A lot has been said this past week about possible team selections, combinations that might or might not work, players in form or out. Here`s how I see it . . .
The reality of the situation is, this is the last throw of the dice for us. Stuff up here and everything the Sharks worked for all year is gone.
Yes it`s true that we have to face by far the toughest opponent in our semi final, some might say that this is the final, anyone we face after this weekend is bound to be an easier prospect compared to this Saturday.
But we do have a few aces up our sleeves. A team that finishes on top of the log does not turn into a losing side overnight that`s for sure. These guys worked hard to get to this point and they will be very motivated to go all the way. There are other rewards for them as well, possible places in the End of Year Tour must be in the back of their minds right now. With the World Cup looming next year some of our regular bokke are due for a rest so the opportunity to go on tour, make a name for yourself and collect the big cheque is right here. There`s a lot on the line, it`s time to step up and be counted.
Plumtree has a few tough calls to make this week regarding team selection. With the returning bokke on the one side and the in form players, who lets not forget, got us into pole position in the first place, on the other side.
The Bulls will come to Durban with a plan. “You know this” . . .
I say why don`t we mix things up a bit? The Bulls are favourites already we might as well do the unexpected because lets face it, the normal game will not work against these guys. They`ve seen it all before.
Here`s what I propose . . . hold tight now . . . I think I know the way:
Start Stefan Terblanche at fullback for this one. He was the best fullback in this country not too long ago. Put our captain back in his comfort zone. He is solid under the high ball with great positional play. We all know Morne Steyn and Hougaardt will launch those high kicks all afternoon so be prepared for it.
Then we get to the wings. Here I propose a slight change. Most of you will remember how Mvovo ran over Jaco vd Westhuizen earlier this year, believe you me, Jaco will remember that as well. So move Mvovo to right wing for this one. Put him right in Jaco`s face. One lucky bounce of the ball or lapse in defence by the Bulls and Jaco will think “oh great here we go again” . . .
Start Adi Jacobs at 13. Yes he hasn`t had a lot of practise and might still be rusty but lets face it, the biggest threat we can expect from the bulls will be down the flyhalve and inside centre channel. Not from Pretorius. Adi has the ability to take advantage of opportunities, he can make something happen for us. We need this x factor on the park!
Andries Strauss` defence came on in leaps and bounds this year. While I have concerns about his defensive organisation in mid field, he showed again last week when he is in a Man on Man situation he will take care of it. He`ll watch Olivier like a hawk all afternoon. He also brings a bit of physicality, something that should help put Lambie a little at ease.
Left wing is a conundrum for me. The obvious choice is Odwa, safe secure would give Stefan some good back up when the high kicks starts raining down but his pace is a worry.
I might take a chance with Ludick here. Played fullback for us this season, he should be able to assist Stefan just as well and he has more pace, something we need to nullify Vd Heever.
Patrick Lambie selects himself but he must remember that this is his best opportunity to make a good impression on PdV for the EOYT. At the moment Steyn doesn`t really have an understudy in the bok team. A good performance here could see Lambie `s international career take off. He needs to bring everything he has got!
The rest of the team is fairly obvious with two crucial exceptions for me.
I would not start with Kankowski. We all know the Bulls are going to keep this tight up front and experience have shown us Kankowski disappears in tight matches. Keegan Daniel has been the in form player for us this season. Just like Adi Jacobs he brings the x factor! The bulls will expect Kankowski to start, he is the returning Springbok after all. I say wait until the second half before we let Kankowski loose on them. The game might be a little more open by this time and he can wreak havoc for us.
To get the full benefit of this move we need to start with Burden though, not Bismarck. Yes Bismarck is a penalty machine and we cannot afford to trail early on because of silly mistakes, remember Morne Steyn will punish us from as far out as halfway.
The Bulls start with Chilliboy, Burden won`t have a problem with him and when Chilliboy gets tired towards the second half we bring on a Bismarck that is rearing to go, eager to proof why he is rated the best hooker in SA at the moment. Yes then you lose the mobility of Burden when the game is supposed to open up, but remember we bring Kankowski on for Keegan at this point as well.
Another fact is that Victor has been analyzing Bismarcks line out throws all week, of that you can be certain, they will be prepared for him come line out time. By starting Burden instead, it might give us a little bit of an edge in the line out department as well. Two or three line outs later and Big Vic still haven`t stolen a ball, Stefan is there to field every kick, Keegan and Botes contest every ruck fiercely . . . things just aren`t going the bulls way. Maybe a lucky bounce of the ball suddenly the bulls are 10 – 0 behind, the hopefully huge crowd starts to get on their nerves and then we bring on even more Bokke!
Important, name Bismarck and Kankow in the side, only change the run on side otherwise we lose the advantage here.
Yes the referee is another factor, while we can`t say directly that he favours the bulls, history shows that at least his interpretation suits the Bulls to a tee, Plumtree and Stefan should take a leaf out of John Smits book here. Put pressure on Jonker before hand, he might be eager to disproof the claims of being Pro-Bull. Again the crowd has an important role here.
Bottom Line people, the Bulls would have loved to play this one at Loftus.
They are out of their comfort zone in Durban, against a sharks side littered with young stars eager to prove a point in front of a hugely partisan crowd.
To Quote Al Pacino: “ We`re not gonna let them fuck with us in our own house are we?! “Tweet