Competition Clashes: Zander’s zoom and Braam Steyn brawn

Rich Dore
04 September 2019

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Guinness PRO14 players featured heavily in the news this week with both Ireland and Scotland naming their squads for the Rugby World Cup.

Players from the Championship have battled away against compatriots to earn spots on the plane and now for Scotland’s cohort, attentions turn to starting XVs.

Glasgow Warriors lead the way with 12 players selected in the 31, Edinburgh with 10, and there looks to be a battle for a starting berth between players from these clubs at tighthead.

What better way to examine your front rows than a tussle in Tbilisi? Last weekend’s win over tank-shaped Georgians the way to sort propping boys from men.

Five remain. At loosehead there’s Allan Dell and Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan covers both sides and at tighthead Zander Fagerson and Willem Nel.

With Nel on 31 caps he appears to be the incumbent but he’s also 33, and with a decade in hand Fagerson is charging up behind like a frenzied bull with a souped-up loose game.

Also bear in mind Steve Hansen’s comments about favouring mobility over scrum power when axing centurion tighthead Owen Franks last week, the modern game perhaps suiting Fagerson’s style.

The Guinness PRO14 statistics from last season back up the Glasgow Warrior’s argument for contributions around the park, where over 699 minutes he made 88 metres, 117 tackles, and 24 passes, also scoring two tries.

In slightly fewer minutes – 604 – Nel made 19 metres, 93 tackles, scored one try and passed the ball 12 times.

But of course a prop’s first job is in the scrum and while this is a little harder to analyse on stats Nel can claim the advantage in a few areas, conceding nine penalties overall compared with Fagerson’s 13, and winning four turnovers to three – a further Georgian Test awaits the pair this weekend.


Likewise a stern test awaits Conor O’Shea’s Italian charges, against England under the Friday night lights at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

O’Shea named his 31 weeks ago but pecking order battles no doubt still rage on, no more so than in one of the strongest areas of the Azzurri squad, the back row.

We look at two of the five here, Benetton teammates Braam Steyn and Seb Negri – Maxime Mbanda, Sergio Parisse and Jake Polledri the others involved.

Eastern Cape-born Steyn certainly has the attacking stats in his favour, the bulky carrier playing 952 minutes, scoring four tries, making an average gain of 2.88 metres and very usefully stealing seven lineouts.

In comparison, Negri played less minutes (668), scored one try, made an average gain of 1.43 metres and with no lineouts stolen.

But while Steyn will punch you holes it appears Negri is more effective at filling them as a fearsome defensive player, making almost as many tackles (139 to Steyn’s 145) despite considerably fewer minutes at a significantly higher success rate – 95.2% to Steyn’s 90.6%.

Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

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