Top rugby at Woodburn

2008-04-11 00:00

TOP-flight rugby returns to Pietermaritzburg tonight, with the Natal Wildebeest taking on the Platinum Leopards at Woodburn Stadium, in the final round of the pool matches in the Vodacom Cup.

Local supporters, still smarting after the Wildebeest’s second-half implosion in last week’s match against the Valke, will be hoping for a more consistent display from a side that shows six changes (three positional) to the side that lost 35-28 last week.

Both the Wildebeest and Leopards are currently lying in fourth place in their respective pools, and will be anxious to win the match, given the close competition in both groups for a quarter-final place.

The Wildebeest have a not-quite-safe five point lead on the log over SWD, while the Leopards are currently locked on 17 points with the Valke. A loss for either team could prove disastrous, as the teams jostle for qualification to the knockout stages of the R1 million competition.

The Wildebeest team had, after two early losses to the Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls, and until last week’s dramatic second-half lapse, showed considerable improvement.

But with the Leopards now in a do-or-die struggle for advancement, the local side will be expecting fireworks from the visitors, and to prevail, they will need to return to the form that they showed in earlier weeks.

Skipper Alistair Hargreaves will hope for a good showing, particularly from some of his more experienced campaigners. Notably, the Wildebeest tight five, containing the likes of Namibian strongman Kees Lensing and SA under-21 caps Hargreaves and Jody Jennecker, remains unchanged.

A notable absentee is Jean Deysel, who was this week called to New Zealand to replace Epi Taione in the Sharks line-up. His place on the side of the scrum has been taken by Schalk “Pampoen” van Jaarsveld, with the talented Scott Spedding making a welcome return to the fullback berth.

Another man with a key role tonight will be Wildebeest pivot Tiaan Marx, who, incidentally, played for the Leopards U21 side in 2006. Who knows whether he and coach Charles Louw have hatched a cunning plan for the downfall tonight of his ex-team-mates.

The Leopards have made one change from the team that beat SWD 46-29 last week, with the speedy Wouter “Skapie” Watermeyer replacing Wilberforce Musumbuko on the right wing. The main match starts at 7 pm, and tickets cost R20.

Teams

Wildebeest: Scott Spedding; Danie Dames; Luzuko Vulindlu; Riaan Swanepoel; Lwazi Mvovo; Tiaan Marx; Neil de Bruin; Warren Whiteley; Pampoen van Jaarsveld; Skholiwe Ndlovu; Nikolai Blignaut; Alistair Hargreaves ©; Robbie Harris; Jody Jenneker; Kees Lensing. Reserves: Patric Cilliers; Michael Rhodes; Nqubeko Zulu; Scott Mathie; Jan van der Merwe; Carl Bezuidenhout

Leopards: Anvor Schooney; Wouter Watermeyer; Deon van Rensburg; Basil de Doncker; Jan van Zyl; Clayton Durand; Theo van Wyk; Riaan Swanepoel; Bennie Adams; Andre Swanepoel; Antonie Gronum; Rudi Mathee; Dietlov Coetzee; Pellow van der Westhuizen; Divan Kotze. Reserves: Sydney Raaths; Walla Schoeman; Draad Linde; Jaco Bouwer; Chris Erasmus; WD Botha; Japie Nel.

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