The Blue Bulls must be rated as the best Provincial side in the world. At least in the Southern Hemisphere! The Bulls destroyed the Cheetahs within the first 22 minutes of the final on Saturday, or so they thought, racking up a 24-0 lead with three tries and a drop goal.
However, Free State had other ideas and struck back with two wonderful tries before the end of the first half, setting the fans up for a fantastic game of rugby. Credit must go to the men from the City of Roses, after starting their season with four losses before turning over a new forest to get them into the final.
Loftus was a sea of blue, with the odd splash of orange. Although outnumbered, it seemed that the whole of Bloemfontein was there in P-Town. Again, Morne Steyn dictated the game with his wonderful gift for reading the plays, scoring 21 points.
My man of the match was tight head prop WP Nel from the Cheetahs. Although under immense pressure from some very illegal binding from Guthro Steenkamp, he dominated proceedings in the tight and his play in the lose was fantastic to watch for a fellow front ranker. Mr. Kaplan missed the trick and only pinned Steenkamp in the 63rd minute for illegal binding.
Heinrich Brussouw was again brilliant on the deck, but the loose forward of the day was Pierre Spies. The big No. 8 had his best game of the season and the thought of him and Brussouw running together in Europe is mouth-watering.
The Bulls ran out comfortable winners in the end, 36-24, with three tries apiece.
As is tradition at the end of each final, the controversy of the season begins...the announcement of the Springbok end of season tour team! There were nine new caps—including five players that are not first-choice players for their provinces.
Alistair Hargreaves, the Sharks lock, will only be a first-choice starter for the Sharks from next year. Although, I feel he has been selected for the tour experience and as a possible future Springbok skipper. Chiliboy Ralepelle, the second-choice hooker for the Bulls and dirt trackers skipper, and Bandise Maku, the third-choice hooker, also for the Bulls.
Not to sound racist here, but what gives? If Derrick Kuhn is the Bulls' first-choice hooker, then why is he not in the Boks squad? Heini Adams and Francois Hougaard have also been selected at scrum half, although they both understudy Fourie Du Preez.
One has to feel for hookers like Andriaan Strauss of the Cheetahs and Tiaan Liebenberg from Western Province. Locks like Anton Van Zyl, Stephen Sykes, and especially tight head prop WP Nel. As much as I enjoy Hienke Van Der Merwe, he has been injured all Currie Cup and now PDV wants to turn him into a tight head.
OK, strong men that were born to scrum can make the switch. Earl “Elastoplaster” Rose being selected again makes no sense, along with the choice of Zane Kirshner. I fully agree with the selection of Riaan Viljoen; even though he did play rugby for Durban Varsity at U/20, I thought Joe Peterson was very unlucky not to get the other berth for fullback.
Springbok Touring Team:
Andries Bekker – Lock Western Province
Bakkies Botha – Lock Blue Bulls
Heinrich Brussouw - Flank Cheetahs
Schalk Burger - Flank Western Province
Bismarck du Plessis - Hooker Sharks
Jannie du Plessis – Tight Head Prop Sharks
Alistair Hargreaves - Lock Sharks
Ashley Johnson – Eighth Man Cheetahs
Ryan Kankowski – Eighth Man Sharks
Bandise Maku - Hooker Blue Bulls
Victor Matfield – Lock (VC) Blue Bulls
Tendai Mtwarira – Tight Head Prop Sharks
Dewald Potgieter - Flank Blue Bulls
Chiliboy Ralepelle - Hooker Blue Bulls
Davon Raubenheimer - Hooker Griquas
Danie Rossouw – Lock/Lose Forward Blue Bulls
John Smit – Tight Head/Hooker (C) Sharks
Pierre Spies – Eighth Man Blue Bulls
Gurthro Steenkamp – Lose Head Prop Blue Bulls
Heinke van der Merwe – Lose/Tight Head Lions
Heini Adams – Scrum Half Blue Bulls
Meyer Bosman - Centre Cheetahs
Juan de Jongh - Centre Western Province
Fourie du Preez – Scrum Half Blue Bulls
Jaque Fourie - Centre Lions
Francois Hougaard – Scrum Half Blue Bulls
Adi Jacobs - Centre Sharks
Zane Kirchner – Full Back Blue Bulls
Odwa Ndungane - Wing Sharks
Jongi Nokwe - Wing Cheetahs
Wynand Olivier - Centre Blue Bulls
Ruan Pienaar – Fly Half Sharks
JP Pietersen - Wing Sharks
Earl Rose – Elastoplaster Man Lions
Morne Steyn – Fly Half Blue Bulls
Riaan Viljoen – Full Back Griquas
The big question going forward is who will start in the first test against France? One thing is for certain; whoever is selected, somebody will always disagree with the selection. All I can hope for is that we go and kick butt and return unbeaten.
France and Ireland are the two big tests that need to be won. The first game is being played on Friday night again the Leicester Tigers. Then off to France, followed by Saracens, Italy, and Ireland.
New Zealand and Australia started their end of season tour with a Bledisloe Cup test match in Tokyo. Australia suffered their seventh defeat in a row to the All Blacks, going down 32-19 in front of 44,000 fans. The Blacks take on Wales, while the Wallabies take on England this weekend. They should be very interesting games, but I feel that both the Southern Hemisphere teams should pull it off against their hosts.
Until next time, stay fit and enjoy the sport.
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