Super Rugby Round Three ‘Forecast’

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RUGBYU-SUPER-BRUMBIES-SHARKS
Sharks player Tendai Mtawarira (C) gets away from Brumbie Wharenui Hawera (L) and Chris Alcock (R) to score during the Super Rugby match between Australia's Brumbies and the South African Sharks in Canberra on March 4, 2017. (Photo credit should read MARK GRAHAM/AFP/Getty Images)

In the 2017 version of Super Rugby, the game is played at 100%. That is across the board, with very few games ever seen where a penalty is going to earn you victory. And that is why so many tunes in to watch. So enjoy this view of the Super Rugby Round Three ‘Forecast’

Before we can gaze an eye forward though, we need to view the recent match outcomes. Here are your Round Two results:

Force 26 Reds 19 | Chiefs 41 Blues 26 | Hurricanes 71 Rebels 6 | Highlanders 27 Crusaders 30 | Brumbies 22 Sharks 27 | Sunwolves 23 Kings 37 | Lions 55 Waratahs 36 | Stormers 32 Jaguares 25 | Cheetahs 34 Bulls 28

Several results this round were fairly predictable, although the ones that fans were counting on backfired. So Reds fans who had read all the sports news reports saying it was ‘their year’ had that sinking feeling on Friday. In failing to cover the Force (see above), all that positivity has seemingly been eroded.

The Force will feel emboldened. They actually sit at the top of the Australian conference…with just one victory, but the quality of the win is a great step forward. Now ‘who said they might be vulnerable’ in 2018?

Fans of the Brumbies, Sunwolves (to a degree) and the Bulls will feel unsettled. Each had chances to stage a fightback after first up losses, but it now means they have little to show after two weeks. Just like the Highlanders.

High Stakes Rugby, High Cost Outcome

Probably the most disappointed team in Super Rugby, are the team from Dunedin. A single point to their name, something is a-miss with the 2015 champions. Read more about their issues here.

Who Did Well? #1 – Hurricanes

If you read the forecast last week, we may be repeating ourselves. But with over 150 points scored, one of the best ever starts to a season in Super Rugby history, this may be the greatest start to a rugby competition since the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Coach Chris Boyd will probably have an ever-lasting grin on his face…..and why not.

The issue for that team is, now they face the facts of a New Zealand local derby match: the Chiefs on Friday night. So after the fastest of starts possible, now the ‘real test’ begins for the reigning champions.

Who Did Well? # 2 – Sharks

Many will say that a touring South African team, is an unpredictable one. Some will disagree but if you were a punter, you might be upset by the Sharks result. So early in the year, a tour of Australia is usually followed by New Zealand [a huge challenge] but as Africa Two conference–they do not have that luxury.

So, one win from two on tour is going to be a plus. And considering they only have to travel to meet the Sunwolves, limited offshore fixtures maybe of benefit to the Sharks prospects. ‘Taking out’ the Brumbies (see main picture) was their best possible result, and it will bolster the Sharks prospects. They may now be one of the early African team favourites after the come from behind.

Standings: NZ Conference – Hurricanes | Australian conf – Force | Africa One – Stormers | Africa Two – Lions.

News: Blues flanker suspended after Red Card

After his ‘brain explosion’ Steven Luatua was handed down a severe punishment for the red card offense on Friday. The four week suspension comes amid the new high tackle directive, but as much because of the off-the-ball nature of the incident.

All rugby players will now know the standard. Any offense now is going to be rated against this–and with 21 yellow cards so far, discipline will need to improve. Coaches had already spoken to their squads, LWOR believe that another speech is required. The punishment might not fit the crime [exaggerated possibly] but every player needs to be weary.

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Looking at the Forecast Ahead

Every upcoming game in Round Three is crucial. The Bulls and Rebels enjoy the first Bye (the Melbourne team will enjoy that rest) and the other eight matches are all still very critical in these early stages.

Super Rugby Round Three Fixtures

Friday March 3 –  Chiefs v Hurricanes, Hamilton | Brumbies v Force, Canberra 

Most will pick the early encounter to be the ‘most exciting’. The most intense more likely, as the high-scoring Hurricanes meet the well organized Chiefs. It might also be a revenge match – in two encounters lats season, the Chiefs won 27-28 in pool play, only for the ‘Canes to deprive the Chiefs of a final place in a terrific game, won 25-9. Expect the same intensity on Friday.

The other fixture might be just as crucial. The conference leading Force will find the Brumbies in an unhappy place. Two losses will do that to a team–expect a rebuke from the Stephen Larkham coached side. If they can redeem their fans belief now, it will be of a huge benefit later in the season.

