Super Rugby Week 12: The South African Conference Key Thoughts

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Cell C Sharks
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 05: Makazole Mapimpi of the Cell C Sharks tackled by Patelesio Tomkinson of the Pulse Energy Highlanders during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and Highlanders at Jonsson Kings Park Stadium on May 05, 2018 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Super Rugby Week 12 saw the Jaguares, Stormers and Sharks emerge as winners and the Bulls and Lions both tasting defeat away from home.

Super Rugby Week 12: The South African Conference

There is a lot that can be said of the South African Conference. The quality is there in fits and starts and consistency remains a major concern. The Jaguares have bucked this trend recently, but generally fans are left wondering which team will pitch up on the day. Will there be celebrations or complaints in the stands?

We take a look at a few key thoughts coming out of Super Rugby week 12.

Chiefs 19 Jaguares 23

Chiefs – Try: Jesse Parete Conversion: Damian McKenzie Penalties: McKenzie (4)

Jaguares – Tries: Ramiro Moyano, Penalty Try Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez Penalties: Emiliano Boffelli, Sanchez (2)

The Jaguares completed their tour of Australia and New Zealand with a perfect record. Played four. Won four. They are finally starting to string together the results that we would expect from a squad filled with Argentine Test players. For the Last Word on Rugby match report, you can read New Zealand’s Scott Hornell‘s analysis here.

Hurricanes 28 Emirates Lions 19

Hurricanes – Tries: Ben Lam 3 and Ardie Savea Conversions: Beauden Barrett 4

Emirates Lions – Tries: Nic Groom, Marnus Schoeman and Sylvian Mahuza Conversions: Elton Jantjies 2

The Lions let their fans down again with another sub par performance. The Ben Lam show put paid to any hope they may have had of avenging their shock loss to the Reds last weekend. If the truth be told, the Lions are starting to look like a side losing their way, with both defense and attack starting to fall short of their usual high standards.

Lions Defensive Frailties

The Lions defense really let them down against the Hurricanes. Ben Lam’s first try was the result of poor play by Lions wing Ruan Combrinck. After missing touch with a poorly executed exit kick, Combrinck missed the tackle when Lam ran back at him. Ardie Savea’s try, the Hurricane’s second, was the direct result of a missed tackle by Combrinck on the halfway line. Strangely, he was defending in center field at the time.

Lam’s hat trick try came after Beauden Barrett broke out from within the Hurricane’s 22. After a ruck in the Lions 22, three Lions defenders were attracted to a single Hurricane’s runner, with Lam finding himself as the extra man on the outside, allowing him to canter in for the score. Three mistakes. Three tries.

DHL Stormers 29 Vodacom Bulls 17

DHL Stormers – Tries: Damian Willemse, Wilco Louw, SP Marais and Ramone Samuels

Conversions: Willemse 3 Penalty: SP Marais

Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Lood de Jager and Jason Jenkins Conversions: Handre Pollard 2

Penalty: Handre Pollard

This was a rather strange game to watch. The Stormers put the Bulls under immense pressure in the opening quarter and built up a 12 points to nil lead. The Bulls did not buckle under the pressure and fought their way back to take the lead. As much as the Stormers deserved their victory, the Bulls managed to engineer a loss out of a promising situation.

Stormers set piece play

The Stormers were far superior at scrum time, often hammering the Bulls scrum. We identified the scrum as the Bulls potential Achilles heel in our preseason analysis and this came back to haunt them on Saturday. Regular loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman was absent due to suspension. Tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane was a late withdrawal from the Bulls squad. Both were sorely missed and the pounding the Bulls scrum took with their second string props is a stark reminder of how badly the Bulls have recruited in the front row. Stormers tighthead, Wilco Louw, a Bulls discard, had an almighty game against his former team.

A second aspect surrounding the Stormers set piece play was their defense around the set piece. They simply did not allow the Bulls to gain any momentum off their own set pieces and quickly cut off any attacking intent.

Bulls poor exit play

The Bulls are hell-bent on playing positive running rugby. Doing so within their own 22 puts them under pressure and they leak points. This was highlighted by Andre Warner’s ill-advised box kick from within the 22. The kick was poorly executed and lead directly to Ramone Samuels’ try. A dropped kick off receipt also lead to SP Marais’ try. The Bulls will have to learn to apply the percentages better and use the big boot of Handre Pollard to get themselves away from the danger zone.

Sloppy execution

When the Bulls get it right, their new style of play is fantastic to watch. Their ‘center’ pairing of Lood de Jager and RG Snyman makes them a difficult prospect to deal with. This weekend, they were far from fantastic. Their passing left a lot to be desired as passes were generally off the mark and slowed their attack down, making it easier for the Stormers to rush up and put the Bulls under pressure.

Congratulations are due to Stormers captain Siya Kolisi on his 100th appearance for the Stormers.

Cell C Sharks 38 Highlanders 12

Cell C Sharks – Tries: Akker van der Merwe, Makazola Mapimpi, Dan du Preez, S`Bu Nkosi, Robert du Preez Conversions: Robert du Preez (5) Penalty: Du Preez

Highlanders – Tries: Dillon Hunt, Teihorangi Walden Conversion: Lima Sopoaga

In the same preseason analysis referred to earlier, we put the Sharks forward as a team to watch in the tournament. Their performances this year have fallen well short of the mark and quite frankly disappointing. What they delivered on Saturday afternoon will have Sharks supporters wondering where this team has been hiding all year. There is very little to pick the bones out of after this game, but we can make a few points.

Highlanders lack of intensity

The Highlanders are a team that love to attack from broken play. This was largely absent this weekend and their attack was mostly ineffectual. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the Highlanders had to dig very deep last weekend to beat the Bulls in Pretoria. Add to that the Sharks much improved intensity and cohesion and we can understand this result. Everything just seemed to work for the Sharks.

Combined Sharks effort

For the first time this season, the Sharks had their entire squad playing at the same level. The Sharks bullied the Highlanders up front and the result took care of itself. It would be difficult to point out a single Sharks player who did not perform. This was comfortably the best Sharks performance this year.

A little tongue in cheek, but we thought we simply had to use this tweet for some fun:


Next week, the Highlanders are back at home to face the Lions and the Stormers host the touring Chiefs. There is a grudge return match between the Bulls and the Sharks in Pretoria to look forward to. The Jaguares will enjoy a well earned bye.

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