The final SA Conference games before their international break have been played. A round that saw the Jaguares take a commanding stride towards the top of the log. At the end of Super Rugby Week 15, they are now just six competition points behind the leaders – the Emirates Lions – while still having one game in hand.
Before we analyse this week’s games, here is a quick update on the Super Sport presenter ‘saga’.
Super Sport on Thursday issued a statement that said the three parties involved would not be returning to air as they had hoped earlier in the week. Ashwin Willemse, Nick Mallett and Naas Botha were replaced with Xola Ntshinga, Breyton Paulse and Victor Matfield on Saturday.
The regular presenters will now only return if they are cleared after an investigation is completed by an independent council, namely Advocate Vincent Maleka SC. Further to this it is worth noting that Saturday’s broadcast also covered the naming of the Springbok Squad by the new coach, Rassie Erasmus.
We are happy to report that there were no disruptions in the broadcast, except a microphone failure for Victor Matfield during the half-time conversation in the Bulls v Brumbies game.
An article by Cornelius Myburgh.
Super Rugby Week 15 – feature match
Jaguares 29 – Tries: Bautista Delguy, Ramiro Moyano (3); Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (3); Penalty: Sanchez.
Sharks 13 – Tries: Ruan Botha; Cons: Robert du Preez; Pens: du Preez (2).
Gracias a todos los que nos acompañaron en esta espectacular tarde de rugby.
Los esperamos el 29 de junio en nuestro próximo partido en casa.#JAGvSHA #JugamosTodos #PersonalSuperRugby pic.twitter.com/hIXYVncel5
— JaguaresARG (@JaguaresARG) May 25, 2018
The Sharks headed to Buenos Aires with history on their side. The Argentinian franchise had never beaten the Sharks, at home or away – although they have come close on a couple of occasions. The Jaguares form lately would have given them a lot more confidence when they ran out on a packed Estadio Jose Amalfitani.
Jaguares take it up a notch, as Cell-C Sharks rattled
The Sharks dominated possession in the opening minutes and while they managed to get into attacking positions, they couldn’t come away with any points. By the tenth minute, the Jaguares had been playing more than 50% of the game in the Sharks’ half. A penalty saw Nicolas Sanchez take aim and get three points up on the board for the Jaguares.
After the opening quarter, Ramiro Moyano then crossed over for the home side after some loose play in the mid-field, getting the Jaguares up to 10 points with the successful conversion from Sanchez. Two minutes later, Moyano crossed again, this time from a quick tap penalty that was spread wide to catch the Sharks’ defence napping. Sanchez made no mistake and the Jaguares had a lead of 17-0 right up until the last three minutes of the half.
To their credit, the Sharks setup their lineout weapon, and regular captain Ruan Botha managed to charge over the line putting them on the board for the first time in the game. This saw the Sharks head into the break, trailing by 10 points.
Jags take advantage of poor Sharks discipline
Early in the second half, another ruck-time penalty saw Robert Du Preez get the Sharks to within four points of the Jaguares, before Moyano again broke the line. This time he set-up Bautista Delguy to score in the left corner. Less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock, the hosts were storming ahead.
At this time, a critical moment saw Ruan Botha* get sent off with a Red Card; for a shoulder charge into a ruck which made contact with the head of an opposition player. Just when their coach and fans back in Durban needed ‘cool heads’ the captains poor discipline cost plenty.
Ruan Botha rightly picks up a red card for a no arm ruck clear out to the head.
Incidents like this will continue to happen as long as players are let torpedo off their feed into rucks
— The Scrummage (@Thescrummage) May 25, 2018
It meant the Jaguares were well placed to get the bonus point try, which they did in the last minute. Setting up an attacking lineout on the left side of the field, the replacement Scrumhalf broke to the short side and provided ‘Man of the Match’ Moyano, his third try of the night, right at the final whistle.
The Jaguares are now almost assured of a playoff spot, even though they still have to face the Stormers in Week 17. They then head over to South Africa to face the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versveld, ending their regular season with a rematch against the Cell-C Sharks at Kings Park. But regardless of how these games go, the misnomer that they are ‘easy opposition’ should now be well and truly dead.
*Note: Ruan Botha has been suspended by the SANZAAR judiciary, for four weeks.
Vodacom Bulls lose to 14-man Brumbies at home
Bulls – Tries: John-Ben Kotze, Handre Pollard, Roelof Smit; Cons: Pollard (2); Pens: Pollard (3).
Brumbies – Tries:Thomas Banks, Kyle Godwin, Andy Muirhead, Lachlan McCaffrey, Folau Fainga’a; Cons: Christian Leali’ifano, Wharenui Hawera (2); Pen: Leali’ifano.
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) May 26, 2018
The Vodacom Bulls returned from Buenos Aires last week, while the ACT Brumbies remained in South Africa and spent some time on a game farm in the lead up to their last match on tour. It was perfect conditions for rugby with long shadows spread over the pitch at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria.
The Bulls got on the scoreboard early, Handre Pollard beating two defenders expertly in the midfield, to go into the lead. He converted his own try, but a fumble a few minutes later saw the Brumbies strike back in the form of Kyle Godwin running over the hosts line.
A try by Roelof Smit saw the Bulls retake the lead at 14-10 and although there was some great handling and passing by the Bulls, they seemed tired at the end of the half and more handling errors started creeping in. They conceded a penalty late in the first half, after a massive defensive effort was required to halt the Brumbies during an intense period of play. Fortunately, the Bulls prevented any tries, while an penalty attempt wasn’t accurate, sending the teams into the dressing rooms still at 14-10.
