Chiefs who could rule at Newlands Bok spots up for grabs in derby
Erasmus will be keeping a close eye on showdown
The Stormers will meet one of their biggest challenges of the 2018 Super Rugby competition at Newlands today – the Chiefs (kick-off 3.05 pm).
It’s a must-win for the Stormers to stay in the running for a spot in the playoffs, while the New Zealanders will want to bounce back from their defeat to the Jaguares, and here are three Chiefs who are almost guaranteed to add to the excitement. BRODIE RETALLICK: The fact that his game time was carefully managed against
Super Rugby’s surprise package last week says a lot about the attitude the Chiefs have going into the Stormers game. Retallick’s influence is massive, and Stormers skipper Siya
Kolisi knows that. At the team announcement on Thursday, he said: “With Brodie starting this week it’ll be a different thing. He plays a big role for them and he lifts their confidence. We watched the game against the Bulls, he played really well and that inspired the team.”
Coach Robbie Fleck agreed that the All Black mammoth can easily be the difference in tight games: “He’s a class player, one of the world’s best. He certainly was missed last weekend. He came on later and you could see the difference. Between them and the Bulls it was a really tight game, but there was one guy who stood out and that was Retallick.” Enough said. DAMIAN MCKENZIE: When Stormers assistant coach Paul Feeney described Mckenzie as a “little Beauden Barrett” earlier this week, he wasn’t exaggerating. Although the pacy 10 shouldn’t be described as a smaller version of anything or anyone (he’s dangerous enough on his own), if that ‘original’ he’s compared to is Barrett, than that can never be a negative…if we’re talking about the 2016 version of Barrett, that is. Anyway, what Mckenzie is capable of sparking on attack is outrageous, but he can set his mates up just as well as he can create it on his own. He has the hands of a magician. His speed is something else, his vision and awareness superb. He has this freakish ability to make ridiculously skilful moves look routine.
ANTON LIENERT-BROWN: Of all the skills this man has shown, it’s his hands that must have Sonny Bill Williams sitting a little less snug on his offloading throne. His offloading is at the next level, and what is even more impressive is his knack for staying on his feet. It was Dillyn Leyds who produced the offload of the year with that spectacular pass against the Chiefs at Newlands last season. And although the two sides’ offloading game will be only one of a number of contests today, it certainly is going to be one of the most exciting ones. It is a matter of fact that the one who fires the first salvo in the scrum will gain a commanding ascendency in the game. After a poor showing against the Stormers, the Bulls have the lean and evergreen scrumming prowess of Trevor Nyakane back at tighthead prop and it will make for an interesting battle against the experience and might of the in-form Bok veteran Tendai Mtawarira. Bulls loosehead Lizo Gqoboka has enhanced his reputation as a scrummager in recent weeks and he will look to confirm himself as one of the best against the everimproving man mountain Thomas du Toit. The battle of brains and brawn amongst the loosies will go a long way in handing victory to the respective teams. The Bulls will fancy themselves as not only the wisest but also as the quickest with two fetchers in Marco van Staden and Roelof Smit, while Jason Jenkins will be relied on to bring the aggression. But will that be enough to withstand the brute physicality that twins
Dan and Jean-luc du Preez bring to the party? Add to that the unrelenting spirit of Jacques Vermeulen who himself is never shy of confrontation and possesses deceptive speed in getting to the breakdown. Jesse Kriel and Lukhanyo Am thrive on the big stage and are the Rolls-royces of their respective battle ready fleets. Both have played with aplomb this year, getting off the mark impressively and have been catalysts in the heroics of their outside backs.
Kriel may enjoy an advantage in terms of experience but it is Am who has maintained consistency in form with and without ball in hand.
As dangerous as they both are in finding space for themselves and teammates, it is Am’s steely defence that could tilt this duel, derby and ultimately the fight for the Bok jersey in his favour.
THE ENSUING war of duels in the Bulls and Sharks derby at Loftus Versfeld today will go a long way in determining the ultimate victors of this derby, but it will also serve as a dress-rehearsal for Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ final squad selection ahead of the June Incoming series against England.
Take nothing away from the importance of the derby in the Super Rugby context as both teams are in a dog fight for playoff berths but one can’t shake off the feeling that there will be a higher cause in today’s battles.
Round one may have unanimously gone to the Bulls in their 40-10 drubbing of the Sharks in Durban but the second round won’t be a given to John Mitchell’s men as they face a Sharks team that has plenty of fire in the belly and possess a barrage of knockout blows as was evident in their 38-12 dismantling of the Highlanders last weekend.
It will certainly start upfront in the battle of the set-piece with the Bulls eager to redeem themselves from the shambolic scrum performance against the Stormers while their tried and tested second row combination of Lood de Jager and RG Snyman will again need to stand tall.
Ultimately, the points will come from the backs with Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard the architect-in-chief for the men in blue while Robert du Preez looks to affirm himself as a real contender amongst the country’s pivots.
But it comes down to how outside centres Jesse Kriel and Lukhanyo Am shape up, first with their ability to carry and put their outside backs away and how good they will be in stemming the unrelenting tides of attack from the opposition.
It will be difficult to ignore the obvious about Kriel and Am as the two standout outside centres fighting for the right to wear that number 13 Springbok jersey in June.
looks at how the duels match up in today’s derby at Loftus Versfeld: