WP fetchers play Bulls bashers

Two different teams with two vastly different game plans square up in less than 48 hours, and as usual, the battle at the breakdown could prove decisive.

Vodacom Western Province captain Luke Watson has stated that the Pretoria side will be competitive at the breakdown this Friday at Newlands, and expects a good tussle with former South Africa U21 stars Hilton Lobberts and Derick Kuun.

While WP are capable of playing a game where both Watson and Justin Melck compete for the ball in the loose, the Vodacom Bulls are without an outright fetcher. Lobberts, who has played for the South African U21s on the blindside, occupies the same role Tim Dlulane did as an extra ball carrier. Kuun’s shift to eighth man also indicates that the Bulls won’t try to play WP at their own game and should continue with their own strategy.

Lobberts represented South Africa at this year’s U21 World Championship staged in France where they unfortunately lost to the hosts 24-13 in the final. Kuun had more success as captain of the 2005 Baby Boks where the youngsters took the title against Australia in Argentina.

“Both are very talented players with a lot to offer,” Watson told keo.co.za. “Hilton is physically very strong and a great carrier of the ball who gains a lot of ground for his team. I’ve played with Derick Kuun at U19 level so I’m well aware of what he can do. He’s a great openside but has all the skills and should do well at No 8.”

With Dlulane out for the remainder of the Absa Currie Cup, and Pedrie Wanneburg and Pierre Spies on national duty, the Bulls will be relying on these youngsters, as well as Johan Wasserman, to do the job at the breakdown. Their inexperience at this level may count against them, but as Watson is quick to point out, experience is not an all-determining factor, this season’s young and successful Province side being a good example.

“While I do believe that experience is important in big games like these, I don’t think it will count against them not having played much in this competition. They have both come through Pieter de Villiers’ [the SA U21 coach] ranks and so should do well at this level.

“From our side, look at a guy like Robbie Diack, who is only 20 and in his first year of Currie Cup rugby. He’s done brilliantly this season.”

Watson, Melck and Diack have proved through their consistent performances to be the best loose forward combination in the country this season. The extra speed of Kuun and strength of Lobberts may work to a degree on Friday, but the key will be in how the Bulls’ back row operate as a unit.

“As a combination I think that Hilton and Derick play very well together. Johan Wasserman has been around for awhile and is also a solid player. It should be a very interesting contest.”

WP won the last encounter between the two teams at Loftus Versfeld by 15-10, with Watson outplaying Warren Brosnihan on the ground and being instrumental in the narrow victory. Brosnihan will play off the bench at Newlands on Friday night.

by Jon Cardinelli