The Brumbies came back harder in the second half. Some great interplay between David Pocock and Joe Powel saw Lachlan McCaffrey dot the ball down just right of the posts. This one Leali’ifano kicked with ease, and the Brumbies were in front. The Bulls’ scrum was under pressure for most of the match but they finally got a scrum penalty of their own, which Pollard sent over the posts; tying up the match at 17 all.
Warrick Gelant with some good stepping got John-Ben Kotze over the line, but it was referred upstairs for obstruction. The TMO was happy that there wasn’t a clear tackling opportunity, and so the try stood. After the visitors had collected a penalty, the Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga’a got the Brumbies next try and the Australian side were once again within a single scoring opportunity to retake the lead.
Brumbies show character when under pressure
Their hopes seemed to be dashed when the previous try scorer, Fainga’a, managed to get red-carded for head-butting a Bulls player. Although the impact was minimal, the Brumbies ended up with 14 players on the pitch in the last quarter of a match for the second week in a row. The Bulls fans must have thought they would now run away with the game, but the Brumbies resolved to fight hard to the very last minute. A penalty against the Brumbies captain saw Handre kick the ball over the posts for another three points, bringing the Bulls total to 28.
However, a great individual try by Tom Banks – who ran it in from 60 meters out – saw the Brumbies regain the advantage. They then somehow ended up with a big overlap on the right side of a ruck, where Andy Muirhead easily crossed the line to end the Brumbies night with a final try.
LOL😂! Brutal @BrumbiesRugby chop up @BlueBullsRugby with 14 men in their own backyard! Terrific #MOM #TomBanks had a blinder! Well played son🤙🏉And #HenrySpeight was not too shabby as a flanker😂☝️👏! #rugbyunited #rugbyunion #rugby #SSRugby #BULvBRU pic.twitter.com/HlNqk4j2t0
— Franco Lyners (@Zuffenhauzzen) May 26, 2018
The successful conversion meant the Brumbies walked away with a legendary victory over the Bulls, full time score 28-38. Their fans were as stunned as some of the crowd at Loftus. This was a game that the Bulls will have to wonder how they could not use the one-player advantage? But a slow Bulls group have left the fire which John Mitchell wished them to play with, back in the dressing rooms once too often.
DHL Stormers get serious, Emirates Lions even more so
Stormers – Tries: Raymond Rhule, Dewaldt Duvenage; Cons: Jean-Luc du Plessis (2); Pens: du Plessis (3).
Lions – Tries: Nic Groom, Corne Fourie (2), Michael (Maddosh) Tambwe; Cons: Elton Jantjies (3).
— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) May 26, 2018
The great ‘South versus North’ derby was hosted this week, by the Stormers in Cape Town. The Lions knew that the Stormers at their Newlands base are very tough to beat. The Bulls, Blues, Rebels and Reds have all lost their matches there against Robbie Fleck’s men this season.
In what appeared to be a tit-for-tat exchange, newly acquired scrumhalf Nic Groom, scored for the Lions. That was converted by Jantjes, getting De Bruin’s men within three points of the hosts. Stormers speedster Raymond Rhule then put the home side back in front with 10 minutes left in the half, after a grubber from Craig Barry was chased down and the ball grounded only just before the dead-ball line. Jean-Luc Du Plessis was a lot more accurate this week, successfully converting the try, but a yellow card to JJ Engelbrecht saw the Stormers end the half with only 14 men on the field.
Try scorer Rhule then followed Engelbrecht 10 minutes into the second half, this time for a sloppy shoulder-charge in defence. That was deemed to be a red card offence, ending his night. And in fact, Engelbrecht was lucky not to receive a second yellow card later in the game. Now at 14 men, the Lions pride soon ‘tasted blood’.
Setting up their strong attacking maul, which saw Corne Fourie smash over the line for the visitors. Elton Jantjes missed the conversion, meaning the hosts still lead but incredibly, another yellow card for a late hit on Jantjes saw Jaco Coetzee sent off for 10 minutes. Down to 13 men, it allowed the Lions to setup another driving maul close to the opposition’s line. The Fourie crashed over again in almost the exact same move, scoring again as the Lions finally got the lead with 17-19 on the board.
Brave Stormers unable to hold off Lions numbers
The Stormers came back with two more penalty kicks by Jean-Luc Du Plessis, but their night was dashed when Maddosh Tambwe scored from a lineout, giving the visitors the lead at 23-26. Surprisingly though, another 14-man victory was almost on the cards as the Stormers attacked in the dying minutes of the game. However, a panicked turnover cost them the match and showed some weakness in their game. Unlucky to lose Rhule for a reckless challenge, but they did not help themselves at home.
At the conclusion of the game, Franco Mostert received the ‘man of the match’ honours for stellar lineout and defensive performance – underlining his name for the Springboks squad.
The Stormers’ season is now all but over, still having to face the Jaguares (away) and the Sharks (at home) to close out their season. Bonus point victories in both those games might only get them to 35 points on the ladder, which is well short of where fans would have wanted them to be.
South African Conference standings: Lions 40 | Jaguares 34 | Sharks 28 | Stormer 25 | Bulls 24
Lions currently lead the conference with 40 points; with just two games still to play. The Jaguares have a game in hand, and mathematically could overhaul the Lions.
But most fans of the Bulls and Stormers will believe that any chances lost now, only make it that much harder to take the home semi-final place away from the team from Johannesburg.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images