The SA Rugby magazine team identify what they would love to see come out of this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby matches.
Craig Lewis (editor) hopes Ox Nche has another big game.
Although the Sharks have not always had it their own way at scrum time this season, last weekend’s clash against the Jaguares did serve to showcase the all-round attributes of powerful prop Nche.
The big man had a hand in the lead-up to the team’s first try as he drew in two defenders before offloading prior to contact. However, it was his superb looping pass later in the half that was the real highlight as he set Andre Esterhuizen away to score.
Slowly but surely, Nche seems to be coming into his own at the Durban-based side, and that’s great news for both the Sharks and Springboks following the retirement of Beast Mtawarira.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants the Sharks-Stormers game to live up to the hype.
The Sharks will be desperate to maintain their position at the top of the standings. Having beaten the Vodacom Bulls, Lions and Jaguares, the Stormers should be desperate to beat the Sharks and prove that they are indeed favourites to win the South African conference.
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber should be watching the match at Kings Park with keen interest. Coaches tend to remember the players who make their mark in these big derbies. Saturday’s game will double as a top of the conference clash.
One would hope that the pressure associated with occasion brings out the best in the top players. We often marvel at the quality of New Zealand derbies, and how those fixtures give the All Blacks coach the right sort of selection headache. Let’s hope that the Sharks and Stormers give us something to celebrate in terms of a product that does credit to South African rugby.
Dylan Jack (staff writer) wants the young playmakers to prove their worth in Durban.
Saturday’s clash between the Stormers and Sharks will feature many key individual battles, and as always, plenty of attention will be paid to the performances of young stars Damian Willemse and Curwin Bosch.
Willemse started the season well but has come in for a bit of criticism – some, including coach John Dobson, would say harshly – for his perfomances at flyhalf of late. The 21-year-old has been shifted to fullback, where he may get more space, with Jean-Luc du Plessis starting his first match of the season.
Bosch, meanwhile, has been excellent for the Sharks, with his boot proving to be a weapon that they have utilised to great effect. There are still question marks of his defence, so expect the Stormers to send their big runners down his channel whenever possible. In this regard, it is an important match for Bosch to show that he has the big-match temperament and can stand up strong when his side is going backwards.
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Mariette Adams (staff writer) hopes the Bulls stay in the winners’ circle.
It took them six rounds, but the Bulls clinched their maiden win of the season last week. Pote Human’s chargers made life difficult for themselves in the first half against the Highlanders, but produced their best half of rugby in the second stanza to ultimately bulldoze the visitors.
My wish is for them to replicate that second half performance, but only this time they do so from the outset.
This Reds team is there for the taking. They’ve lost five matches (the Bulls lost four) to date and the only reason they are not at the bottom of the Australian conference standings is because the Waratahs and Sunwolves are even worse.
The Reds have been boosted by the return of the mercurial James O’Connor at flyhalf, but other than that their lineup doesn’t boast much star-power.
The Bulls have to start this tour off on a strong, positive note to up enhance their confidence levels before they travel to New Zealand for their matches against the Hurricanes and the Chiefs.
Andre Huisamen (staff writer) wants the battle of Juarno Augustus and Sikumbuzo Notshe to make the headlines. Head-to-head it should be the matchup to observe from a spectator or selector’s perspective. Notshe has been unbelievable this season and has rightly earned been pipped for a Springbok recall for the Inbound Tour but Augustus could really provide him with a challenge for that selection.
The Stormers eighthman maybe hasn’t been as influential Notshe so far this season but he provides the hard yards that people might not pick up and it could prove to be a deciding factor if the Stormers want any chance of getting a win in Durban
Wade Pretorius (senior contributor) wants the Jaguares to slip up. Whatever needed to be said about the Sharks vs Stormers blockbuster has been written above. But, casting an eye to the week ahead when John Dobson’s men travel to Argentina, I hope the Jaguares come up short against the Highlanders.
It’s a purely speculative call on the match because the hosts are heavy favourites against the worst NZ side but a bonus point win this week combined with a Stormers loss will see the Jaguares gain advantage in the race for second in the SA conference.
If the bookies are to believed, then the Stormers will be travelling to Argentina on the back of two losses and in third place … that’s not what I signed up for.
Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets