Super Rugby Round 14 – A Mixed Bag for the South African Conference

Super Rugby Week 14
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 19: Elton Jantjies of the Lions with his children Elton junior and Noah on his 100 match during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park on May 19, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

With almost all of the games being must-wins for the South African teams in Super Rugby Round 14, the chase for playoff spots intensify after some surprising results.

Super Rugby Round 14

An article by Cornelius Myburgh

Before we take a look at this weekend’s games, we must mention the tense altercation that happened in the Super Sport studio between Ashwin Willemse, Naas Botha and Nick Mallett. Last Word on Rugby will not be commenting on the merits of either side of the argument until the full truth is revealed, other than it happened and that there will be a lot more to come on this subject.

DHL Stormers lose out, Sunwolves make history

Sunwolves 26: Tries – Hayden Parker, Grant Hattingh; Conversions – Hayden Parker (2); Penalty Kicks – Hayden Parker (3); Drop Goals – Hayden Parker.

Stormers 23: Tries – Dillyn Leyds (2), JJ Engelbrecht; Conversions – Jean-Luc Du Plessis; Penalty Kicks – SP Marais (2).

The game started while cameras were still being setup around the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong on Saturday. After a few handling errors and testy exchanges, it was clear that the Sunwolves had shown up to play even after losing a few key players to International duty for Japan. Dillyn Leyds however scored a brilliant opening try by running the ball from his own half in the 6th minute. Not finding any support runners, he backed himself and scored in the corner, barely managing to get the ball over the line before being tackled into touch. A look from the TMO confirmed that there was at least some portion of the ball grounded on the line and the Stormers were on the board. Jean-Luc Du Plessis, returning after an extended injury in 2017, took over the kicking duties from Damian Willemse who is currently playing for the South African U19 squad in their World Cup. He missed the conversion for the try, but got another chance after JJ Engelbrecht crossed over for the Stormers’ second try in the first 20 minutes of the game.

The Sunwolves hit back with Hayden Parker getting over after Fumiaki Tanaka broke through the middle of the field. He converted his own try but it wasn’t long before the Stormers struck back from a grubber kick that was chased down by Dillyn Leyds. Somehow he managed to get his fingers on the ball just before it crossed the dead-ball line. Jean-Luc’s conversion attempt hit the posts which brought the scores to 7-17 for the visitors. After a successful Penalty Goal from Hayden Parker, who hasn’t missed any kicks in his last two games, the teams headed into the change rooms with only 7 points separating them at half time.

The game was played early in the afternoon, with temperatures being reported to be in the mid-to-high 30s and Humidity above 70%. It appeared that the conditions favoured the Sunwolves as the Stormers’ players started huffing and puffing in the dying minutes of the first half. When they returned to the field, it was clear the break hadn’t done much to replenish their energy. 8 minutes into the second half they were being run off their feet by the Sunwolves.

Grant Hattingh struck back for the Sunwolves after some brilliant passing from the forwards. Heydan Parker converted the try from right in front of the posts, bringing the teams to 17 all in the 55th minute.

The game was on as the Sunwolves sensed a victory and started running the ball more confidently, almost from anywhere they got possession. SP Marais took over the kicking duties and managed to kick a penalty to give the Stormers the lead again, but it was equalised shortly before the end of the game by Hayden Parker. The Sunwolves took the option to go for posts with less than a minute left on the clock. This forced the Stormers to keep playing after the restart to avoid ending the game in a draw. With no time left, the Sunwolves managed to turn over the ball, get up into the Stormers half and Hayden Parker became Hong Kong’s hero after kicking a drop goal from about 35 meters out. Winning the game for the Sunwolves and making history with their first 2 successive wins in the competition.

Cell C Sharks shape up, Chiefs take a hit for the team

Cell C Sharks 28: Tries – Lwazi Mvovo, Robert Du Preez, Cameron Wright; Conversions – Robert Du Preez (2); Penalty Kicks – Robert Du Preez (3).

Chiefs 24: Tries – Charlie Ngatai, Solomona Alaimalo, Tyler Ardron; Conversions – Marty McKenzie (3); Penalty Kicks – Marty McKenzie.

