Super Rugby Week 7: the South African Teams

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Super Rugby Week 7: the South African Teams
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 31: Ruan Botha scores a try for the Sharks during the round sevens Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Sharks at Eden park on March 31, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

In a shortened version of your weekly update of the South African teams in the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby competition, there was another mixed bag. Super Rugby Week 7 brought some infrequent offshore success, underlined by a classic local derby match.

This mixed bag also saw one of the expected competition leaders suffer another loss, but that was against the reigning champions – so a tough opposition. But still, with four of the five South African conference teams in action, there is still much to report

[Note: Ryan Jordan is unavailable to bring you his regular weekly column].

Super Rugby Week 7: the South African Teams

Blues 40 Sharks 63

Blues – Tries: Michael Collins, Akira Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu, Stephen Perofeta, Rieko Ioane, George Moala; Conversions: Perofeta (4), Bryn Gatland (2)

Sharks – Tries: Ruan Botha, Jean Luc du Preez, Tera Mtembu, Robert du Preez, Kobus van Wyk, Curwin Bosch; Cons: R du Preez (6); Penalties: R du Preez (7)

The immediate match report is available here. But it was good news for weary Sharks fans, who had seen two losses on their teams four-week offshore schedule. The fifth win over the Blues, brings the side together after some tough times.

Head coach Robert du Preez told waiting media “We’re obviously pleased with the win, it has been a tough two or three weeks on the road. I think the big thing for us was the effort was there in the previous games, especially in the last game, but the accuracy was lacking.

That was something we spoke about the whole week, to be more accurate when we do have the opportunities,” he said.

The 38 point haul for son Robert du Preez got a thumbs up from his father, but as much from his coach. Not breaking the all-time record, but certainly a demonstration of the players radar boot, but also of the indiscipline and infringement from the hosts.

On the road, the Sharks will next face the Hurricanes in Napier, looking to at least bring their confidence with them. The ‘Canes will need to be sure they don’t give away too many kickable penalties.

Bulls 33 Stormers 23

Bulls – Tries: Adriaan Strauss (3), Johnny Kotze, Jesse Kriel; Cons: Handre Pollard (4)

Stormers – Tries: Jan de Klerk, Damian De Allende, Siya Kolisi; ConsDamian Willemse
Pens: Willemse (2)

The match of the round, this Super Rugby Week 7 clash was both exciting and, sometimes a complex mix of errors and execution. Mixed, but also breathtaking in the pressure applied by each side.

The scoring opened within six minutes, with a classic lineout move seeing Adriaan Strauss score. A great way to mark his record-breaking 149th Super Rugby appearance, his night would get even better with a second and then a third try. Superb reward for the many years of service, that the former Springboks captain has provided.

One highlight for the home sides fans, was the effectiveness of first five Handre Pollard. Known for his precise attention, he showed that the industrious style that John Mitchell wishes the team to run, is rubbing off. Breaking the line, he fed the outside backs brilliantly. But, not to be outdone, the Stormers had come to play.

First they used a similar set-play from the lineout, to drive Kobus van Dyk over. But the next attack from the Stormers showed their determination. van Dyk was the provider, passing to Damian De Allende who used a perfectly weighted chip and chase to great affect. Down 19-18, it showed that the local derby was alive and well in Pretoria.

Terrific climax to Bulls v Stormers derby match

Watching the highlights only gives a sense of the tumultuous challenge that the Stormers offered. Still mixed with some messy play, including an ugly piece of stomping from Pieter-Steph du Toit – who might likely be reprimanded further.

Once Strauss collected his hatrick, the opposition decided to fight back. Dillyn Leyds instigated a breakout and Siya Kolisi showed great vision to be in the right place and cross the line. Brilliant action.

While the home team were confident enough to score again, their fans would have to ‘sit tight’. At 33-23, and ten minutes to play, the Bulls seemed to be caught in transition. They waited for attack, and had to absorb plenty of attempts to score. The Stormers had chances, but loose ball security will haunt the team from the Cape. The Bulls cannot do that again, as another team might have overhauled them.

The Bulls end their losing streak, and enjoy a much needed bye. Meanwhile the Stormers must collect their gear, examine their attack [hoping that du Toit is not removed for any period] and then look forward to meeting the inconsistent Lions next weekend.

Lions 8 Crusaders 14

Lions – Try: Madosh Tambwe; Penalty: Elton Jantjies

Crusaders – Tries: Sam Whitelock, Jack Goodhue; Cons: Mitchell Hunt (2)

In an match with such a low score, the fleeting opportunities were more often blighted by solid defence. Tougher than ever, the tackling was ‘bone rattling’ and the usual 50 plus point results usually witnessed at Emirates Airlines Park, were effectively squashed by committed forwards and frustrated backs.

A lack of scoring – or more so, a lack of scores that met the TMO’s inspection – the teams were still able to produce quality rugby. The first try of the day was by ‘arguably’ the quickest winger in Super Rugby. So far in 2018, left wing Madosh Tambwe is a revelation. He is the livewire, and when shared the ball, had no doubt where the tryline was. This young man will certainly continue to excite when given space.

But the visitors are the reigning champs. They have skill and purpose, yet replacement first-five Mitchell Hunt, seemed to have the jitters. He missed kicks and had tries disallowed for forward passes. It all looked a little rushed, and even Sam Whitelock seemed to be frustrated early.

That direction came in change shed at halftime. Whether Scott Robertson ‘threw the toys’ or offered some passionate speech, it worked. They upped the tempo, and were rewarded when the skipper scored after 13 phases of play. And with the sideline conversion, Hunt grew in his confidence too.

Crusaders second half outgunned Lions attack

Robertson then made a strategic substitution, and number 23 Manasa Mataele barged through the line, to offload for Jack Goodhue. That second converted try might have been the start of more Crusaders scoring, but gladly for home fans, the Lions suck with their structure.

Even with that solid defence, it doesn’t change the fact that the Lions claws have been dulled. They attempted to gain territory, but had to be wary of giving away points easy; as they had been guilty of in recent weeks. If they can address the confidence issue they clearly have, then the claws can be regrown.

The Lions now invite the Stormers, which might again produce some entertaining derby action. Still leading the conference, the Lions hold a seven point advantage over the Stormers and Sharks; both equal on 13 competition points.

The Crusaders finish their South African conference leg, by meeting the rested Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

 

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