Friday, February 03, 2006

The Big Re-match

The match everyone has been waiting for in South Africa will be played in exactly a week’s time.

Yes ladies and gents, it is “The Big Re-match”.

A lot, if not too much has been said about the Currie Cup final of 2005, but we simply cannot deny the massive accomplishment Rassie and his men achieved at Loftus last year. Praises has been sung and compliments from far and wide have been given to this magnificent team and its coach, and rightly so, it was one of the moments in our Currie Cup history that will be remembered as one of the big upsets.

But it is 2006 now, the Cheetahs are no longer everyone’s second best team, they are the ones every South African team will want to beat, and given the ridiculous relegation situation hanging over everyone’s head, it is all to play for. Super 14 is also a far cry from Currie Cup rugby, the Bulls relative success domestically gauged against their Super 12 success, is testament to this.

So what can we expect?

Well, for me it is pretty straight forward, so if you are a Bulls fan you might want to stop reading now, because the Cheetahs will yet again claw the Bulls into submission, but with much more ease than last year.

In previous articles I highlighted a lot of factors I believe to be crucial for the Bulls and Cheetahs to be successful in this year’s Super 14. Weighing these factors up against each other it becomes clear the Bulls are much worse off than the boys from Bloem.

Looking at the Bulls, the main concern for them are players missing from their squad. Kees Lensing, Danie Coetzee and Anton Leonard have left the union. Guthro Steenkamp, Richard Bands, Gary Botha, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez are all injured. They have no leader good enough for this competition and they are not playing at home.

Now just looking at that paragraph I actually see no reason to further explain why I believe they are fighting a loosing battle, but lets asses these issues more in depth a bit.

The first and most important issue is captaincy. When I looked at the Bulls team and gave my prediction for their chances in this year’s competition, I basically explained it as follows:

· Bulls of last year with Anton Leonard still there = Finalists
· Bulls of last year without Anton Leonard = Probable Semi-finalists
· Bulls of last year without Anton Leonard and crucial injuries = Nowhere

Unfortunately I do not believe Victor will be a great captain, I might unfairly compare him to Anton, but then again, you have to. Victor is injured. Fourie could actually have been a better choice if he talks more, but as Victor, Fourie is injured. Gary Botha, the best option given the choices, is of course, also, injured.

This leaves them with……no-one.

Apart from the captaincy, the injured or missing players leaves a massive gap in the team. Two of the Bulls’ strengths are line outs, and mauling. The absence of Victor will be felt. I also believe Bakkies Botha plays his best when Victor is on song; it frees him up to perform a more dominant role in the tight loose where he can be devastating.

Gary Botha, another important cog in the Blue machine when it comes to line outs and ball carrying abilities is also missing. The other two choices they have at hooker are both inexperienced and young and I believe they might get murdered by an experienced Cheetah front row.

Their props without Kees, Bands and Guthro looks very thin, they will be up against the old war horses in Os and Ollie, with CJ and Leota providing very competent back up in the front row area.

The Cheetah loosies, if they carry the form over from last year, will overshadow the Bully boys, they are simply too quick for them. It will be interesting to see if Heyneke will select Dlulane though, but given all the injuries, he can ill afford to leave Danie Rossouw, Jacques Cronje and Pedrie Wannenberg out.

Looking at all this, I can see only one logical conclusion. The Bulls will suffer in the line outs, in the tight loose, and even in the scrums. Their machine on what their recent success was built on, has suddenly become their biggest liability.

Looking at the back department, I fear the Bullies might be in for a torrent time. They have more class out wide, but what type of ball will these boys get?

Adams is a capable scrumhalf, but I believe looking at two very young and very vulnerable flyhalfs who must be low on confidence, you need a Fourie du Preez to not only give them crisp service, but also help take the pressure of these boys.

By all accounts, Derrick Hougaard seems to be the chosen one for the first couple of games, and given his form in the warm up games, I can imagine a few Bulls supporters will have sleepless nights over the flyhalf position. His kicking has been poor, and when you are up against a player like Willem de Waal and Gaffie du Toit with a booming left boot, who will no doubt look to put their team on the front foot both through goal kicking and tactical field positioning, you have to be on top of your game.

Given the confidence of the flyhalfs and the very real possibility that they will receive poor ball, the Bulls classy backs might just spend most of the afternoon tackling and wondering what a rugby ball feels like.

From number 1 to 10, the Cheetahs outclass the Bulls. If they allow the Bulls to spread the ball wide, the Cheetahs will have to do a lot of tackling.

So what do the Cheetahs need to do? Real simple, keep the ball close to the forwards and play the game in the Bulls’ half as much as possible. They need to put pressure on the half backs and dominate the tackled ball situations. If they do that, they will walk away comfortable winners.

