A good friend (and sometimes poster here) reckons that there are a number of key positions in a rugby team that need to be filled with quality in order for a team to succeed. You can afford to carry a few young players and even make room for a journeyman or two, but compromise on the spine of your team and the result, more often than not, will be an extra tick in the “L” column.
Those positions are, from front to back, hooker, tighthead prop, five lock, eighthman, scrumhalf and fullback. Running the rule over the Sharks team named to face Province on Saturday, we see that some big performances are going to be needed from the men in all those positions, but none more so than Riaan “Tjop” Viljoen, who starts in the number 10 jersey.
The Sharks should be competitive up-front, with Craig Burden and Wors Herbst, at 2 and 3 respectively, both very experienced at this level of the game and certainly unlikely to be overawed by the occasion. Jandre Marais, though, is perhaps a little out of position at five and it remains to be seen how well he does at calling the lineouts – the first time he’ll be asked to do so at Currie Cup level as the primary lineout forward.
It’s the main attacking axis at the back of the scrum, though, where experience is thin on the ground. Tera Mtembu and Cobus Reinach – an important combination at 8 and 9 – will each be starting their first Currie Cup game and it’s vital that the experienced men around them, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Viljoen and Meyer Bosman, keep them calm and help them to settle quickly.
Gouws Prinsloo starts only his second game at fullback and will also need guidance, though and with Viljoen the most experienced fullback in the squad, one fancies that he may have his hands pretty full with looking after both Reinach and Prinsloo, while at the same time concentrating on delivering a commanding performance himself – in a position that is still relatively new to him. Not that Tjop didn’t look the part as a very capable Currie Cup flyhalf for Griquas, mind you – in fact, given the meagre pickings at pivot in this year’s competition, it’s quite possible that this retreaded fullback may end up as the best of the bunch on show by the end of the campaign.
These Sharks, though, will be up against it against a WP side that, while lacking some experience and quality in the second row, loose trio and midfield, will boast a far more settled axis. For them, the likes of Tiaan Liebenberg, Dewaldt Duvenage and Joe Pietersen will have huge roles to play in bringing their experience to bear against some of the greener boys in black and white.
It’s going to be a huge contest. Let’s hope the awful Cape Town weather doesn’t ruin it completely!Tweet