Super Rugby Week 11: the South African Conference Key Talking Points

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Super Rugby
Bulls' South African lock RG Snyman (L) passes to Bulls' South African lock Lood de Jager (R) during the SUPERXV Rugby match between Bulls and Highlanders at Loftus Rugby Stadium on April 28, 2018 in Pretoria. (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP/Getty Images)

Super Rugby week 11 saw the Stormers and the Jaguares as winners in the South African Conference. The Lions were shocked in Brisbane, and the Bulls lost at home too, after conceding a last minute penalty.

Your weekly recap of the South African Conference key talking points is a full bag, with four results to analyse after Super Rugby week 11.

DHL Stormers 34 Melbourne Rebels 18

Stormers – Tries: Damian de Allende, JJ Engelbrecht (2),Dillyn Leyds; Conversions: Damian Willemse (4); Penalties: Willemse2
Rebels – Tries: Sefa Naivalu (2); Con: Jack Debreczini; Pens: Debreczini (2)

The Stormers pulled off a comfortable enough win against the visiting Rebels. There is nothing to get too excited about as the Rebels were coming off a really tough game against the Bulls in the previous week. All expectations were that the Rebels would fade away in the second half, but they did not. The Rebels are a shadow of the side that took the lead in the competition in the first three weeks. Both sides squandered many scoring chances and it was frustrating to watch at times.

The Stormers cannot take much joy out of this victory. Aside from a fantastic scrum performance, the Rebels matched them in just about every aspect of the game and there are still huge question marks hanging over the team and their performances. Even in victory, the Stormers performance does not equal the sum total of their player resources.

Questions regarding planning

There are two questions that could do with an answer. For the second game this year, the Stormers have hosted teams who have also played in blue. Admittedly, the shades of blue were different. For the avid watcher, the lack of a clear contrast in the jersey colour does detract from the viewing experience. Surely the Blues and Rebels have an away jersey that is not predominantly blue?

The other question we have to ask relates to SANZAAR’s planning of refereeing duties. Ben O’Keeffe blew the Bulls vs Rebels last week and did duty again this weekend for this game. There is no conspiracy theory. Teams do analyze referees and the adage of “playing the referee” is very applicable. Having the same referee for two weeks in a row just seems to be a little lax by SANZAAR.

Queensland Reds 27  Emirates Lions 22

Reds – Tries: JP Smith, Caleb Timu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, George Smith; Cons: Filipo Daugunu (2); Penalty: Daugunu
Lions – Tries: Malcolm Marx (2), Marnus Schoeman (2); Con: Elton Jantjies

Up until the 55th minute, the Lions dished up their worst display in a very long time. They were very poor in most aspects, and doing a detailed analysis would be an ugly read. We take a look at three points of interest.

Why did it take 55 minutes to switch to plan B?

It was evident that playing their usual free flowing game was not working. The Reds defense was smothering all of their attacking intent. When it was decided to play a much narrower game using their forwards to pick and drive for phases before sending the ball wide, they started to play themselves into the game and mounted their comeback and to score 22 unanswered points.

Who makes the call? The captain or the Head Coach? Whoever made the call to play tighter made the right call, but far too late.

What happened to the Lions scrum?

The Lions scrum took a hammering from the Reds. It was a strange sight to see the Reds opt to take scrums rather than penalty kicks to the posts or into the corner. In recent years, very few teams would have opted to do that and the alarm bells must be ringing at Emirates Airlines Park.

Are the Lions missing an iron fist?

Swys de Bruin is renowned for his man management and has a decent coaching CV. He is respected by players and fans alike. Are the players missing the iron fist that Johan Ackerman provided?

Of course the Lions are out of sight in the South African Conference (see bottom of page) and are also at the sharp-end of the overall standings. However, this side wants to win a Super Rugby title and thus, four points against an inconsistent Reds team would have been more than helpful in that quest.

