Herschelle Goodman and Sebastine Whatney at the Academy Week earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Herman Watney/Speedshots.co.za)
Tomorrow Helpmekaar and Monnas 1stXV's will tackle each other in Krugersdorp with the winner booking a place in the final of the VirSeker Cup competition at Marais Viljoen Hoërskool. The supporters will remember the 57-11 win for Monnas in last year's final of the VirSeker Cup as well as Monnas win with 41-31 in the league fixture four weeks ago.
Helpmekaar has played 17 games in 2019 winning eleven, drew one and lost five. Two of the losses was against Monnas (31-41) and Garsfontein (22-50) a week later. During the two losses, it was clear to see that the defence between 9 to 13 was the major weakness of Helpmekaar through which they bleed several tries. During their last game against Waterkloof (36-24), Helpmekaar looked a lot more organised in defence but their fighting spirit and camaraderie was clearly back in this talented side.
Monnas has played 18 games of which they lost only four games. They lost their first game in the VirSeker Cup competition against Waterkloof (21-28) and then won six in a row with an average winning margin of 52-24 before going down to Menlopark (22-15) in a match that the "experts" said they were lucky to score the fifteen points. However, it must be said injuries on the day even before they ran onto the field disrupted their backline big time.
With all the above one could be pardoned to declare Monnas the winners who just have to arrive to win BUT we have to take the following into account:
Homefield advantage: The "Ras" is known as an intimidating field and ally of Monnas with Monnas beating Helpmekaar on the "Ras" earlier this year. Monnas 10-0 Helpmekaar.
SA Schools: Monnas will miss brilliant eightman Izan vd Westhuizen who played for the SA Schools "A" side but they did play brilliant rugby without Izaan when he was off injured. However, captain fantastic, Henco van Wyk who played for the SA Schools team today will be sorely missed. Not only was he the major weapon in the back but his leadership pulled the Monnas team together in close games. Monnas 10-10 Helpmekaar.
Forwards: The Monnas pack was dominant for most of the season with their lineouts seen as guaranteed possession with a few steals expected. Monnas 15-10 Helpmekaar.
Loosies: With Helpmekaar continuing to play Skudder at hooker they are definately not as dominant on the ground as they used to be added to that Monnas has the services of Rynard Mouton after an injury scare against Menlopark last weekend. Helpmekaar's Zander du Toit at eightman is a brilliant baller that should feel unlucky to not be in Stellenbosch this week and his attacking capabilities could just prove to be vital. Monnas 15-13.
Backline: Not much to choose between the two sides but with vd Walt of Monnas out injured the votes must go to the backline of Helpmekaar. Monnas 15-14.
Flyhalf: Herschelle Goodman's "brilliance" is well known and documented. He can tear any defence to pieces in a moment of brilliance. However, his defence is suspect and as brilliant he could be one moment that bad he can be a second later. Helpmekaar's defence will have to close him down not allowing him any space to move, not an inch.
Helpmekaar's flyhalf Sebastine Watney is a brilliant player in his own but a much more dependable performer who was moved to flyhalf two weeks ago to help to plug their try leaking backline. My choice? I would go with Sebastine who could be as devastating as Herschelle, interestingly I would prefer Sebastine as a fly for Monnas while I think Herschelle is more suited to the Helpmekaar type of rugby. Monnas 15-15 Helpmekaar.
Coaches: Tjaart vd Walt knows how to win big games and cups but Shaun Jackson is no fool at all. Monnas 17-15 Helpmekaar.
Pressure: Monnas is known to show cracks when they are under pressure which was very evident in their loss against Waterkloof. Helpmekaar 18-17 Monnas.
Bounce of the Ball: Monnas needs to keep the game very structured using their expected dominance up front to starve Helmekaar from quality ball while Helpmekaar needs a quick start to put pressure on Monnas frustrating them in playing catch-up rugby. Monnas 22 - 22 Helpmekaar.
It is clear that there is no clear favourite tomorrow but what I do know is that the winner of tomorrow's battle should be the favourite to go home with the Cup next weekend.