Leading from the centre

Thu, 27 Feb 2014 10:04
Large conrad smith newlands.jpg63

Jean de Villiers and Conrad Smith will line up opposite one another at Newlands on Friday with more than just their personal battle on their minds.
 

Jean de Villiers and Conrad Smith will line up opposite one another at Newlands on Friday with more than just their personal battle on their minds.

The Stormers and the Hurricanes both suffered disappointing defeats in their opening Super Rugby games last week, so both experienced centres will be expected to pick their teams up quickly to avoid falling any further off the early-season pace.

It is not very common for a rugby captain to wear a number higher than 10 on his back, as forwards and halfbacks are in the thick of the action and much closer to the referee, but there are not many players in world rugby who command more respect than Smith and De Villiers.

Both seasoned midfielders have proven themselves as world class operators and have also developed into impressive leaders at Test and Super Rugby level.

De Villiers has led the Springboks admirably for the last two years whilst Smith has performed the role of All Blacks vice captain under Richie McCaw and also marshalls the backline defence expertly.

They will need to draw on all of that experience when they run out at Newlands on Friday night, as both of their teams were completely shut out in their opening games.

The Stormers were stunned by the Lions who left them for dead at at Ellis Park, and the Hurricanes were outmuscled by the Sharks at Kings Park so they will both feel that they have a point to prove.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said this week that the decision to move De Villiers from 12 to 13 was not motivated by the threat that Smith will pose at outside centre, but rather to allow Damian de Allende to play in his best position of inside centre.

Whatever the reason behind the switch, it does set up a potentially defining duel between the two captains who have crossed swords many times over the years.

De Villiers told this website that he is looking forward to the challenge; making his respect for Smith's abilities very clear.

"He [Smith] is a world class player, he has proven over the years how good he is and it is always a nice challenge playing against him.

"We have played each other quite a number of times and this challenge will be no different. That is why we play rugby - to test yourself against the best - and it is always good to face quality players like that," he said.

Many will look at this match as a showdown between the Hurricanes' devastating attacking abilities and the Stormers' resolute defence and De Villiers admitted that with the likes of Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, Cory Jane and Smith in the opposition backline his team will certainly have to be on their toes.

"They are a quality side, they can attack they have got fantastic individuals, All Blacks and guys that can spark an attack from anywhere so they are very dangerous in that regard and from our point of view we need to be solid defensively," he said.

The Sharks were able to keep the Hurricanes quiet out wide last week by attacking them up front which is likely to be a focus point for the Stormers, but De Villiers is also hoping that his team will also be able to pose a threat with the ball in hand after they were unable to create any meaningful opportunities against the Lions.

"We couldn't even show what we have been training from an attacking point of view this weekend [against the Lions] so hopefully we can score a couple of tries," he said.

Both captains will be under pressure to get their team's over the line on Friday, which should add something to their tussle at outside centre as they look for the spark to inspire their charges.

Tough situations like these often bring out the best in the top players, so expect a gripping individual battle at Newlands between two of the classiest backline players around.

By Michael de Vries

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sun, 01 May 2016
Exeter Chiefs v Wasps 12h00 Sandy Park
London Irish v Harlequins 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Newcastle Falcons 14h15 Allianz Park
Fri, 06 May 2016
Crusaders v Reds 07h35 Christchurch
Brumbies v Bulls 09h40 Canberra
Griffons v Eagles 15h00 Welkom
EP Kings v Blue Bulls 16h00 Port Elizabeth
Sat, 07 May 2016
Sunwolves v Force 05h15 Tokyo
Chiefs v Highlanders 07h35 Hamilton
Waratahs v Cheetahs 09h40 Sydney
Leopards v Boland 12h30 Potchefstroom
Sharks v Hurricanes 13h00 Durban
Golden Lions v Free State Cheetahs 13h00 Randburg
Griquas v Border 13h00 Kimberley
Pumas v Namibia 13h00 Mpumalanga
Wasps v London Irish 14h30 Ricoh Arena
Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks 14h30 Kingston Park
Worcester Warriors v Saracens 14h30 Sixways
Bath v Leicester Tigers 14h30 Recreation Ground
Gloucester v Northampton Saints 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs 14h30 Twickenham
Zebre v Dragons 15h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Munster v Scarlets 15h00 Thomond Park
Ospreys v Ulster 15h00 Liberty Stadium
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors 15h00 Sportsground
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 15h00 BT Murrayfield
Leinster v Treviso 15h00 RDS
Kings v Blues 15h05 Port Elizabeth
Sharks v Western Province 15h30 Durban
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Rebels 9 5 0 4 23
Brumbies 9 5 0 4 21
Waratahs 8 4 0 4 21
Reds 9 2 1 6 12
Force 9 1 0 8 6
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Chiefs 9 8 0 1 37
Crusaders 8 7 0 1 32
Hurricanes 9 6 0 3 31
Highlanders 9 6 0 3 28
Blues 8 4 1 3 20
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 9 6 0 3 29
Bulls 8 6 1 1 28
Cheetahs 9 2 0 7 12
Sunwolves 8 1 0 7 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 9 6 0 3 27
Sharks 9 4 1 4 23
Jaguares 8 1 0 7 7
Kings 7 1 0 6 4