Springbok bragging rights in Japan League One
PREVIEW: There will be Springbok bragging rights up for grabs when Round Seven of Japan’s League One takes place at the weekend.
Wily Spears coach Frans Ludeke will be preparing his men for a potential ambush from the Verblitz team skippered by compatriot Pieter Steph du Toit.
The big question this week was whether Verblitz is back after a barren run.
Last weekend’s gallant performance would say yes, but Director of Rugby Steve Hansen and stand-in skipper Pieter Steph du Toit know the ill-discipline that nearly cost them their first victory in five, cannot be repeated against the second-placed Spears.
The hattrick of yellow cards conceded against Kobe took Verblitz’s total for the season to six.
Their 38-24 victory notwithstanding, it’s very hard to consistently win games when you give the opposition a leg up by playing short-staffed.
The Spears will most definitely take any opportunities their opponents provide as was illustrated in their win over the Black Rams, where they were outscored by six tries to four, but converted enough of their field pressure into goals to still win the game.
Wallaby flyhalf Bernard Foley, who is now the competition’s leading point scorer with 72 after his haul of 20 last week, nailed eight out of nine attempts to see off Ricoh, sending a warning to Toyota that their disciplinary margin for error is slim.
After back-to-back performances that, while resilient, could easily have gone the other way, the Spears will know a more convincing performance is required, especially as a potential top-of-the-table showdown with Saitama is not too far off in the distance (Round 10).
In the meantime, Springbok bragging rights are up for grabs – with Malcolm Marx starting at hooker for the visitors, while fellow Springboks Steph du Toit and Willie le Roux, who is on the bench, will suit up for the locals.
* Another Springbok in the spotlight is Albertus Smith.
Things are looking up for the Blue Revs. After six weeks, they broke through for their first win, and their next task is what appears to be the easiest shinkansen (bullet train) trip of the season; the two-and-a-half-hour journey from Shizuoka to Osaka.
Smith’s side was particularly pleased with their defensive work during the 21-0 win over the Green Rockets, with the players’ desire to scramble defensively in keeping with a trend that has them boasting the sixth-best defensive numbers in the league, even though they have just two teams below them on the ladder.
While he was happy to celebrate a first win, Blue Revs coach Horrikawa Takanobu acknowledged his side isn’t as clinical executing attacking opportunities as it needs to be, with ball runners too often becoming isolated after a line-break, which is a deficiency Takanobu has told local media his side would be working hard to rectify
* Another chapter will be written in the story as to who will be the unbeaten D-Rocks’ biggest threat for the Division Two title, when the Heat hosts the Shuttles on Sunday.
With both sides having lost only to D-Rocks and separated by just one point on the competition ladder, the prize for the winner is greater than bragging rights alone.
The Shuttles have been without their big-name recruit, French test lock Yoann Maestri, since his League One debut in round one, while his England counterpart James Gaskill is yet to appear, but they have gained great value from their third major signing, South African Tim Swiel.