The SA Rugby magazine team identifies what they would love to see come out of round 13 of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Craig Lewis (senior writer) hopes Warrick Gelant has a blinder against the Crusaders
Just recently, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck suggested that Damian Willemse was currently the best fullback in South Africa. In fairness, the talented youngster backed up that claim with a standout performance in the Stormers’ important 24-23 victory against the Vodacom Bulls at the end of April.
But let’s not forget Gelant. The 23-year-old has endured some injury troubles in recent times, but he was one of the form players in Super Rugby last year, and duly earned his first Test start at fullback in the third and final Test against England last June.
In a national context, it’s crucial that Gelant rediscovers some timely form. The Boks cannot just solely rely on Willie le Roux, and coach Rassie Erasmus will undoubtedly be desperate for Gelant, Willemse and even Curwin Bosch to build some competition among the local fullback options.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants the crowds to come back.
It may be a lot to ask for a Friday night in Pretoria at 7pm. But how bad will it look for the tournament if star-studded Bulls and Crusaders teams fail to draw more than 20,000 fans to Loftus?
More fans should be on hand to witness the Stormers-Crusaders clash at Newlands in round 14. That said, I doubt we’ll see anything close to a full house.
The quality of the tournament has deteriorated over the past five or six seasons and fans are voting with their feet. Too little has been done by the powers that be to bring the fans back.
All that said, I would like to think there are South African rugby fans like myself who would want to see the Crusaders in the flesh. It’s been two years since the All Blacks-laden side visited Loftus, and even longer since they travelled to Newlands. Some of these great players will retire after the 2019 World Cup and this may be the final chance for us to see them playing live.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) hopes the Lions start showing their mettle
The Lions have been the premier side in South Africa for the past three years, but their form so far this season, or rather a lack of consistency, has them pinned to the bottom of the South African conference.
To put the Lions’ struggles into context, they are level on points with the two-bit Reds, who have a greater points differential (-10 to -55) than the men from Johannesburg. They’ve conceded 37 tries, the third most in the competition. And yes, there have been extenuating circumstances that have contributed to the Lions’ dip in form, but it’s time they stood up and start performing like we know they can.
Against a Waratahs side still trying to find a way forward without the beleaguered Israel Folau, the Lions have an opportunity produce a much-needed all-round display to make up ground in the race for top spot in the local conference, and boost their chances of advancing to the playoff series. Let’s just hope they seize the moment.
Dylan Jack (junior writer) wants a Bulls scrumhalf to cement a starting role
It’s admittedly difficult to ask coach Pote Human – who has had to balance three senior scrumhalves who are all more or less on the same level in terms of experience – to stick with one of them for the bulk of the season.
Springboks Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl have understandably been rotated throughout the season as both look to prove themselves worthy of a backup role to Faf de Klerk at Test level.
Then there is André Warner. While he is the most senior of the three age-wise, he has found opportunities difficult to come by since his return from a solid loan-spell under Heyneke Meyer at Stade Français.
The competition has seen at least one of the trio play in the Rugby Challenge, with Warner playing the most games among the Bulls juniors. The 25-year-old has received a massive chance to show his ability in undoubtedly the Bulls’ toughest match of the season against the Crusaders on Friday as he starts ahead of both Papier and Van Zyl.
In a national context, one hopes that one of them will make a real statement in the Bulls’ remaining six games of the season.
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