The key to victory at Ellis Park

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 20:33

IN THE SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: Jan de Koning looks at three positions that hold the key to victory when the Lions and Sharks go head-to-head at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann attempted to downplay the importance of the Round Six encounter and suggested that not too much should be read into the game.

"There are still plenty of games ahead and we still have to go tour," Ackermann told rugby365, when asked about his team's season so far - which have yielded four wins from five outings and see them at the top of the Africa Two conference.

He said the Sharks are a team in good form, but was happy that the Lions still have their destiny in their own hands.

"We are grateful that it is going well and we have not slipped in too many games, but not too much should be read into this coming weekend's game."

Ackermann was also full of praise for the opposition, describing the Sharks as a physical and well-rounded team - with a pack of large forwards and good backline - despite Bok Springbok flyhalf Patrick Lambie's injury.

Despite Ackermann's diplomatic responses, there is no doubt the importance of the game - given that just two points separate the Lions (19 points from five matches), Jaguares (18 from five) and Sharks (17 from five) in the Africa Two conference.

While coaches will always fall back on cliches like discipline, possession and limiting errors, this game may well be won or lost in the crucial axis of scrumhalf, flyhalf and inside centre.

And to add spice to an already delectable contest, there is a healthy serving of Springbok flavour to this game.

At No.9, discarded Bok Francois de Klerk will have something to prove after being replaced by Sharks counterpart Cobus Reinach in the squad named earlier this week.

At flyhalf, there is Elton Jantjies, a stalwart for the Lions, against teenager Curwin Bosch, who was one of the rookies named in Allister Coetzee's Bok training squad this week.

And the most intriguing is the midfield battle between two of the most bruising centres - Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Andre Esterhuizen.

The Lions have the edge in terms of experience and the fact that they have the most settled axis (scrumhalf, flyhalf and inside centre).

But a closer look at the six players' statistics in the first five rounds of the competition suggests it is a tight race and certainly worth paying good money to see these skilful players go head to head.

They certainly hold the key to victory on Saturday.

Here are their head-to-head stats through the first five rounds of the competition!

Scrumhalf: Francois de Klerk versus Cobus Reinach:

Francois de Klerk (five matches played):
Seventeen carries for 69 metres; two turnovers conceded; two defenders beaten; one clean break; seven tackles made; five tackles missed

Cobus Reinach (five matches played):

Twenty-seven carries for 90 metres; 11 turnovers conceded; four defenders beaten; 16 tackles made; seven tackles missed

Flyhalf: Elton Jantjies versus Curwin Bosch:

Elton Jantjies (four matches played)"
Twenty-five carries for 60 metres; six turnovers conceded; four defenders beaten; two clean breaks; 19 tackles made; eight tackles missed

Curwin Bosch (four matches played):
Twenty carries for 76 metres; five turnovers conceded; three defenders beaten; one clean break; six tackles made; four tackles missed

* His stats also include those matches when he played at fullback

Inside centre: Rohan Janse van Rensburg versus Andre Esterhuizen:

Rohan Janse van Rensburg (four matches played):
Twenty-six carries for 216 metres; eight turnovers conceded; 15 defenders beaten; eight clean breaks; 16 tackles made; no tackles missed

Andre Esterhuizen (five matches played):
Forty-three carries for 113 metres; six turnovers conceded; 14 defenders beaten; 45 tackles made; nine tackles missed

By Jan de Koning

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Fri, 28 April 2017
Cardiff Blues v Zebre 18h05 Cardiff
Edinburgh v Dragons 18h35 Myreside
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 RDS Arena
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors 19h00 Kingston Park
Sat, 29 April 2017
Chiefs v Sunwolves 07h35 Hamilton
Reds v Waratahs 09h45 Suncorp Stadium
Force v Lions 11h55 Perth
Ospreys v Ulster 14h00 Liberty Stadium
Bath v Gloucester 14h00 Recreation Ground
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Saracens v Bristol 14h00 Allianz Park
Harlequins v Wasps 14h00 Twickenham Stoop
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 14h00 Welford Road
Cheetahs v Crusaders 15h15 Bloemfontein
Treviso v Munster 17h05 Stadio Monigo
Kings v Rebels 17h30 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Connacht v Scarlets 18h35 Sportsground
Jaguares v Blues 19h40 Buenos Aires
Sun, 30 April 2017
Brumbies v Blues 06h05 Canberra
Fri, 05 May 2017
Hurricanes v Stormers 07h35 Westpac Stadium
Fri, 28 April 2017
Highlanders v Stormers 57 | 14
Sun, 23 April 2017
Clermont Auvergne v Leinster 27 | 22
Sat, 22 April 2017
Sharks v Rebels 9 | 9
Bulls v Cheetahs 20 | 14
Munster v Saracens 10 | 26
Force v Chiefs 7 | 16
Crusaders v Stormers 57 | 24
Highlanders v Sunwolves 40 | 15
Fri, 21 April 2017
Lions v Jaguares 24 | 21
Waratahs v Kings 24 | 26
Hurricanes v Brumbies 56 | 21
Mon, 17 April 2017
UP-Tuks v Maties 28 | 21
Sun, 16 April 2017
Northampton Saints v Saracens 25 | 27
Bristol v Wasps 21 | 36
Sat, 15 April 2017
Connacht v Leinster 24 | 37
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 8 3 0 5 17
Reds 8 2 0 6 10
Force 7 2 0 5 9
Waratahs 8 2 0 6 9
Rebels 7 1 1 5 7
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 8 8 0 0 36
Hurricanes 8 7 0 1 33
Chiefs 8 7 0 1 33
Highlanders 9 6 0 3 28
Blues 8 3 0 5 17
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 9 6 0 3 26
Bulls 8 3 0 5 14
Cheetahs 8 2 0 6 10
Sunwolves 8 1 0 7 5
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 8 7 0 1 32
Sharks 8 5 1 2 24
Jaguares 8 4 0 4 20
Kings 8 2 0 6 10