Saturday March 4 – Blues v Highlanders, Auckland | Reds v Crusaders, Brisbane | Kings v Stormers, Port Elizabeth | Cheetahs v Sunwolves, Bloemfontein | Sharks v Waratahs, Durban | Jaguares v Lions, Buenos Aires

To list all six matches would leave no room for summation, so on another eventful edition of ‘Super Saturday’ two games are going to be note worthy. The Reds v Crusaders is well worth consideration. Only because of the position that the Reds find themselves in. A win and a loss–it all rests on whether they can face it with the big boys (and the ‘Saders are certainly one of the biggest).

The Crusaders have managed to ‘get out of Jail’ so will be up on their heels. What team wants that? It is a daunting task, but his shows the Brisbane is no ‘easy win’.

Forecasted ‘Match of the Round’

Then we find the Sharks v Waratahs. After Bernard Foley was released due to ongoing head injury concerns, the Australian team must find a new director. Bryce Hegarty will want a better outing this week, and work better with his backline. Israel Folau will again try to nail the center role–some will hope his long term position, and he may want to let the Wallabies selectors know why he prefers 13 (see below picture).

Israel Folau of the Waratahs calls instructions to a team mate during the round one Super Rugby match(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The ‘Tahs attack might step up, with Will Skelton likely to return and stiffen the defense and ball-carrying attack. If the away team can improve at least 20%, then they may have a shot of leaving the republic with some pride; before a home match against the Brumbies.

The problem is……a confident Sharks team. And they should be. Yes they have a one-win/one-loss record, but to begin on the road is tough. So as Ryan Jordan has declared, the Robert du Preez coached side might feel comfortable, and two matches in a row at home now could bring as many as 10 competition points [max].

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Top Statistics – Who Impressed?

Try Scorers: Rohan Janse van Rensburg/Vince Aso (4). Both men have started off well, and Aso is probably aiming to continue his finishing quality. What is scary is that Nehe Milner-Skudder had one game, and scored a hatrick. BOOM!!

Clean Breaks: It should not surprise fans, to read that the Hurricanes hold the top five places. Incredible, but evidence of how that side is going after just two rounds–if they still hold the same places after 10 rounds, then ‘Canes fans will be in party mode!

Tackles: Sam Carter from the Brumbies is on top (35) but some others will surprise. Two games in, Jean-Luc du Preez is doing well for the Sharks, but the real hero is Tawera Kerr-Barlow (27). The Chiefs halfback is a fierce defender (see below picture), and his effort will be needed on Friday night.

Rieko Ioane of the Blues is tackled by Tawera Kerr-Barlow of the Chiefs during the round two Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Rugby Park on March 3, 2017 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Defenders Beaten: The importance of meters and to evade tackles is key. Ngani Laumape (15) seems to have that skill, and others like Julian Savea (nice early form, with 14 players beaten) and even Cheslin Kolbe (10) from the Stormers. The ability to beat, and then offload are related, so the two statistics will be ones to monitor across the season.

Going Forward ‘Who to Watch?’

Several names will be on the tip of fans tongues: Henry Speight for the Brumbies, Santiago Cordero from the Jaguares showed a sight of his class last weekend. Willie Britz is all over the park for the Sunwolves, and then we see Fred Zeilinga highest on the list of points takers. The Cheetahs flyhalf; coming out of the Sharks club-system, is one to watch over the year.

So in closure, we all need to understand how even after two rounds, some teams are still yet to find their feet. Familiarity is key–so teams who have played at home are all going to feel more secure, than a side like the Jaguares. They arrive home to face-down the Lions. And fans will recall how that result 2016 changed the standings in Round 17 last year. Different circumstances exist, and payback might be on the cards from the Lions.

Add that match to your ‘must watch’ list…..that means all eight games will be included. Certainly, Super Rugby is to series to watch.

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This Week In Rugby History

1938
Cliff Jones, legendary Welsh fly-half of the thirties, captained his side to an 11-5 win against Ireland on his 24th birthday

2003
England swept past Italy 40-5 at Twickenham on their way to a Six Nations Grand Slam

1982
Against a background of worldwide boycotts of the apartheid regime, a 42-man South American side, led by Hugo Porta and containing 31 Argentines, landed in South Africa for a short tour

2008
Jonny Wilkinson became the most prolific points scorer in Test history. His three penalties in England’s 15-9 defeat at Murrayfield took him to 1,099 in all Tests [Dan Carter now holds that World Record].

The ‘Week in Rugby History’ is sourced from the ESPN UK ‘on this day’ webpage.

 

“Main photo credit”

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