Bjorn Basson will come to Newlands this week with two personal goals: to improve on the Bulls try-scoring record he jointly holds with Bryan Habana and to stake his claim for the Springbok No 11 jersey.
However, don’t be surprised if it’s the veteran who has the last laugh in Saturday’s Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Bulls at Newlands.
Habana may not be scoring as many tries this season as the man who last week against the Waratahs equalled his try-scoring record of nine in a season for the Bulls, but statistics point to him still working much harder than Basson in the team context.
The last duel between the two was decided in Habana’s favour when he scooped up Dewaldt Duvenage’s superbly weighted kick from under Basson’s nose to strike the knockout blow in the Stormers’ excellent 23-13 win at Loftus Versfeld.
Habana is not as prolific a try-scorer at the Stormers as he was when he played his rugby in Pretoria, but to date he has scored tries in all three his matches against the Bulls since moving to the Cape.
There were two in the 38-10 win when the Bulls sent their second string to Newlands last year, an intercept try in the 2010 Super14 final and then that little bit of individual brilliance at Loftus this year.
Habana may have started the season well below par, but Verusco’s statistics still point to a player performing well within his team’s structure.
He is often criticised for his error count, but his percentage of handling errors are lower than Basson’s when it’s calculated against the number of times he had possession.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee’s defence against Habana’s critics has always been that the player is extremely valuable when his work-rate is taken into consideration.
And, even if the Stormers are not among the top attacking sides in the tournament, Habana cannot be accused of not being pro-active with the ball in hand in an effort to try and make things happen.
In the 12 games that he has played, he has handled the ball 153 times (73 carries) against the 109 (53 carries) of Basson in 14 games. Habana has also gained 909 metres in territory against the 647m of Basson.
When everything is taken into consideration both teams will be satisfied with their wings – the Stormers because notwithstanding all the criticism Habana’s value is still underlined by his statistics, and the Bulls because Basson is scoring tries.
Basson’s last visit to Newlands in 2010 was in the colours of Griquas – he scored a hat trick of tries, but still ended up on the losing side as his side went down 32-48.
Apart from his ability to finish, Basson is excellent at plucking high balls out of the air. The Stormers would probably have been a tad more concerned if that skill was going to come packaged with Fourie du Preez’s excellent kicking boot this week, but will still be mindful of the threat.