The Chiefs headed to Durban’s Kings Park with some key players missing due to All Black duties. However, as Nick Mallett said in the build-up, there is no such thing as a weak New Zealand side. The Sharks were in a tough spot on the Conference log, sharing second place with the Bulls and Jaguares and only one-point clear of the Stormers. The Chiefs are also chasing a playoff spot and had already recorded one victory from their tour of South Africa so far.

Robert Du Preez opened the Sharks’ score sheet after taking a shot at the posts in the 4th minute. He then added a try in the 9th minute after some magical handling by Armand (Akker) van der Merwe and successfully converted it, bringing the scores to 10-0 for the home side. It wasn’t long before the Chiefs got some points of their own when Tyler Ardron rushed over from a deep lineout throw. Marty McKenzie, standing in for his brother Damian, converted it successfully.

Despite the ideal conditions, multiple handling errors made it a scrappy game with many scrum resets and turnovers being conceded by both sides. Marty McKenzie kicked a penalty late in the first half to tie up the scores. Another series of errors by both teams meant the half ended with another knock-on, sending them into the sheds at 10 all.

Lwazi Mvovo got over easily in the opening minutes of the second half from quick backline passing, scoring in the corner.  Robert Du Preez failed to convert which gave the Sharks a lead of only 5 points. Charlie Ngatai then quickly hit back with a mid-field interception, scoring between the posts. The try was quickly converted by McKenzie, giving the lead to the Chiefs for the first time in the match but that was short lived. Robert Du Preez kicked a Penalty in the 50th minute bringing the totals to 18-17.

Another penalty was missed by Robert Du Preez (who was no longer sporting his signature moustache) but Cameron Wright, the backup scrumhalf, managed to break the line from a strong Sharks’ scrum. This gave the home side a bit of breathing room in front. It was successfully converted, taking the Sharks up to 25 on the scoreboard. Putting them just clear of a converted try from the Chiefs at 17.

By the 55th minute, the Sharks’ ran on many of their replacements knowing how deadly the Chiefs could be in the dying quarter of a match. Another successful genalty Goal saw them going to 28 points up with only 12 minutes to go, still by no means guaranteed a victory. The Chiefs managed a late try after the hooter but it was too late to snatch a second win on tour against the boys in black. It did however give them a losing bonus point which means they now have 32 points on the log with the Sharks on 28.

Emirates Lions back home, Brumbies seek revenge

Emirates Lions 42: Tries – Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Lourens Erasmus, Ruan Dreyer, Robbie Coetzee, Marnus Schoeman, Shaun Reynolds; Conversions – Elton Jantjes (6); Penalty Kicks – None.

Brumbies 24: Tries – Thomas Banks (2), Tevita Kuridrani; Conversions – Christian Leali’ifano (3); Penalty Kicks – Christian Leali’ifano.

A series of poor performances on tour meant the Lions were also in a must-win situation on Saturday afternoon at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Both Tevita Kuridrani and Elton Jantjes were playing in their 100th games for their teams. Elton was honoured by being allowed to take to the pitch alone, carrying his two children, one on each arm, onto the field with him.

The game got underway quickly as the Brumbies fullback, Thomas Banks, scored in the opening minute, breaking through after a missed tackle from Jantjes. Christian Leali’ifano converted the difficult kick to give the Brumbies a lead of 7 points in the 2nd minute of the game. A try from Sylvian Mahuza was disallowed after being referred to the TMO, but the Lions got on the board in the 8th minute when Rohan Janse van Rensburg crashed over 2 defenders and managed to dot the ball down comfortably. Jantjes, who had created the space for Janse van Rensburg with an inside pass, then converted the try, tying the match up at 7 all.

The Brumbies were back in the Lions’ half only 5 minutes later which saw Kuridrani crash over to score a try in his centenary match for the franchise, which was also successfully converted by Leali’ifano. The Lions then settled into their tried and tested game plan, using the structure of their set-pieces to grind the Brumbies down. They mauled over in the 29th minute, getting Robbie Coetzee over the line with a well worked lineout. The Brumbies hit back with a Penalty Goal, but the Lions returned to the Brumbies line in the dying minutes of the half, setting up another lineout try. This time it was the Prop, Ruan Dryer, who got the ball across and brought the half time scores to 21-17.