And the Bulls? Well as strange as it sounds, they need to make the game as fast as possible can and look to get their game breakers, JP Nel, Roets and Habana involved in the action as much as possible.

I would play Wynand Olivier inside Nel to give me that extra attacking option. If they use Dries Scholtz as a battering ram at 12, they will loose. The Cheetahs are vulnerable in the midfield and out wide, expose that, and you will see results.

In the forwards, the Bulls and Heyneke need to do exactly what Rassie did to them last year, technically outsmart them. If they can contain the Cheetah forwards and secure their own ball, we will be in for a tight one.

I believe the game will be won by the team who enjoys the best field position for the majority of the match and the team that will win the forward battle - and on both counts, my money is on the Cheetahs because of the experience and speed in the forward department, and the boots of Willem de Waal and Gaffie du Toit.

Prediction:

Cheetahs by 10 or more, with the Bulls coming back in the last quarter with some frantic and gutsy play.

Comments:
i considered the rain factor OO, but in my view the game will be played in exactly the same way - only the bulls will find themselves with an even greater disadvantage...
 
PissAnt

Classy write this

I agree with your identification of both sides weak & Strong points and is it interesting what difference a summer makes in the world of Rugby Union

I believe that it will be a tighter game than you are predicting- the Bulls will compete and will be abbrasive-

My take a 50/50 game, won by less than 10 points.

On the udda hand- I hope you are right ;-)
 
Pissant

Good article. I agree with a lot that you have said. I'm truly worried about this year's S14. The Depth I claimed to be an asset, will be tested early on. Also, Steenekamp is out for the entire S14. Since coming to the Bulls, he hasn't played a lot of rugby through injury!

I don't believe it to be as clearcut as you reckon though, in Heynecke's mind he must know all these factors you mention, and I reckon he's allready looked at all the possible results and outcomes. I reckon it's still going to be a close game, with the Cheetahs being favourites to win by less than ten.
 
dont worry aldo,

i mailed heyneke my article.... :)
 
I disagree.

The Cheetahs do have the advantage 1-3. Even if the Bulls had Steenkamp and Bands, the Bloemboys' quality of depth in props are better.
I don't think one can judge the performance of the locks on only the game of the final. The last 2 times the Bulls visited Bloem, once with and once without Matfield, the Cheetahs' lineouts played second fiddle. 4-5 I would call for the Bulls. V Schouwenburg has more than 100 games for the Blue Bulls side - experienced enough to do the job in such a way that Bakkies can move as free as he would like.
6-8. If Danie Rossouw plays, I agree with you regarding speed. If Dlulane rather plays instead, then it would be dead even. If Spies plays at eight, you have the fastest no. 8 in SA, but doubt if that should happen with all the injuries. They need a fetcher. That's why I hope they don't make the same mistake as last year and pick Dlulane.
9-10 From what I have seen of Adams, I would reckon if given enough playtime to prove himself, he could be the next January. He's unpredictable, quick at the distribution and at the clean-outs. Experience is all that counts against him - IF du Preez doesn't play.
If Bosman plays ten, Cheetahs got the better. Experience is all which counts against him though. Hougaard has that, and he kicks better than Gaffie, who did not kick well the whole of 2005. Of late Hougaard's right boot hasn't scored as many points as he would have liked to be the case, but no doubt that would be an aspect which he would be working on before the match. Don't forget his cannon boot either. When in form, he could destroy any team single handedly - like the Final in 2002. But sadly he hasn't been in form of late. Given enough exposure and trust invested by Meyer, he could reach the top again.
11-15 The Bulls have enough experience and flair to outdo the Cheetahs. As long as they don't lose against themselves the way they did in the final last year.
Defense in my opinion would make or brake the match in either team's favor. Like the final showed.
One mistake from a good backline can make an average one look good and a good one to look average to poor.
Captaincy? How many S12 or CC games did Juan Smith captain for the Cheetahs? But they do have more clarity regarding the identity of their captain at this stage. That's the only advantage.
Leonard did have his presence, but he wasn't there when Joubert brought them back out of the dust two years previously and they ended 6th both years with inexperienced players.
Whoever would be captain, though, would have to find his feet very quickly or a long S14 could lay ahead.
 
bloembul,

for a guy that disagrees you agree on a lot of things!!!! :)

a lot of what you say is 'hoping' rather than knowing when you analyse the players.

vic will be missed - fact
van schouwenburg - good player, not the same impact though
loosies - spies wont play, dlulane neither, if he does, i will compliment HM because that will be a gutsy but worthwhile move.
adams - like i said, capable, but i think he will feel the pressure.

hougaard - low on confidence - but one game can make change all that, i am a big fan of the kid and hope he comes right, i am just afraid he will get shitty service.

12 and onwards, the bulls classier hands down.

one thing that does count in the bullies favour, they wont underestimate this team again.

and it seems fourie will play which could prove all the difference.
 
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