Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"I'm singing in the rain...

…what a wonderful day, I am happy again.” As sung by Heyneke Meyer or Rassie Erasmus?

With all the rain that has fallen recently so generously over most parts of the country, one would have to contemplate over the possibility of the S14 and rain. More specific, rain during the opening match in the city of Roses.

Not too many matches have been played in Bloemfontein under the cover of a downpour, but one comes to mind – the CC match between the Sharks and the Cheetahs. Where young Meyer Bosman starting for the first time for the home side. The newcomer and good play by fullback Hollenbach, the scrumhalf Oelshig and the center Strauss, now playing for the side against which he played that day, outdid the visitors. Not to mention the forwards play.
Needless to say the Cheetahs won that day, through some good tactics and players who made the plan happen.

Should the rain bless us on the 10th of February 2006, some interesting moves by the coaches would have to be considered.

We all know that the Cheetahs in their CC form defeated the team of Cape Town in rainy whether in the semi-final in 2004. The Freestaters were by far the underdogs.
But this is the S14. Would they be able to adapt to the rain as well as they had done during those previous two games?

The question can be put to the Bulls also. How would Heyneke Meyer, the coach, handle the opening game of the S14 in wet conditions?

Although, I can’t recall a recent match of the Bulls involving rain, I could look at their artillery for adaptablity.

Props
The obvious would be to pick a heavy pack. But if your best front rowers were injured, you’d have to make due with what you have. Engels, van der Walt and Human could be an option. Personally I wouldn’t gamble with using Vermeulen as tight head in that game. The powerhouse props of the Cheetahs would demolish him. But give him time. He is mobile and we might have a new Richard Bands in the making. This is where Meyer should plan carefully. Forward play in the rain is crucial and to lose here, could mean the match.

Locks
The locks are solid. Bakkies and van Schouwenburg would probably start the match. Their possession of the lineout balls could make the difference. Barend Pieterse would be their main rival – he did taste success against them at several occasions. Whoever partners with him for the Cheetahs, would have their work cut out.

Loose forwards
Wannenburg has shown in the past that he can stand up to any man in his position. Just ask the Lions in the semi-final of the 2005 CC.
Tim Dlulane would be handy when playing the ball in wet conditions - being a traditional fetcher - his role can’t be overstated.
Pierre Spies? A big forward with the speed of a wing – what more would you ask for in rainy conditions? Add Rossouw and Cronje on the bench, and you don’t have to worry about agility there. But will it be enough to tame Juan Smith and co?

Backline

Hougaard, with his cannon kicks, in conjunction with Heini Adams – who can also boot the ball many a mile – would be lethal in these conditions. Both players would want to prove to their coach that they deserve to be the number one choices in their respective positions.

At center Dries Scholtz would be the perfect player. A light-footed guy like Russel has proven in the above-mentioned game that when you don’t have any grip underneath you, sidestepping is virtually impossible and size becomes essential. And size is what Scholtz has plenty of.

The speed and strenght of JP Nel would be the obvious choice as partner to Scholtz.

Habana, Ndungane and Roets all pick themselves as the experienced back three combination. Interesting though, is that Olivier has started training in the full back position lately. Might we see a surprise on the bench as replacement for Roets?

From a Bulls prospective I would think that they would be looking to dominate the set pieces and work their play with the forwards, bring their strong centers in play and when in their own half, let the half-backs kick the ball down the field with interest.

In a perfect world, sure, why not? But the Cheetahs are hardly a push over. Set pieces would be messy and the referee would have to be sharp on this point. The combination of Oelshig and Bosman worked out perfectly in previous encounters in the rain – especially Oelshig with his trusted boot. With Keith Lowan at center – as tough as any center can get – alongside a guy like Goodes, can pose as much a danger as the Bulls’ centers. Add to that Juan Smith and his fellow loosies, with the experience of the coach, Rassie Erasmas, and the Bulls could have their work cut out for them. Both sides' defense are the trademark of their approach, so tries would be scarce in these conditions, since wingplay are virtually eleminated.

My own verdict? After taking in consideration the history of these two sides in the old S12, if rainy weather is expected, the Cheetahs would be favorites this time around – but I do believe the Bulls would pull it through. I do believe, even with the injuries, there would be too much firepower for the Cheetahs to overpower (PS: I think I said the same regarding the CC final last year. I don’t think I would be wrong twice in a row, would I?).

Comments:
Hi BloemBull

It seems that the Bull supporters are crying for more speed at the breakdown- even in the wet.

Nice article- it may just rain heavily next Friday afternoon.

Both packs will be as instrumental as in a dry game- it will be interesting to see if the weather have an influence on the subs that is picked and how are they utilised

Heyneke Meyer may even think about Olivier at 15 and Roets at 14, if he decides to play both dlulane & Adams. Niel Powell is however a good player in the wet.

Yes, the Cheetahs will miss Andries Strauss- but that is water under the bridge.
 
I must say that Dlulane impressed me when the Bulls played the Cats in the pre-season game on 14 January. It looks like he worked on his strength, and certainly will be able to hold his own if selected.

In my opinion wet conditions will be in the favor of the Bulls, as they will probably have the stronger pack.
 
Yes TVL

I think that Dlulane's speed will be a positive for the Bulls

As Hendro alone poached 4 balls on the deck in the final.

With him injured- and the pack almost evenly matched- it will be interesting to see the Floors/ RvdM blade in operation.

It seems that Hougaard to be the favourite of all the Bulls fans to start on the 10th

Needs a long pass to be protected-

May even see Dries Scholtz be recieving some at 10- as to take the Goodes tackle -then to offload to Wannenburg & Co
 
OO

PS - In dry weather, against the Cheatahs, I would play Wynand Olivier. He is more sharp on his feet than Scholtz, and against the good defense of the Cheetahs, you need to have something special in the midfield to get through - like Ettienne Botha did in 2004. Not quite the same with Olivier, but more of a player than a basher.
 
Agree BloemBull

Olivier is something special, hope he runs into Juan again ;-)
 
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