Showdown in Bloem!
It will be a battle for top honors in the SA Conference, as the winner of this match will most likely walk away with the top position in the SA log, getting apart from the much forgettable Conference Trophy, a most probably home semi final.
But it is not just the two teams that will battle each other for the SA Conference. There are also a few mouthwatering personal battles to be fought in lieu of the Springbok side to take on Scotland, Italy and Samoa in June. Players who hope to impress Heyneke Meyer enough to get the nod ahead of their counterpart in the other team.
Perpahs one of the key match ups will be Ebersohn vs Serfontein. Much hype has been going around about the young Serfontein, who was awarded the IRB Junior World Cup Player of the Tournament last year. Still qualifying for the IRB Juniors, Serfontein has recently withdrawn from the Junior Bok squad, probably much in anticipation of senior Springbok selection, and likely some consultation with Heyneke Meyer and his coaching team. He has been the preferred starter for the Bulls at inside centre during this year’s Super Rugby campaign, and has impressed most with his strong running. Some do feel that the Bulls are not giving him the space to apply his own game while using him as a battering ram too much, but other feel he has an eye for space and given the limited space in modern Rugby, the battering ram role is often necessary to create such space. Be that as it may, that the kid has talents in spades is no secret, and he is certainly poised to make his senior Bok debut at the tender age of 20.
Ebersohn on the other hand has been going about his business for several years now. At only 24 years old, it seems he has been around for ages. He has climbed the ladder, from school, IRB Junior Championship, to Varsity Cup, to Springbok sevens, Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup and Super Rugby. He has been key in the Cheetahs rise to the top of the table and many will feel that with his time has come to don the Green and Gold, that he’s worked extremely hard for it, and that he deserves it.
But who will Meyer pick? With Francois Steyn and Juan de Jongh injured, Meyer will be under pressure to make the choice of who will partner his Bok Captain, Jean de Villiers. On top of that, it is unlikely that Jean de Villiers will be the Bok captain going to the World Cup in 2015, and even if he does, given his age and his likelihood of being ruled out before or during the World Cup, he will need a very strong backup for Jean.
Meyer, given his preference for brawn, may favour Serfontein ahead of the experienced Ebersohn. Serfontein weighs in at 97kg’s, a daunting prospect for when he actually grows older, and measures at 187cm. Ebersohn is a tad shorter at 180cm, but at 87kg’s, some might consider him too light for the Springbok squad. Well, I have seen big men being bumped off by small men, and small men tackle big men, so in some instances, size may be overrated, and let it not be me who gets quoted as saying Ebersohn is too small. I merely make reference to Meyer’s apparent preference for size.
At scrumhalf there is another juicy matchup, where Piet van Zyl will be out to prove his mettle against Francois Hougaard. It should actually be the other way around, but being a Bull and a Springbok, Hougaard is surely the front runner in the race as backup scrumhalf to Jano Vermaak, who will likely be the Springbok’s starter scrumhalf, should Ruan Pienaar not return in time.
Hougaard’s form has been on the decline for some time now, and has never really settled into the scrumhalf position. My opinion is that Frans Ludeke is giving the Cheetahs too much leeway by picking Hougaard in the starting lineup, a move that might just cost him in a very close encounter.
Piet van Zyl, however, has been very good since last year, clearing the ball quickly, deft little runs and near perfect passes to flyhalves who have changed three times already during the season.
In the forwards, it will be Lappies Labuschagne against Arno Botha to show who deserves the spot more in the Bok camp, while Brussow will be out to show Meyer why he is making a huge mistake by ignoring him. Phillip van der Walt will also be his ever present self, and in all likelihood will do his best to outshine Bulls captain Pierre Spies, also the incumbent Bok number 8. Unfortunately for van der Walt, he is not on Meyer’s watchlist as far is I can tell, and he can only give his fans something to reel about when once again he shows his class as a number 8 and not get considered for Bok honors.
All in all, this will serve to be a delicious desert after a 5 course meal of Super Rugby matchups. One that will in all likelihood be decisive in the future of a few key players, as well as where the Cheetahs and Bulls will find themselves come finals time.