Se­ries de­cider be­tween Ki­wis and Pak­istan a toss-up

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

SOUTH African rugby fans and Heyneke Meyer should view Jan­nie du Plessis’ ham­string in­jury, which has again ruled him out of this week­end’s Test against Wales, as a bless­ing in dis­guise.

Some are say­ing it is a ma­jor blow to the Boks’ chances of fin­ish­ing their patchy Euro­pean tour with a win, but Du Plessis sit­ting out is hardly a bad thing.

The Sharks prop has played vir­tu­ally non-stop for years now – can any­one re­mem­ber when last he missed two games in suc­ces­sion be­cause of in­jury? – and the two weeks off on this tour, to go with the time he had off in the lat­ter stages of the Cur­rie Cup, will ben­e­fit him and the Boks in the long run.

And the good news is, fol­low­ing the Italy Test, Trevor Nyakane and Coe­nie Oosthuizen showed they are good enough to prop up the Bok scrum should any­thing hap­pen to Du Plessis at next year’s World Cup.

Meyer needed to see the back-up men in ac­tion on this tour, some­thing he’s now done, and he’ll cer­tainly be pleased with what he’s wit­nessed.

Even if Du Plessis was fit, it would have done no harm for Nyakane and Oosthuizen to have another go this Satur­day. Per­haps they will get another chance any­way.

Oosthuizen is almost sure to start at tight­head again now, but Ju­lian Redel­inghuys could also come into the equa­tion and even Ruan Dreyer.

It’s also not a bad thing that none of the over­seas-based Boks are avail­able to play against Wales.

It’s sure to be among the stiffest of the Boks’ Tests on tour, com­ing at the end of a gru­elling and en­ergy-sap­ping four weeks, but it’ll show just how deep they can dig, what sort of character they’re made of – which is some­thing Meyer of­ten talks about.

With no Bryan Ha­bana, JP Pi­etersen, Schalk Burger and the now re­tired Bakkies Botha to call on, the Boks will not have as strong a bench as in pre­vi­ous clashes, while the start­ing team will not nearly have as much ex­pe­ri­ence as Meyer would like. But the match will af­ford the Bok boss to see a slightly newlook out­fit in ac­tion, with a player like Lwazi Mvovo com­ing in, and hope­fully in­ject­ing some en­ergy into the per­for­mance.

Nizaam Carr, who made his de­but off the bench last week­end, would also add some zip to the loose-trio.

Play­ing him at No8 in place of Duane Ver­meulen, who must be run­ning on fumes at this stage, would not be a bad call.

The Boks look a tired bunch at the mo­ment – they’ve hardly hit their straps on tour – and bring­ing in some new faces may just be what they need to end on a high. SHAR­JAH, United Arab Emi­rates: Ri­val cap­tains Mis­bah-ul Haq and Bren­don McCul­lum hope to win the toss and en­joy a kick-start to the se­ries-de­cid­ing third Test be­tween Pak­istan and New Zealand start­ing in Shar­jah to­mor­row.

Pak­istan piled up 566/3 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi after win­ning the toss and then spun out New Zealand twice for a com­pre­hen­sive 248-run win to take a 1-0 lead.

De­spite the odds New Zealand staged an im­pres­sive come­back in the sec­ond Test in Dubai, win­ning the toss and dic­tat­ing terms be­fore Pak­istan, set a tar­get of 261 on the fi­nal day, sal­vaged a draw to set up an in­trigu­ing fi­nale.

Pak­istan’s spin­ners – left-armer Zul­fiqar Babar (13 wick­ets in two Tests) and leg­gie Yasir Shah (11) – will hold the key.

But McCul­lum said his team can take con­fi­dence from the im­proved per­for­mance in the sec­ond Test.

“We would have loved to have won the sec­ond Test,” said McCul­lum.

“But you have to look at what we have done in Dubai, bank the con­fi­dence and head to Shar­jah know­ing that we have an op­por­tu­nity to win away from home if we play up a lit­tle bit up.

“It is sat­is­fy­ing to keep the se­ries alive (after the sec­ond Test) and it will give us more con­fi­dence, we learned a lot from the (last) game and hope­fully we can im­prove more.”

New Zealand may bol­ster their bat­ting by bring­ing in in-form Luke Ronchi for Jimmy Nee­sham who has strug­gled with just 39 runs in four in­nings.

Pak­istan missed Mo­ham­mad Hafeez’s all-round skills in the sec­ond Test as his off-spin pro­vides them the op­tion of a fifth bowler.

He is likely to re­cover from a ham­string in­jury which forced him out of the sec­ond Test and could re­place Taufeeq Umar who flopped in Dubai.

Mis­bah wants Pak­istan to im­prove their field­ing in Shar­jah after drop­ping a num­ber of catches in Dubai.

“I am pretty pleased with the bowl­ing and bat­ting,” said the Pak­istan cap­tain.

“In the field we need to take our chances be­cause on th­ese sort of wick­ets if you miss chances it could be re­ally dif­fi­cult for the bowlers.

“Full marks to New Zealand. They re­ally im­proved after the first game. They put us un­der pres­sure.”

The two teams also play two Twenty20 matches and five one-day in­ter­na­tion­als after the Tests.

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