Super Rugby Round 9: South African Conferences Talking Points

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Southern Kings player Micheal Willemse (C) celebrates after scoring a try against the Waratahs during the Super15 rugby match between Waratahs and South Africa's Southern Kings at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney on April 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Super Rugby Round 9 presented the teams in the South African Conferences with a real mixed bag of results, with very little quality to be found.

Emirates Lions 24 Jaguares 21

Emirates Lions – Tries: Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Ackermann; Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3); Penalty: Elton Jantjies

Jaguares – Tries: Matias Orlando, Rodrigo Baez, Guido Petti; Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (3)

The Lions were not the their usual fluid selves in a very close encounter against the Jaguares, with captain Warren Whiteley expressing his disappointment in the post match interviews. Some of this could be attributed to the hangover of their close and very tight encounter against the Stormers in Cape Town. The Lions were slight underdogs for that game and put in a great shift to assert themselves as South Africa’s premier Super Rugby team.

They were more effective than the Jaguares in terms of moving the ball around the field, making more running meters, passes and offloads. Jaguares captain Augustin Creevy was once again a pest at breakdown time. He won two open play turnovers and managed to effectively slow down the Lions possession. He won a further two penalties while contesting for possession.

It took a 77th minute penalty kick by flyhalf Elton Jantjies to eventually take the lead and the win.

Out talking point here is how the Lions managed to win while not at their best. They now depart on their tour to Australia for their encounters against the Force, Rebels and Brumbies. This off colour performance might just be the motivation they need to refocus them and to aim for at worst two wins out of three. They will travel without their dynamic openside flanker Jaco Kriel, who has injured his knee. The Jaguares will return to Argentina to host the Sharks next weekend.

Waratahs 24 Southern Kings 26

Southern Kings 26 – Tries: Justin Forwood, Masxisole Banda and Michael Willemse; Penalty try: Conversions: Lionel Cronje 2

Waratahs 24 – Tries: Taqele Naiyaravvoro 2, Cameron Clarke and Rob Horne; Conversions: Bernard Foley (2)

The Southern Kings, touted to be chopped from Super Rugby in 2018, deliver Australian rugby an embarrassing body blow in Sydney on Friday. Their win was built on a very strong performance by their forward pack, both at scrum and maul time.

The statistics alone should the talking point coming out of this game. If the truth be told, the Kings were just that little bit more clinical than their more illustrious opposition. They dominated the ball, with 61% of possession being chalked up against their name. Their tackle completion rate was 87% to the Tahs 83%. The Kings scrum success rate stood at 88%, the Tahs 78%. In reality, these are small margins, but modern rugby is generally won by small margins.

The context of this win should not be underestimated as it does throw the cat among the pigeons for both the South African Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union. A South African team that is almost certain to be culled from the competition has just been one of the “safe” Australian teams in their own back yard. Add this to the Rebels (also in the firing line for 2018) beating the “safe” Brumbies last weekend and it makes both Unions’ pending decisions that much tougher.

The Kings return home to Port Elizabeth to host the touring Rebels, while the Waratahs will be hosted by the Reds in Brisbane.

Crusaders 57 DHL Stormers 24

Crusaders – Tries: George Bridge 3, Kieran Read 2, Michael Olaaaotoa, Peter Samu and Manasa Mataele; Conversions: Richie Mounga 6; Penalty: Richie Mounga

DHL Stormers – Tries: Cheslin Kolbe, Bjorn Basson and Frans Malherbe. Conversions: Robert du Preez 3; Penalty: Robert du Preez

The Stormers traveled to New Zealand slightly chastised after losing a game against the Lions that they were largely touted to win. Saturday was no better for them as they were soundly beating by the Crusaders in Christchurch.

There has been some noise on social media regarding the performance of referee Paul Williams on the night, but a look at the stark reality of the numbers confirms that they were outplayed by the form team of competition. This result will be a reality check for Robbie Fleck and his charges after their convincing home form pointed towards a promising 2017 season for the Stormers.

