Super Bok trials begin

Sun, 17 Feb 2013 14:22
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South African players will want to put their best foot forward and impress Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer this weekend.

South African players will want to put their best foot forward and impress Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer when Super Rugby kicks into extra gear this weekend.

With the British and Irish Lions tour Down Under in June necessitating an earlier than usual start to the season, with just two Australian derbies making up Round One, the 2013 Super Rugby campaign truly gets underway this weekend with a full quota of seven matches.

Three of those involve South African sides, two of which are mouth-watering local derbies with the third being a historic clash in Port Elizabeth.

From a South African perspective they don’t come any bigger than Friday’s north-south derby between the Bulls and the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld.

It’s therefore fitting that this crunch clash kicks off a new-look South African conference that this year includes controversial debutants the Southern Kings.

The Eastern Cape franchise host the Western Force in their first ever Super Rugby match on Saturday evening but not before the Cheetahs and Sharks square off in Bloemfontein.

Bok boss Meyer could not have asked for a better draw to kick-off the year. He’ll be able to scrutinise players’ physicality, composure and tactical nous in the Test-like atmosphere of Friday’s fixture, the play-making ability and attacking prowess that will be on display in Bloemfontein and finally scout talent in the Kings’ clash.

In his first year in charge of the Boks, Meyer, for the most part, identified the players who will form the nucleus of his squad going forward.  

A combination of injuries and unconvincing performances, however, resulted in Meyer still mulling over certain players and positions, not least the pivotal flyhalf role.

Solving the No.10 conundrum will be foremost in Meyer’s mind and the four leading candidates could go head-to-head this weekend should Elton Jantjies be thrust straight into the Stormers starting line-up and Johan Goosen be cleared to face the Sharks.

Morné Steyn will be physicality and mentally refreshed after his nightmare 2012 which he started with an iron grip on the No.10 jersey and ended well down in the pivot pecking order.

The eldest of the four flyhalves at 28, the 42-Test veteran will be in his comfort zone at Loftus and will be determined to show Meyer he has more to offer the Boks despite the wave of youth threatening to drown his Bok career.

Pat Lambie, in contrast, went from being considered a specialist fullback to finishing the year as incumbent flyhalf following Steyn’s fall from grace and Goosen’s bad run of injuries.
The other key positional battle at Loftus will pit Pierre Spies against Duane Vermeulen, the man who took over ownership of Spies’s No.8 jersey after the Bulls captain was sidelined with a finger injury.

Vermeulen proved what many had long suspected him to be, a world-class player, in his debut international season and worked particularly well in tandem with Francois Louw.   

Spies will still be rusty after his lengthy lay-off and could struggle to match Vermeulen for power and intensity over 80 minutes, but his road back to the Boks nevertheless starts at Loftus this weekend.

Ryan Kankowski, fresh from his stint in
Japan, and Kings captain Luke Watson, meanwhile, will be out to throw their names into the hat at eighthman.

Other delectable duels to look forward to this weekend include Zane Kirchner v Jaco Taute, Juandré Kruger v Andries Bekker, Raymond Rhule v JP Pietersen and (possibly) Coenie Oosthuizen v Jannie du Plessis.

By Quintin van Jaarsveld

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 24 February 2017
Highlanders v Chiefs 06h35 Dunedin
Reds v Sharks 09h00 Brisbane
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 17h45 Twickenham Stoop
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Myreside
Dragons v Leinster 19h30 Rodney Parade
Munster v Scarlets 19h35 Thomond Park
Sat, 25 February 2017
Sunwolves v Hurricanes 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Brumbies 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Force 08h45 Allianz Park
Saracens v Sale Sharks 12h45 Allianz Park
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Franklin's Gardens
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons 13h00 Sandy Park
Cheetahs v Lions 13h05 Bloemfontein
Scotland v Wales 14h25 BT Murrayfield
Kings v Jaguares 15h15 Port Elizabeth
Ireland v France 16h50 Aviva Stadium
Stormers v Bulls 17h30 Cape Town
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
Thu, 02 March 2017
Force v Reds 10h30 Perth
RESULT SCORE
Thu, 23 February 2017
Rebels v Blues 18 | 56
Tue, 21 February 2017
CUT-Ixias v Shimlas 13 | 22
Mon, 20 February 2017
UJ v UP-Tuks 18 | 11
UKZN-Impi v Fort Hare 16 | 10
Maties v NMMU-Madibaz 35 | 16
UWC v Rhodes 88 | 8
TUT v WSU 13 | 17
NWU-Pukke v UCT-Ikeys 20 | 15
Sun, 19 February 2017
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 46 | 31
Sale Sharks v Wasps 34 | 28
Sat, 18 February 2017
Connacht v Dragons 14 | 9
Ospreys v Munster 23 | 25
Leicester Tigers v Bristol 50 | 17
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 37 | 17
Bath v Harlequins 22 | 12
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 0 0 0 0 0
Waratahs 0 0 0 0 0
Reds 0 0 0 0 0
Force 0 0 0 0 0
Rebels 1 0 0 1 0
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Blues 1 1 0 0 5
Hurricanes 0 0 0 0 0
Highlanders 0 0 0 0 0
Chiefs 0 0 0 0 0
Crusaders 0 0 0 0 0
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 0 0 0 0 0
Bulls 0 0 0 0 0
Cheetahs 0 0 0 0 0
Sunwolves 0 0 0 0 0
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 0 0 0 0 0
Sharks 0 0 0 0 0
Jaguares 0 0 0 0 0
Kings 0 0 0 0 0