Bloem's battle of the captains

Fri, 15 Jul 2016 07:39
Large mohoje v strauss 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Sometimes the sideshow overshadows the main feature. That may well be the case in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The main feature is the Cheetahs and Bulls attempting to end disappointing seasons on a winning note.

However, the sideshow is that the captain of the South African A team, Teboho Mohojé, and the captain of the Springbok team, Adriaan Strauss, will go head-to-head.

This dulcet showdown came about when regular Cheetahs captain Francois Venter failed his concussion test - after taking a knock to the head in the loss to the Sharks last week.

To add further spice to this event the Bok skipper, Strauss, will make Super Rugby history when he leads the Pretoria outfit against his former team in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

He is set to become the most capped South African hooker in the history of the competition when he runs out to play in his 132nd match.

The 30-year-old Bok captain will move past fellow Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who played all of his 131 Super Rugby matches for the Sharks.

"I am very fortune to be involved in this competition, the best competition in the world, also being involved in the game that I love and I am passionate about," Strauss told a media briefing in Pretoria, when asked about his new milestone.

"It is a massive honour for me and I will enjoy the occasion."

Strauss, 30, has also played 57 for the Boks since making his debut off the bench against Australia in 2008.

He is now Bok coach Allister Coetzee's preferred choice as captain of the national team.

Mohoje, five years the junior of Strauss, has played in just eight Tests - having made his debut as a replacement against Scotland in June 2014.

Strauss admitted that Bloemfontein will be a hostile environment.

However, they are hoping to make it a winning send-off for a host of players who are heading abroad after the completion of the Super Rugby season.

Dean Greyling (Oyonnax), Marcel van der Merwe (Toulon), Werner Kruger (Scarlets), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Montpellier), Le Roux Roets (Racing Metro), Pieter Labuschagne (Kubota Spears), Deon Stegmann (Honda Heat), Grant Hattingh (Kubota Spears) and Duhan van der Merwe (Montpellier) will be lost to the Bulls.

There will be a few Cheetahs departing as well after Saturday - Nicolaas van Dyk (Toulouse), Coenie van Wyk (Toshiba Brave Lupis), Henry Immelman (Montpellier) and Willie Britz (NTT Shining Arcs).

Jacques Potgieter will head to the Fukuoka Sanix Blues after the completion of the season, but returns for Super Rugby next year. The same applies to the Cheetahs' Francois Uys (Verblitz - returns for Super Rugby).

Despite the entertainment value of their face-off, the players rather wanted the spotlight to be on their respective teams.

"A lot of guys are leaving," Strauss said.

"Then there is the situation we find ourselves in on the standings," he added, about the outside chance that the Bulls could sneak into the play-offs if the Sharks lose to the Sunwolves in Durban on Friday.

He said the Bulls have been working very hard since November and while their season may not deliver the desired play-off spot, they are building towards "something bigger".

"We worked towards improving every game and building [for the future]," the Bulls and Bok skipper said, adding: "We have put in plenty of hard yards since November, so we want to end on a high and have a lot to play for.

"The Cheetahs will try to finish strong, but so will we.

"We owe it to ourselves to deliver a performance we all can be proud of.

"If we fall short in making the play-offs, we only have ourselves to blame, but it will not be because of a lack of trying in our final game."

@rugby365com

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