In Super Rugby Week 1 three of the four South African franchises started with success and a reasonable quality of rugby.
Super Rugby Week 1
Sunwolves 10 Cell C Sharks 45
Sunwolves 10 – Try: Shane Gates Conversion: Hayden Parker Penalty: Hayden Parker
Cell C Sharks 45 – Tries: Akker van der Merwe 2, Daniel du Preez, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Jeremy Ward Conversions: Robert du Preez 5 and Rhyno Smith Penalty: Robert du Preez
The Sharks were a little sloppy in the first half, turning over possession a little too often. They overcame this with a powerful scrum performance and a superior kicking game. This pressurized the Sunwolves into ill-discipline, conceding penalties that kept them on the back foot.
The Sharks simply overpowered and outplayed their less illustrious opponents.We may only be in the first week of the competition, but the Sunwolves are going to have to dig deep to be at the very least competitive in 2019. They will have to find a big season either in 2019 or 2020 to justify their continued participation in the competition.
This was an impressive performance from what is essentially a very young Sharks squad with a sprinkling of experienced players.
Vodacom Bulls 40 DHL Stormers 3
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Rosko Specman (2), Johnny Kotze, Jesse Kriel Conversions: Handre Pollard (4) Penalties: Pollard (4)
DHL Stormers – Penalty: SP Marais
Former Blitzbok star Rosko Specman announced his Super Rugby debut in style, scoring two tries. His contribution was worth far more than that though. His kick chase was superb, keeping the Stormers under pressure in their own half.
Both teams experienced problems with their set phases. The Bulls were wobbly at scrum time in the first half. The Stormers were poor at lineout time, losing five of their own throws.
The Bulls were impressive in attack, as four tries will confirm. What was even more impressive was their commitment on defense. Their defensive line snuffed out all of the Stormers attacking efforts. Even after the final hooter, they defended their line into the 82nd minute to blank the Stormers out in terms of try scoring.
In reality, the Bulls outplayed the Stormers in every facet of the game and the Newlands faithful will be very disappointed
Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard earned a well deserved Man of the Match award. His game management and kicking off the tee and out of hand was superb. He also weighed in with a number of significant tackles.
Jaguares 16 Emirates Lions 25
Jaguares – Try: Santiago Medrano Conversion: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla Penalties: Bonilla (3)
Emirates Lions – Tries: Marnus Schoeman (3) Elton Jantjies (2) Penalties: Jantjies (2)
All the smart money was on the Jaguars to win this game fairly easily. The Lions had lost at their three previous attempts in Buenos Aires. The experienced Jaguares team was expected to dominate a Lions team that had lost a lot of their firepower up front to the Gallagher Premiership in England.
The smart money was wrong.
The Jaguares put the Lions under early pressure with impressive line speed in their rush defense. This caused the Lions to rush a lot of passes and to lose the ball in contact.
The Lions countered this with a superb display in the forwards that was probably not expected given their loss in forward resources, along with a stout performance in defense.
Marnus Schoeman scored a hat trick of tries, continuing his impressive try scoring record. This was made possible by an impressive performance at both scrum and maul time. It was impressive to watch the Lions take on the Jaguares scrum on their own put-in.
It was strange to see how the Jaguares team, with 740 Test caps, started to panic when they fell behind the Lions and had to chase the game.
Super Rugby Week 2
Next week, the Sunwolves host the Waratahs. The Sharks host the Blues and Stormers host the Lions. In the final game of the weekend, the Jaguares host the Bulls.
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