They now head to Wellington a ‘wounded beast’ and must find that iron fist if they have hopes of defeating the 2015 champions.

Auckland Blues 13 Jaguares 20

Blues – Tries: Pauliasi Manu, Matt Duffie; Pen: Perofeta
Jaguares – Tries: Augustin Creevy, Emiliano Boffelli, Tomaso Lezana; Con: Nicolas Sanchez; Pen: Sanchez

The Jaquares continued their impressive tour of Australasia with a third consecutive win. The squad is essentially the same, so we do have to ask if the arrival of a new head coach in Mario Ledesma is the change that this franchise needed.

You can read Scott Hornell’s post-game interview with Ledesma here.

Vodacom Bulls 28 Otago Highlanders 29

Highlanders – Tries: Aaron Smith, Fletcher Smith; Cons: Lima Sopoaga (2); Pens: Lima Sopoaga (5)
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Handre Pollard, Jason Jenkins, Jesse Kriel, Penalty Try; Cons: Handre Pollard (3)

The Bulls will have been left gutted, after losing this game in the final minute. It looked as if they were down and out and the Highlanders had the game won. But to their credit, the Bulls mounted a fightback. They took the lead with minutes left to play.

What will disturb their fanbase, was the final penalty for offside at the hooter. That was all that separated the teams, and Lima Sopoaga easily slotted the kick. We take a look at a few thoughts coming out of this game.

Highlanders superior kicking game

The Highlanders used attacking kicks to beat the Bulls defense, and often had the Bulls scrambling under pressure. We can add to this; kicking for the posts, when easy points are offered. Rugby basics yes – the Highlanders kicked for posts often, with Sopoaga slotting five.

The Bulls kicked every penalty to the corner.

Handre Pollard; the General

In reality, the Bulls flyhalf did his Springbok chances a lot of good this weekend. Defensively aware, taking the ball to the line and kicking into space would all be looked at by the selectors as positives [in a losing side].

Super Rugby Week 11
Handre Pollard of the Bulls with possession during the Super Rugby match between Vodacom Bulls and Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld on April 28, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

It seems under John Mitchell, he is starting to deliver on his early promise. The competition at flyhalf is strong though, with Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus probably more worried about the scrumhalf position, leading up to the South Africa v England series.

Bulls concentration found wanting

Through the season we have seen the Bulls concede points that they really should not. Against the Highlanders, it seemed as if getting into the game at the start of the half was a problem. The conceded tries within minutes of the start as well as the restart after half time due to lapses of concentration in defense. It is a tired old cliche, but relevant.

Monday morning notes to all 23 players …….You need to play for 80 minutes!

A single, but important mistake

Over the last couple of weeks, many pundits have published articles featuring the reasons why Super Rugby has lost some of its shine. A common thread was the frustration at refereeing decisions and the overall quality of refereeing. This weekend saw a very simple, but important mistake being made.

Defending their line, the Bulls turned over position via prop Liso Gqoboka. He counter-rucked and drove through the Highlanders. The ball was picked up and the Bulls started to counter attack. They were called back and were penalized for a side entry into the ruck by Gqoboka.

Replays showed that he had made a perfect entry through the ‘gate’ and the penalty was unfounded. The net result of this was, the Bulls counter attack was snuffed out before it started. Instead, the Highlanders were gifted three points.

This is not the ‘be all and end all’ of this game, but it highlights the complaints of fans.

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What about next weekend?

The Jaguares are off to face the Chiefs in Rotorua. The Hurricanes will face the ‘wounded Lions’ in Wellington – that is the match of the round – and the Bulls will meet the Stormers in Cape Town.

The Sharks had the bye this weekend, and host the Highlanders in Durban. The ‘Landers have incredible fitness, so the Sharks must learn from their last minute loss to the Hurricanes.

South African Conference table: Lions 30 | Jaguares 20 | Bulls 20 | Stormers 18 | Sharks 18

 

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