The second half saw Banks crash over the replacement flank, Marnus Schoeman, to give the Brumbies the lead again by scoring another try just to the left of the posts. After the conversion the Brumbies lead by 3 points, but they then lost their powerful Lock Rory Arnold with a red card for a shoulder charge on Jantjes. Arnold had already been yellow carded in the first half for collapsing a maul, so would have to watch the remainder of the match from the stands even if this had been deemed to only be a second yellow card offence. Another yellow card followed for Sam Carter 2 minutes later, which meant the Brumbies never scored again and the Lions ran away with the game. Marnus Schoeman scored from a lineout, then Shaun Reynolds crossed over in the mid-field, bringing the game to 35-24 after both tries were converted by Jantjes.

A chip kick over the top from Jantjes saw the ball recollected just beyond the Brumbies backline and handed off to Lourens Erasmus to score the final try of the match. The accuracy of Jantjes kicking not being an issue this week as the Lions ended up comfortable winners with 42 to 24 at full time.

Vodacom Bulls head west, Jaguares want to keep their recent form

Jaguares 54: Tries – Emiliano Boffelli, Bautista Delguy (2), Matias Orlando, Sebastian Cancelliere, Nicolas Sanchez, Marcos Kremer; Conversions – Nicolas Sanchez (5); Penalty Kicks – Nicolas Sanchez (3).

Vodacom Bulls 24: Tries – Warrick Gelant, Nick De Jager, Andre Riaan Warner; Conversions – Handre Pollard, Manie Libbok (2); Penalty Kicks – Handre Pollard.

The Bulls headed to Argentina for the final match of Round 14 in the Super Rugby Tournament, to face the in-form Jaguares at home. Both teams had 24 points on the log, with the Jaguares placed just above the Bulls as they have gathered more wins in the season so far. The Jaguares have also been on a winning streak from round 9 onwards, which they were eager to keep going.

Some shuffling in the backline was met with raised eyebrows from Bulls fans as John Mitchell moved his regular fly-half to inside centre and gave Manie Libbok a start in the number 10 jersey. This didn’t seem to pay off as the Bulls defence was too narrow, causing a lot of gaps out wide. These gaps were targeted and eventually beautifully exploited by the home side. The first try came from a ruck in the corner which setup Nicolas Sanchez to dive over. He then successfully converted his own try giving them a lead of 7. The Bulls managed to get one back in the 11th minute with Warrick Gelant running around the mid-field defence to score for his team. The conversion was good and the match tied up at 7 each after the first 12 minutes.

Shortly after, a Penalty against the Bulls for not rolling away gave Sanchez the opportunity to get the Jaguares back in front, which he did with ease. The Bulls got one of their own which Handre Pollard kicked from far out, it was sent right down the middle and the Bulls again tied up the game at 10 points each. Batista Delguy scored next with some fancy stepping out wide to end the first half with 10 points up for the home team.

The Bulls needed a much stronger showing in the 2nd half if they were to win this game. It was the Jaguares however who upped the tempo and looked dangerous from the kick-off. Marcos Kramer finally crossed over in the 47th minute after some hard work from the forwards. Followed soon after by Delguy getting his second in the corner. By this time the writing was on the wall for the Bulls, making it clear that the Jaguares had become a force to be reckoned with in this year’s competition.

More tries by Matias Orlando and Sebastian Cancelliere saw the lead stretched to an untenable margin. The Bulls seemed to have given up on the match until the last few minutes, when a cross-field kick stuck in the hands of Andre Warner who ran over and scored, bringing the Bulls’ total to 24 after the conversion. The Jaguares were not finished though, managing to get back into the Bulls half before the end of the match. They got Emiliano Boffelli over the line to cement their win over the South African team in style. Another successful conversion from Sanchez saw them end their night on 54 points.

The conference now only has 2 real contenders for a playoff spot, however some rematches loom in the future. The Jaguares will play the Sharks (Home and Away), the Bulls (Away) and the Stormers (Away) in their remaining regular season games. Still plenty of chances for them to truly put nails in their opposition’s coffins and reach the playoffs for the first time in their history in the Super Rugby competition.

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