The game of rugby certainly does begin amongst the forwards, but contrary to what Rob likes to say, it does not end there too.
Then again, we are talking about an ex-lock who thinks that numbers 9-15 are just there to get tackled, run over and creatively abused whenever the forwards need a change from the real game of rugby.
So, in line with my illustrious friend’s take on the forwards, here is a little comparison of the respective backs.
9) Pienaar v du Preez – Very tough to call. Much will depend on the ball they receive, but both are truly world-class, and while the man with 2 surnames is widely regarded as the best in SA, if not the world, Ruan is showing that with an extended stint in the 9 jersey, his feel for the position and instinctive play is miles ahead of when he is a utility back. In addition to superb decision-making, he has added some sublime kicking to his repertoire this year. My gut says Ruan a shade over du Preez, but based on historical performance, I’ll score this 5-5.
10) Frederic “The French Magician” Michalak v Morne “Die Tshwane Towernaar” Steyn – Both have had awesome seasons this year, with Freddie showing that he can thrive in the physicality, pace and intensity of Southern Hemisphere rugby, while still remaining a creative force, and Steyn showing that he can step out from behind the homo-erotic shadow that Derrick “The Darling of Danville” cast over thousands of love-struck, horn-wearing gentleman up North. While Steyn might have caused the end of the “Kom Terug Liefling” group on Facebook and the studio-bound death of the Steve Hofmeyr produced mash-up of Liefling and De la Rey with some fine performances, his ability under pressure remains open, and crucial 3-pointers and clearing kicks could break him. 6-4 to Freddy.
11) Pieterson v Habana – I’m not even gonna pretend that I’m not a big fan of JPP’s, and that I believe that he is a special player. That said, Bryan broke my heart in the 2007 S14, and that memory, as well as seeing oubaas topless, is one that is hard to forget, despite the medication. On form, JPP is ahead, and I feel that this is not a temporary thing with him. However, Bryan is world-class, so on history, I am gonna give this to Habana. 4-6 to Bryan.
12) Francois Steyn v Wynand “Timotei” Olivier – Wynand has been awesome this year – the best I have ever seen him. It seems he has had some lessons with Sheryl Calder and is finally able to differentiate between a wing and a touch-judge. He has looked pacy, strong, has shown a great step, and some sweet passing. That said, he is up against one of the most prodigious talents in modern rugby. Frans, like Ruan, has benefitted immensely from consistent selection in the 12 jersey, which I feel suits him at this stage f his career. He is a rock-solid tackler, can break the line, will punish any errant clearances from the Bulls (likely in their style of game), and can be a great distributor. The only concern is his temperament (as per the 2007 S14 Final). On this basis, I would give it 6-4 to Frans.
13) Adrian Jacobs v Marius Delport – Adi has shown his class for the Boks this year, but has looked tired since getting back. That said, I fully expect him to lift himself for this final hurdle. Marius Delport is not a 13, and has never really done anything noteworthy. 7-3 to Adi.
14) Odwa Ndungane v Akona Ndungane – Odwa has come on in leaps and bounds, and while his brother is also a solid, very consistent performer, he lacks Odwa’s explosiveness on attack. 6-4 to Odwa.
15) Stefan Terblanche v Zane Kirchner – Interesting one this. Stefan has really improved in the latter half of this season – less aimless kicks, great positioning, very good at the kick and chase, and still quick and powerful on the run. Kirchner brings similar speed and power to the table, but lacks the guile and experience of Stefan. This could be a name-making game for Kirchner, but on the back of his experience, Stefan shades it.6-4 to Stefan.
Amongst the reserves, its no contest. Barrit, Murray and Kockott against the likes of Heini Adams, John Mametsa and Burton Francis? 7-3 to the Sharks Young Guns.
Sharks 47; Bulls 33.
So again, the message, ON PAPER, is that the Sharks could win.
Go ahead, call my bluff.
I double dares yer.Tweet