Ground level dominance will be decisive to Absa Currie Cup final success, says Wikus van Heerden.
The former Lions loose forward was recently signed to play for the Vodacom Bulls, but provided valuable insight into what would be required of both back rows in order to triumph in Bloemfontein.
“Both teams are so good at first phase that to target that area of play might prove fruitless,” he explained to Keo.co.za. “The key will be to target the second phase because whoever controls the breakdown controls the game.
“Backlines thrive on quick ball from the ruck base because it provides a really great attacking platform, and when that ball is slow in coming or gets turned over it breaks your attacking momentum.”
Van Heerden added that targeting the Bulls at the breakdown had been the Lions strategy in their 19-17 win at Loftus in August but added that the Bulls loose forwards are much improved since then.
He conceded that the Cheetahs trio would have the wood on their opposition in the ground level scraps but predicted that the Bulls trio of Pierre Spies, Derick KuÃ¼n and Pedrie Wannenburg would make make up in pace to and intensity at the breakdown, what they gave up in pure fetching ability.
“For Free State to target the second phase presumes they will fancy themselves to get to the breakdown first, but that might not be so clear cut,” he said. That Bulls back row has awesome pace and lose very little in that department when Hilton Lobberts comes on later in the game.”
Getting the combinations right is the key to the effectiveness of any trio. The Sharks proved this with the Venter/Botes/Britz triumvirate and Van Heerden believes both the Bulls and Cheetahs have that combination nailed down perfectly.
“They each have a player that will contest the ball on the ground, a good ball player and a player that covers and provides the second line of defence. That’s a big part of the reason they have come this far in the competition.”
Pedrie Wannenburg returns from a lengthy injury lay-off and assumes the unaccustomed position of openside flank. His aptitude for the role will be examined by Kabamba Floors but Van Heerden believes he has the ability to succeed.
“People have always seen him as flank or eighthman, and I think those are his best positions. But he can definitely fill the role of opensider,” he said.
“He is going to lack some match sharpness after recently returning to fitness but he is a class act and will rise to the challenge. His presence alone will boost the Bulls.”
Asked why he thought Pote Human had opted to go with KuÃ¼n instead of the like-for-like replacement of Danie Rossouw [shifted to lock] for Hilton Lobberts, Van Heerden cited KuÃ¼n’s brilliant semi-final showing as the decisive factor.
“Pote obviously wants to capitilise on his confidence,” he said. “Another reason could be that he wants to nullify Floors at the breakdown and Derick is capable of doing that.
“This is going to be a huge tussle,” he added. “And the winner will be decided at the breakdown.”
By Ryan Vrede