Super Rugby Round Three: The African Conferences

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BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - MARCH 11: Nicolas Sanchez, of Jaguares, falls down during the Super Rugby Rd 3 match between Jaguares and Lions at Jose Amalfitani Stadium on March 11, 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Super Rugby round three produced a few interesting results as well as a touch of refereeing controversy.

Super Rugby Round Three: The African Conferences

Before we start with our overview of the weekend’s action, we take a look at our pet peeves of the week:

  1. Inconsistent application of the laws of the game – There were two examples of this over the weekend, in the Stormers vs Kings game as well as the Jaguares vs Lions game. Why do referees still apply their own interpretations on top of what World Rugby dictates what the sanction or result of an action should be?
  2. Sealing off – It seems to have become fashionable for forwards to dive over and past the ball in a ruck, with very little sanction. This kills off the ruck contest. If the law is correctly applied, the arriving player should be penalized.

Southern Kings 10 DHL Stormers 41

DHL Stormers  – Tries: Dillyn Leyds, Bjorn Basson, Rynhardt Elstadt, Robert du Preez, Justin Philips and EW Viljoen; Conversions: Robert du Preez 2 and Kurt Coleman 2; Penalty: Robert du Preez

Southern Kings – Try: Makozole Mapimpi; Conversion: Lionel Cronje; Penalty: Lionel Cronje

This wasn’t the prettiest of affairs, with far too many errors on display. For their part, the Stormers took care of business. They secured a bonus point win and can now look forward to a week off as they have the bye next weekend.

Stormers flanker Rynhardt Elstadt can consider himself lucky to have not received a serious sanction early in the game. He first took a liking to Kings lock Irne Herbst’s beard, giving it a good tug. During the same altercation, he popped a short arm “push” into the face of Kings number 8 Ruaan Lerm. It is debatable, but with World Rugby’s focus on cutting out foul play and reducing concussions it becomes the presiding officials’ responsibility to harshly punish any attempted punch and not show a player any leniency because the punch may have been a weak one.

The Stormers took a long time to find their rhythm, which they can blame partly on the number of changes made to their squad for this game. There will be some concern over the fact that they have not really put competition strugglers such as the Kings and the Jaguares to the sword more easily. The Stormers have yet to play a full 80 minutes of quality rugby this season. Pity the side facing them when they actually get this right.

For their part, the Kings were again limited on attack. Open side flanker Chris Cloete was once again a nuisance at ruck time and it will be a frustration to all that Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronje chose to kick so much of that possession behind the Stormers back three instead of distributing it. Their defense was an improvement when compared to their first two games, but still has the tendency to compress in midfield, leaving them vulnerable out wide. There were few examples of tackle dominance, allowing the Stormers to play the offloading game that suits them. They were also often caught out short on defenders out wide, with players being sucked in far too early in Stormers phase play.

While the Stormers enjoy a week off, the Kings face another tough assignment against the Sharks in Durban.

Toyota Cheetahs 38 Sunwolves 31

Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Oupa Mohoje, Clinton Swart, Rayno Benjamin. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (4). Penalties: Zeilinga (4)

Sunwolves – Tries: Shota Emi, Hayden Cripps, Kenki Fukuoka (2). Conversions: Cripps (2), Jamie-Jerry Taulagi. Penalty: Cripps

The Cheetahs stumbled past the Sunwolves in Bloemfontein, not looking anything like the team that ran the Lions so close two weeks ago and then seeing off the Bulls last week. They approached this game looking like they believed all the hype that they would win be an easy margin of around 40 points. They played a very loose game, giving the impression that this game was a trial game for the Blitzbokke.

The Sunwolves had obviously not read the same script and brought and impressive line speed to their defense as well as an attacking intent that they have not displayed earlier in their two previous games, both losses to the Hurricanes and the Kings respectively. They took advantage of some poor kicking out of hand by the Cheetahs and ran the ball back at them. Former Cheetahs loose forward Willie Britz made a pest of himself all over the field, putting in a yeoman performance for his adopted team. Flyhalf Hayden Cripps was also impressive in general play and kicking out of hand.

The Cheetahs will be well aware that they will need to raise their game for their expected cat fight against the Jaguares next weekend. The Sunwolves face the prospect of a Bulls team hurting from two opening defeats and hosting their first home game of the season.

Cell C Sharks 37 Waratahs 14

Cell C Sharks – Tries: Tera Mtembu, Curwin Bosch and Kobus van Wyk; Conversions: Curwin Bosch 2; Penalties: Curwin Bosch 6

Waratahs – Tries: Israel Folau 2; Conversions: Reece Robinson 2

The Sharks hosted the Waratahs for their first home game of the season, filled with confidence after their come back from behind win against the Reds in Brisbane last weekend. They played like a team that was happy to be home and were far more clinical than the Waratahs, feeding off and punishing the Tah’s mistakes.

The Sharks were unlucky to lose captain and flyhalf Pat Lambie as early as the sixth minute. Replacement Curwin Bosch belied his youth to step up to the plate and deliver a sparkling performance. Aside from contributing 22 points via the boot, he also scored a try and added a lot of spark to the Sharks back line. The extent of Lambie’s injury has not been made known yet and all Sharks supporters will be waiting in keen anticipation for the Monday medical report to released to hear if their skipper is out for any significant length of time.

The Sharks will face the struggling Kings outfit in Durban next weekend. After taking two beatings in South Africa, the Waratahs will now face off against the Brumbies in Sydney.

Jaguares 36 Emirates Lions 24

Jaguares – Tries: Joaquin Tuculet, Ramiro Moyano, Jeronimo De la Fuente, Nicolas Sanchez. Conversions: Sanchez (3). Penalties: Sanchez (3)

Emirates Lions – Tries: Warren Whiteley (2), Jacques van Rooyen, Malcolm Marx Conversion: Shaun Reynolds, Jaco van der Walt

Many fans will be upset at the fact that this is the second year in a row that the Lions sent an under strength team to Argentina to take on the Jaguares and the second year in a row that it has not worked out. Two of those left behind are perfectly understandable — Elton Jantjies to be at the birth of his second child and Rohan Janse van Rensburg who sadly was attending his mother’s funeral.

Although the Lions were a little under strength and lacking leadership support for captain Warren Whiteley, the Jaquares did deliver what can be considered to be one of their best performances to date in Super Rugby. The Lions were off their usual pace and intensity, possibly due to the number of changes to their run on squad.

Discipline was an issue for both teams. The Lions had to deal with two yellow cards, Robbie Coetzee and Andries Ferreira both having to spend ten minutes in the naughty chair for high tackles. On the flip side, the Jaguares, who are known for their poor disciplinary record, were given a lot of leeway by referee Nick Bryant. Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez’s indiscretions were given special interpretations. A nasty challenge in the air as well as a grass cutter tackle were both explained away as simply mistimed tackles — interpretations that do not form part of the application of the laws.

This was an inconsistent application of the laws and the Citing Commissioner has since called for Sanchez to appear before a hearing. While justice is being belated meted out, the Lions were not afforded the opportunity of playing against fourteen Jaquares as laid out in the laws.
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