Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Bring on “Fantabulous Five”!

As per usual on a Thursday morning, a sneak preview of Tank’s Sport24 column for regular Grunt readers …

In scintillating form is JP ...

Tank Lanning

What a truly legendary run of form for South African sport … First we had Hashim Amla posting our first ever Test 300, then we had Ernie Els sipping from the Claret jug, then Cameron van Der Burgh breast stroking his way to gold in London, and on Tuesday Chad le Clos out reached the legend that is Michael Phelps to pip him by 5 hundredths of a second to bring home another Olympic gold …

Is it in the stars? Could the Sharks defy the travel gods and turn the “Fab Four” into the “Fantabulous Five” by beating the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday? It would be an odds and history defying performance of a super human nature, but you know what, I think they can do it!

Yes, this from the same guy who said that it would take “Something special” to beat a Kiwi side in New Zealand, and that none of the SA sides had that “Something special”. I was wrong …

Said before the Super Rugby quarter finals, I could not see the Bulls beating the Crusaders in Christchurch, or the Stormers winning a playoff game no matter where it was played. So I got two things right, but boy was I wrong about the Sharks!

To be honest, I had written the Sharks off as I could not see them beating the Brumbies in Canberra without Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn, but then Jake White’s boys came unstuck against the Blues, and it was the Reds, without Quade Cooper, who became the Sharks first obstacle in the playoffs.

I still think the Brumbies would have been a tougher obstacle for the Sharks, but in Brisbane that weekend, the Sharks arrived. Willem Alberts was inspirational at lock, Tim Whitehead and Paul Jordaan were on fire, Ryan Kankowski proved there is lots of life beyond Pierre Spies, but most importantly in my book, they brought a virtually impenetrable and aggressive defense to the party. Something that had definitely been missing earlier in the season.

So they added a steely defence similar to the one that the Stormers have relied on all season to a world class front row and a backline with not only the ability to attack from anywhere, but perhaps more importantly, the want to do so. And as such, even with a trip back to the republic, they were able to bully a one dimensional Stormers side who yet again failed at the final hurdle.

And while the Chiefs will be an altogether tougher side to conquer – being at home obviously, but also being a side with the capability to attack the Sharks with pace, power and skill from almost anywhere – it takes something special to do what the Sharks have done in the last two weeks.

Special in that they are now a group playing for each other (rather than just in a team together) – and enjoying it, and special in that they have amongst themselves a few players right on top of their game. Two weeks ago I had only Bismarck du Plessis in a fictitious Super Rugby team of the year … Now all of Beast Mtawarira, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Ryan Kankowski, Freddie Michalak, and JP Pietersen would be pushing for selection!

Look, their travel schedule borders on the insane, but they seem to have really embraced it – arriving in Cape town a day earlier than they normally do last week, and this week spending time in a resort they like in Sydney before crossing the Tasman. They have had injuries to Pat Lambie and, Paul Jordaan and now Tim Whitehead, and they were barred from using Frans Steyn in the playoffs, yet every time they seem to have made a plan.

This against the form half back pairing in the tournament, a loosehead prop who has scored more tries than the entire Stormers team, and an inside centre who has completely changed the way rugby is played (outside of Cape Town that is) …

No one said it would be easy, but perhaps the South African sporting stars are aligned … Bring on the “Fantabulous Five” …

Spot the tat, but not the fat! Seen on Twitter after the Crusaders win:

Anyone see ANY fat?

And below the preview I did for SportingBet with Gareth Rosslee and Scott Canny:

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...


  1. Had a look at the Sharks / Chiefs game earlier in the season and I am still the moer in that the Chiefs first try was allowed after blatant blocking running by the Chiefs and taking out 2 Shark defenders.
    We will never know what would have happened if that try was disallowed, but hell anything would have been possible.
    And by the way – I am a proud Bulls supporter but this weekend I’m rooting for the SHAAAAAAAAAAKS!!!! GO SHARKS GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  2. Well said Tank.Send your letter to the Sharks team.I am sure it will inspire them to.GO SHARKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. It was showed again this weekend!! If your forwards struggle the back has no chance! And it was clear that the stormers was not up to par the hole comp! The sharks now have a pack that dominates so that the backs can “party”! And a wall of steel defense! Go Sharks!!! Go SA!!!!

  4. This weekend i’d like to look at strengths (quality players who has impressed and proven themselves) in the front – fullback…Only ONE Team has been impressive and looking at the Chiefs, great vibe, strong attacking, clinical, knows the laws, brilliant flyhalf and has been constant throughout the season. Dave Rennie managed his players brilliantly and is in a fantastic position to have great group of guys with equal caliber on the bench that he can call upon.. CHIEFS by +9