Super Rugby Week 5: The South African Teams

Super Rugby Week 5
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 17: EW Viljoen of the Stormers in action during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Blues at DHL Newlands on March 17, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

In Super Rugby Week 5, the South African teams provided a mixed bag of performances; both in winning and losing.

Super Rugby Week 5: Key Talking Points

Chiefs 41 Vodacom Bulls 28

Chiefs – Tries: Johnny Fa’auli, Brodie Retallick (2), Mitchell Brown, Solomon Alaimano, Anton Lienert-Brown; Conversions: Damian McKenzie (3); Penalty: McKenzie

Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Warrick Gelant, Divan Rossouw (2), Handre Pollard;  Cons: Pollard (4)

This match saw the return of vice-captain Burger Odendaal. His return, along with Handre Pollard’s move back to flyhalf saw the Bulls chalk up a very impressive performance despite their loss to the Chiefs. Pollard seems to have found the confidence that had him regarded as such a hot prospect straight out of school. His display in all facets, tackling, kicking and taking the ball up to the line must be very pleasing to Rassie Erasmus’s eyes.

The Bulls new style of play saw them trying to spread the ball from all corners, and at crucial times, men like Pollard did not take the obvious relief-kick to touch. Saying that, they had the Chiefs under significant pressure during the first quarter and the Chiefs can regard themselves fortunate not to have conceded a yellow card for continuous infringements.

It was a revelation to see Warrick Gelant score off a first phase play that was not a rolling maul, and we can expect to see more of this as the season develops.

Towards the end of the game, the Bulls started to tire and were pinged for offside play, giving the Chiefs much needed momentum. The final score was probably a little flattering to the Chiefs. The hosts will point out that they are a side ravaged by injury – the Bulls will point out that they are a very young team and are venturing into unchartered territory. Full credit given, playing a style that they are not known for but intelligent kicking might have provided valuable territorial gains.

In terms of ‘that’ yellow card… there can be no doubt that according to the way the laws of the game are written and interpreted, Coenraad van Vuuren’s high hit on McKenzie warranted a red card. He was lucky to receive an on-field yellow. Very shortly after the game, van Vuuren has since been cited and the player can expect to be little more than a spectator over the next few weeks.

On the road, the Bulls will next face a tough challenge against the Crusaders in Christchurch. They will do so without the injured Andre Warner and RG Snyman. The Chiefs are away to the Sunwolves.

Brumbies 24 Cell C Sharks 17

Brumbies – Tries: Lausii Taliauli, Henry Speight; Con: Whanerui Hawera; Pens: Hawera (4)

Cell C Sharks – Tries: Thomas du Toit, Curwin Bosch; Cons: Robert du Preez; Pen: du Preez

The Brumbies started this match on a charge, throwing the kitchen sink at the Sharks, as well as any other appliances they could lay their hands on. Their 10 point lead was scant reward for the amount of effort they put into the opening salvos. Slowly the tide turned. After a string of 7 penalties, Lachlan McCaffrey was yellow carded.

This was the first of two yellow cards that the Brumbies conceded, but the Sharks did not take full toll of this. Their lineout play was sloppy and this caused them major issues when trying to take advantage of penalty kicks to touch.

This Sharks squad is a very competent squad, but it is worth noting that the Brumbies have struggled in the first rounds of the competition. Both sides will need to improve a significant amount if they are to be competitive in Super Rugby 2018. For all the individual brilliance on show in the Sharks backline, they do seem to lack a true incisiveness on attack. Dick Muir will want to work on the before the Sharks match against the Rebels in Melbourne next weekend. The Brumbies will enjoy the bye next weekend.

DHL Stormers 37 Blues 20

DHL Stormers – Tries: EW Viljoen (2), Raymond Rhule, Dewaldt Duvenage; Cons: Damian Willemse (4); Pens: Willemse (3)

Blues – Tries: Akira Ioane, Michael Collins, Rieko Ioane; Con: Stephen Perofeta; Pen: Bryn Gatland

The Stormers returned from their disappointing tour to New Zealand, to face a Blues side that had just toppled the leading South African team; the Emirates Lions. They had won in the Lions own back yard, Emirates Park, so needed to be taken seriously.

Al the talk was of how bad the Stormers preparation had been through the week. From the long trip back home, to a bout of flu keeping many players off the practice pitch for the entire week. It did not seem to make any difference though, as the Stormers proceeded to build a lead after a strong start.

This time, there was no fairy tale ending for the Blues. No ‘after the hooter try’ to win the game. And although they remained very dangerous in open play, the tiring Stormers continued to edge their way ahead whenever the Blues got themselves within touching distance. Young Damien Willemse continues to impress at flyhalf, belying his youth and inexperience.

The Stormers will be glad for a few days off before they tackle the Reds next weekend in Cape Town. The Blues are happy as such; to take a break with the bye week off. The Auckland side will be tough at home, and play the Sharks on March 31.

Comment must be made of both teams playing strip. In the modern age of home and away jerseys, as well as an ‘alternate’ strip, it baffles the mind that both teams can take the field sharing a very similar, predominantly blue strip.

Emirates Lions 40 Sunwolves 38

Emirates Lions – Tries: Andries Coetzee, Lourens Erasmus, Malcolm Marx (2), Aphiwe Dyantyi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5)

Sunwolves: Tries: Kotaro Matsushima, Craig Millar, Hosea Saumaki, Kazuki Himeno, Atsushi Sakate; Cons: William Tupou (3), Ryoto Nakamura (2); Pens: Tupou (1)

The Lions seemed to lack their usual zip and were tardy with their decision making. The old adage of ‘never allowing the underdog to get themselves into the game’ is very relevant here. The Sunwolves were in the Lions faces throughout the game, with their very aggressive and accurate rushed defence.

This is the first point where we have to question the Lions decision making. They continued to run at the Sunwolves, which played right into their hands. There was very little to speak of in terms of focused kicking in behind the ‘Wolves rushing line of defence, to create uncertainty. Playing more directly through the forwards would also have been an option, but the Lions opted to pass to clusters of forwards. It never worked, defenders again rushed up to halt the drive forward.

A 19 to 17 half-time lead was not in the script and an historic first away win for the Sunwolves was on the cards.

 

A second point to consider was Andries Coetzee’s chip kick in the 78th minute. This is not to pick on a single player, but to try to understand the decision making. Defending their narrow lead, keeping the ball in hand and away from the opposition was what was needed. Not a 50/50 kick that nearly ended in a heart breaking score at the other end of the field.

Poor individual thought processes can destroy an 80 minute team effort.

In the end, the Lions did enough to pull off the victory, through the use of their lineout maul and the use of their back line, but it was a more difficult win than it needed to be. This close win, coupled with their home loss to the Blues last weekend should sting the Lions into action.

Lions Must be Focused to Meet 2018 Aspirations

For their aspirations to top the South African conference, they must be more focused on their match against the Jaguarez in Argentina next weekend. Establishing a large gap over their counterparts, this is no time to ‘slip up’ on the road.

The Sunwolves were again disappointed to lose by a slim margin. They travel home, and will now face the Chiefs in Tokyo. They can only dream of defeating the Waikato team–but they have a fighting spirit, and a supportive home crowd.

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South African Conference standings – Super Rugby Week 5

 

 

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