I believe even the Kiwi’s and Aussies will view the clash between the Stormers and the Sharks as the game of the weekend.
So much depends on this game not only for the two teams involved, but also to the Antipodeans since these two teams are generally tipped as favourites for the competition.
Every single coach and captain will tell you that a win in the opening round is non-negotiable. Apart from semi’s and finals or playing yourself into them the opening game of any competition is the most important game teams will play – it sets the tone for the rest of the season, and in a tough competition like the Super 14 you cannot afford to fall behind.
This weekend will be a massive clash between the two coastal sides, with seemingly nothing splitting the two teams given all the dynamics involved.
The Sharks are the favourites and their past record, domestic and Super rugby, suggests they should still be favourites especially if one considers the team they named. But the Stormers’ impressive season last year in addition to playing in front of a packed home crowd with an almost fully fit team evens the odds out somewhat.
If one goes and does specific comparisons and match-up’s, it’s almost like splitting hairs. The fact is that from a rugby point of view there is no way to predict a winner for this match.
Match-up’s that should be fascinating though will be;
Smit the incumbent vs. Brits the hopeful
Muller the past Bok vs. Bekker the new kid on the Bok block
Schalk the Hulk vs. Deysel the Diesel machine
January the Tiger vs. Kockett the clinical
Pienaar the Talented vs. Grant the Consistent
And of course…
Jean the Classy vs. Steyn the game-breaker
In fact, there are match-up all over the show and with so many Boks on show why not – this is what local rugby and derbies are all about.
There has been a lot of talk from both sides in the last week or so, but then you can view it as just that – talk. Don’t read anything into it because once that whistle blows on Saturday at the start of the match no amount of talk will count for anything.
The two teams have strengths in different areas which will make this match even more interesting. Just who will be able to force the other team into playing the game they want to play?
If the game is tight and bruising the Sharks will feast, if it is open and broken and fast, expect the tide to turn the Stormers way.
So just how do you separate these two teams?
Well if you are looking to separate them on rugby terms you can forget it, there is simply no way.
If you want to know who will walk away with the spoils this weekend you have to look at the make-up of the team (structures), the dynamic of the squad and coaches, and zest/mindset/composure in which these two teams are coming into the competition.
And on that, even though they look a bit thin on the bench and they are playing away from home, the Sharks just edges this with less than 5 points, possibly only a penalty.
Yes ladies and gents, it is that close, so prepare yourself for a cracker come Saturday.
15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Nick Koster, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adrian Fondse, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Wikus Blaauw, 18 AJ Venter, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Joe Pietersen, 22 Percy Montgomery.
15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Adrian Jacobs, 12. Francois Steyn, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Ruan Pienaar, 9. Rory Kockott, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Johann Muller (Captain), 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. John Smit, 1. Deon Carstens
Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Melusi Mthethwa, 18. Alistair Hargreaves, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Ross Cronje, 21. Riaan Swanepoel, 22. Luzuko Vulindlu
Kick-off: 17:00 CAT
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Mark Lawrence