Imagining a world where Super Rugby was professional enough for teams to negotiate trades, the AOR team debates which player swap is most needed in the SA Conference.
Tank Lanning: Nic Groom for Juarno Augustus
It’s just plain weird seeing “Groomie” in red and white … The man is a Cape Town boy through and through, and should be plying his trade in the Western Cape, especially with John Dobson taking the reigns next year.
The two go way back to Varsity Cup days where they formed a lethal combination at UCT. And while depth is key, it also seems a bit silly for Springbok scrummie Ross Cronje to be warming the bench or rotating with Groom at Ellis Park. Both should be regular starters. The Stormers have not settled on a permanent 9 since the departure of Groom, and with Louis Schreuder and Dewaldt Duvenage also recent departures, the move back to Cape Town for Groom looks a natural one.
This while Stormers coach Rob Fleck seems reluctant to play a bruiser at 8 (Jaco Coetzee only came into Saturday’s team that took on the Sharks in Durban after Sikhumbuzo Notshe was a late withdrawal), which is tough to fathom given the key role Coetzee played in a side that eventually bullied the Sharks into submission in an ugly affair.
Even if Fleck changes tack regarding his selection at 8th man, Coetzee is seemingly ahead of Augustus in that race. And while everyone and his pug might be raving about Hacjivah Dayimani, he is a spectator when it comes to the donkey work. And with ball-hawks Marnus Schoeman and Kwagga Smith making a nuisance of themselves at the breakdown, the Lions would do well to have Augustus in the mix as an abrasive ball-carrier to replace what the injured Cyle Brink used to bring to the table.
Zelím Nel – Jeremy Ward for Dan du Plessis
Getting a pro contract is the dream of schoolboy players who have Rugby World Cup aspirations. The second step on the journey is almost as difficult – getting the game time needed to continue developing.
Both Jeremy Ward (23) and Dan du Plessis (turns 24 later this month) are products of traditional rugby schools who featured for the Junior Boks, were tipped to ‘go all the way’ and spent most of 2018 on the injury list. And now their ETA is TBA because they’re stuck in a holding pattern waiting for Springboks to clear the runway.
At the Sharks, Ward is taking notes from Lukhanyo Am – the six-Test playmaker locked in a duel with Bulls counterpart Jesse Kriel for rights to the green 13 jersey. Du Plessis is serving his apprenticeship under the incumbent Bok inside centre, Damian de Allende (37 caps).
Heading into Round 4, Ward and Du Plessis are each averaging less than half an hour of action per match, and that’s why it makes sense to lock in this trade.
Du Plessis has had to moonlight at outside centre where former Blitzboks ace Ruhan Nel is auditioning as a Super Rugby rookie. A move to Cape Town would give Ward a reasonable shot at winning a starting gig while sparking a position battle that would benefit all concerned.
Andre Esterhuizen looks like Tarzan but plays like he’s got the body of Cory Jane – SA’s biggest inside centre prefers playing the piano to moving it. Du Plessis (1.87m, 97kg) can’t match Esterhuizen for size, but there’s no contest on the skills front.
If the Sharks are looking for an all-rounder at 12, it wouldn’t be long before Du Plessis partnered Am in a potent, multi-threat midfield combination.
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