Eras­mus is sure to be keep­ing a close eye on Bulls and Sharks stars

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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 play-off berths, but one can’t shake off the feel­ing 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 with plenty of fire in the belly and pos­sess­ing 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 out- side cen­tres fight­ing for the right to wear that num­ber 13 Spring­bok jer­sey in June.

Rugby writer Vata Ngobeni looks at how the du­els match up in to­day’s derby at Lof­tus Vers­feld:

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 ever-im­prov­ing 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 phys- ical­ity 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.

BACK­PAGEPIX

SPEED AND SKILL: Jesse Kriel and Lukhanyo Am are sure to shine for their re­spec­tive teams.

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