SA teams have the edge — Plum

2010-05-22 00:00

HE is not as adamant as he was a couple of weeks ago, but Sharks coach John Plumtree still believes the Bulls and the Stormers will win their semi-finals against Antipodean opposition this evening and advance to the final at Orlando Stadium in Soweto next weekend.

The title-holding, log-leading Bulls and their supporters are all marching to Soweto late this afternoon for the semi-final against seven-times champions Crusaders in the first semi-final. The Stormers, in a home playoff for the first time in 11 years, will host the Sydney-based Waratahs at Newlands in the night game.

“The balance has swung a bit lately but, yeah, I think the South African sides will still make the final,” Plumtree said yesterday. “It won’t be easy, especially for the Bulls. The Crusaders are playing really well at the moment and Dan Carter (the All Black flyhalf) is back on song.”

The New Zealand-born coach says the Waratahs have also improved late in the season.

“I never really rated the Waratahs, but they have had some good wins in the last few weeks. I still think the Stormers are the better-balanced team and will come through at home.”

And who will win an all-South African final?

“I’d go for the Bulls, but funny things can happen in these playoff games.”

Plumtree says he was surprised the Bulls opted to omit all their first-choice players against the Stormers last Saturday. “If I had been lucky enough to be in their position, I would have rested some key players but not all of them.”

We will only know tonight if the week’s rest has freshened up the Bulls or broken their winning momentum.

The Crusaders have been itching to get back at the Bulls since they were cruelly blown away by referee Marius Jonker in the round robin game at Loftus just a fortnight ago. They believe their fluent, ball-in-the-hand approach, an effective scrum and a Richie McCaw-inspired back row can bring down the champions.

The Bulls, in turn, will have learnt from their recent escape when they generously handed the Crusaders possession and space to counterattack and missed far too many first-time tackles.

The Bulls, if they are to win, need to command the gain line, winning the collisions at the breakdown, pressuring Carter and cutting down the Crusaders’ runners behind the advantage line.

The Crusaders have been encouraged by their excellent recent form, both at Loftus and then last weekend when they showed little sign of fatigue in dumping the Brumbies.

The Stormers know that they should have the beating of the Waratahs after their 27-6 league win at Newlands.

Both teams have a similar record, with nine wins and four losses and just a single bonus point lifting the Stormers into second place. While the Stomers played consistently well from the start, the Waratahs had massive good fortune in the early rounds.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is not taking them lightly. “If you look at the tries they have scored recently you will see how dangerous they can be,” he said.

But the Stormers, boasting the most effective defence in the Super 14, a strong forward pack led by Schalk Burger and strong finishers in Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana, should have the winning of this game.

 

Bulls vs Crusaders (Orlando Stadium)

Bulls — 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 21 Stephan Dippenaar, 22 Pedrie Wannenburg.

Crusaders — 15 Colin Slade, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robert Fruean, 12 Daniel Bowden, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ti’i Paulo, 1 Ben Franks.

Replacements: 16 Daniel Perrin, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Tim Bateman, 22 Jared Payne.

Referee: Stu Dickinson (Australia). Kickoff: 5 pm

Stormers vs Waratahs (Newlands)

Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wicus Blaauw.

Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Eusebio Guinazu, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Tim Whitehead.

Waratahs — 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Patrick McCutcheon, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Dan Palmer.

Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Chris Thomson, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Rory Sidey.

Referee: Mark Lawrence Kickoff: 7.10pm

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