Legendary former Springbok and Bulls No 10 Naas Botha is backing Morne Styen to come good in his battle with Tony Brown – a match-up that will decide which SA team still has a chance of making the Vodacom Super 14 play-offs.
Despite the rumours eminating from durban that Brown and Pienaar would not play, both were included in the Sharks starting line-up as expected by Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer.
“That is going to be a great match-up,” Botha enthused. “Tony is the most important player in the Sharks line-up and Morne is proving his class again after getting over a bit of the second year syndrome. They are key to both their teamâ€™s chances,” he told keo.co.za.
With all predictions pointing to a tight encounter, the kicking of the two pivots could prove decisive at the end of the day. “This is certainly going to be a huge test for Morne, because Tony is playing brilliant rugby at the moment. Not only will the kicking at posts be important, but kicking out of hand and controlling the backline will need to be top class from both men,” said Botha. â€œI have faith in Morne.â€
Botha though did not feel that individual performances in this match would sway national coach Jake White much. “No, Jake has already picked his team. This is not a Bok trial match as some people are saying.â€
Asked for a prediction, Botha – as you would have thought – sided with the team he won nine Currie Cup titles with. “The home team must surely take it. They must use that advantage to their favour. The Sharks are no easy meat and are playing the best rugby in the country, but the Bulls showed in the second half against the Cats they are getting back to their best form. It will be close.”
While Botha won nine Currie Cups from 11 finals and can recall them all with ease, he says the 1990 final between Northern Transvaal and Natal is one he has a hard time recollecting. “Ja, I have a slight problem remembering that game,” he joked of the famous upset. Natal won 18-12.
“Actually the Northern Transvaal Union had decided to give Natal a chance to get into the big league and it was also their 100th year, so we let them win,” he continued. “And after that they have become one of the greatest rugby unions in the world, never mind South Africa. It all came from that win. So actually they should thank us,” he laughed.
Obviously Botha was speaking tongue in cheek and admits there were no excuses for that defeat. â€œThey scored more points than us and deserved to win, thatâ€™s all,â€ he added on a more serious note.
Charity has never been a cause the Bulls believe in much. And on Saturday, it will be a no-holds barred, no favours contest between the two best teams in the land. And to the victor the spoils â€“ a chance at a play-off spot and a tilt at the title.
By Andrew Hollely