on fire. It is now seriously time for Springbok coach Peter de Villiers to hand the big No8 an extended run in the national team. He’s only been back in the Sharks side for a couple of weeks, but boy, he’s made an impact. He’s very solid at the back of the scrum, picks-and-drives and even wins lineout ball. But it’s his linking with the backs that makes him such a special player – the perfect eighthman, then. He’s quick and mobile and, in space, is the most destructive runner in domestic rugby at the moment.
He’s had his ups-and-downs this season, being shifted between scrumhalf and flyhalf, but seems to have settled down in his preferred position in the No9 jersey and is back in form. Pienaar is probably one of the better readers of a game and this ability alone makes him a very dangerous proposition. His service is slick and his eye for the gap around the rucks and mauls is equally effecient. He’s a player one simply cannot take you eye off for a second – and he’s also kicking well at the moment.
He hasn’t had the best of seasons, but like so many of his teammates, he’s capable of turning in a match-winning performance every time he runs on to the field. Steyn has that rare ability to turn nothing into something special. He’s a strong runner, always looking for a gap, and when in space with time on his side will rip any defence apart. He’s a strong tackler who isn’t scared to stick his head into a ruck, and then there’s that powerful right boot.
He didn’t have a good start to the year and went for hundreds of minutes without crossing the tryline. But as the season’s gone on, he’s found his form and seems unstoppable right now, touching down at regular intervals. Pietersen is one of those players who crops up in the most unlikely places and he always seems to be on hand to collect the last pass. He’s got blistering pace and is improving all the time in defence, especially under the high ball.Tweet