It is not often that you will see a team rack up over 1000 meters of ball carries in a game, but this is what the Crusaders managed to do. The Stormers continued inability to be slow opponent’s ball down or to compete for possession remains an underlying issue for them and they are missing a true open side flanker. They managed to secure one turnover against the Crusaders, courtesy of winger Cheslyn Kolbe.

For their part, the Crusaders are starting to look a lot more like the champion team of old and it is hard to pick out anyone who had a bad game.

The Crusaders are off to Bloemfontein next weekend for a match up against the Cheetahs. the Stormers are up against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.

Vodacom Bulls 20 Toyota Cheetahs 14

Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Jacques Potgieter, Jesse Kriel. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (2). Penalties: Schoeman (2)

Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Paul Schoeman. Penalties: Niel Marais (3)

The Bulls managed to burgle a win from the Cheetahs grasp towards the end of an awful game of rugby. The Cheetahs tried their best to run the ball and did add some kicking to their arsenal, but in reality it was powder puff stuff in terms of the quality that can still be found in the competition.

For their part, the Bulls were awful. Their massive forward pack was made to look very ordinary at scrum time, with tighthead prop Jacobie Adriaanse getting a special working over from Cheetahs loose head prop Charles Marais.

It was also difficult to determine exactly what the Bulls philosophy is on attack other then shifting the ball out wide as quickly as possible. There is very little to mention of option runners or attacking pods as they tended to line up in the standard first phase back line formation. There seems to be an over-reliance on the likes of Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel and Warrick Gelant to provide them with a bit of individual brilliance to get them over the try line. Getting the ball as deep as they are, that is a serious ask.

The Bulls are a team in trouble and we cannot see this performance being celebrated in the boardroom at Loftus. The Cheetahs were not far behind in terms of a poor quality game, but this advert for the game will drive a lot more fans out of the stadium rather than into it.

With the injury to Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard and the recently announced impending departure of backup pivot Tian Schoeman the Bulls are rumoured to be in talks with Marnitz Boshoff, a player they released a number of years ago.

The Bulls will be glad for their bye this coming weekend and the Cheetahs face the daunting prospect of the unbeaten Crusaders in Bloemfontein.

Cell C Sharks Melbourne Rebels

Cell C Sharks9 – Penalties: Curwin Bosch 3

Rebels 9 – Penalties: Reece Hodge 3

The Rebels just about provided the same body blow to South African rugby that the Kings delivered to the Australian game. If the Bulls versus Cheetahs game was awful, the game was a grimy affair.

The Sharks were hit by two separate issues that made their target in Durban against the Rebels that much more difficult. Winger Kobus van Wyk injured himself during the warm up, necessitating a reshuffle of the Sharks backline just before the game. Lukanyo Am was moved from the bench to start at outside center, pushing young Jeremy Ward out to the wing.

As early as the 18th minute, center Andre Esterhuizen was red carded for a lifting tackle, dropping Sefanaia Naivalu on his shoulder and head simultaneously. There can be no contesting the sanction as the laws of the game make this type of offense an automatic red card.

Consistent penalties conceded by the Rebels (17) kept the Sharks (3 penalties conceded) in the game, as did conceding three yellow cards. Hooker James Hanson was put into the sin bin for collapsing the Sharks maul and scrumhalf Nic Stirzacker was shown two yellow cards for deliberately knocking down passes. The second yellow was turned into an automatic red, evening the numbers out between the two teams for the last 11 minutes.

The Sharks will be on their way to Argentina for their return match against the Jaguares and will probably be without Andre Esterhuizen as he faces a likely four week ban. The Rebels move down the coast to Port Elizabeth to face the returning Kings, who will be in a buoyant mood after their win against the Waratahs. They are likely to have Stirzacker available to play as his red card was based on two technical penalties and not foul play.

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