Super Rugby Round 2 ‘kicks on’ from positive start

Super Rugby Round 2 'kicks on' from positive start
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 01: Herschel Jantjies of the Stormers during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Hurricanes at DHL Newlands Stadium on February 01, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

It began last weekend. It included a ‘weather bomb’ when the Stormers fought it out with the Hurricanes. Now the competition looks to kick on with Super Rugby Round 2, and more world-class fixtures.

Seven clashes will make up this second weekend of games. Some mouth-watering local derby games – including the match-of-the-round, Chiefs v Crusaders. As well as away games for the Sharks, the Reds, the Blues, and the Hurricanes end their early-season away match schedule.

In Cape Town last week, the self-described Stormers met the Wellington-based Hurricanes. Such elaborate monikers, on this occasion the weather bomb would see the visitors held scoreless for the first time this century; 27-0. Herschel Jantjies (see main picture) and his team got their season off to a near-perfect start.

The Jaguares sit comfortably at the top of the table, no longer ‘possible’ players – now they are the team to beat. So when they face the Hurricanes in Buenos Aires, it will be a harder fixture to claim for the visitors.

Anticipating these Super Rugby Round 2 matches, the emphasis for most will be an improvement. Even while the Crusaders opened their account in the positive, they let in too many weak points for the Waratahs. The same could be said for the Sharks, and for the Chiefs.

Last week’s results provided a general positive feeling as Super Rugby kicked-off its 25th season. However, the early start to the season [January 31] left some gasping for air in the Canberra heat. Dry ground conditions so early in the calendar, caused some early season injuries too.

Still, at least the writers here at Last Word on Rugby could gladly say “thank you, its Rugby season again!”

Super Rugby Round 2 key match-ups

Several key match-ups are provided this round. Early in the year, a loss or two can be redressed over the course of 15 rounds – but nobody wants to lose twice in a row. That is certainly the case for two visiting teams.

ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels on Friday night will be critical for the ambitions of the visiting team. They scored 27 points, but were a little hapless against the Sunwolves. This week, coach David Wessels will have worked on his sides defence and their mental toughness.

The home side managed some positive energy, even in the heat of 39 degrees. Playing in that heat might have required more recovery this week, so if anything the local conditions might be playing against the Brumbies. If the sun is just as strong tonight, then whoever has the best reserves of energy could claim the all-important local derby match.

Up in Newcastle on Saturday, the two sides who lost last weekend, need to start a winning sequence. The NSW Waratahs under new coach Rob Penny showed some flashes of brilliance in round one yet ‘flashes don’t win a season’. They need to be solid, up against a team that are unpredictable.

The Blues play hot-and-cold rugby. If not by plan, then simply by their on-field efforts. Early tries seemed to give their fans hope, only for Warren Gatland’s reserves bench to simply overpower them. It will have left a bitter taste – so if anything, the Blues attitude could be to be hungrier.

The Blues need a win, as next week they play the Crusaders before traveling to Africa.

In other games, the Stormers play the Bulls, and the Lions play their first game at home against the Reds.

Match of the Round: Chiefs v Crusaders

The titleholders now look to meet one of their biggest rivals. The Waikato Chiefs team is a challenge at any time. Early in the season, still fresh and with plenty of energy, this game is the highlight of the round.

The squads have been announced, with the home side running out the majority of their stars; the other losing a key figure to early-season injury.

David Havili will assume the role of starting first-five for the Crusaders. Not his familiar role for the 10-time Champions but, a position he has always looked comfortable playing at the Tasman Makos. It does allow for Will Jordan to play at 15, with the All Black wing pairing of George Bridge and Sevu Reece. That is some back three!

Facing them, will be the returning mercurial genius of Damian McKenzie. Even with only a few matches up his sleeve, in combination with Aaron Cruden, the two sides backs will create some inventive options. Whichever defence can maintain their width and tackle from the outside in [not allowing from overlaps] will be rewarded.

This match might be right up there for intensity naturally, but when looking back at recent games, the forwards will need to do as much running, to follow the ball. Expect the loose forwards the rack-up some huge meters, and less scrums and more set moves off lineouts to dominate the proceedings.

The Chiefs rewarded Warren Gatland with his first-ever Super Rugby victory in round one. More to do with positive substitution, and a good Aaron Cruden performance. In Super Rugby Round 2, his group needs to up the anty considerably. Discipline, rugged counter-rucking and some smart option taking, is what is needed to measure up to what Scott Robertson’s men will bring to the table.

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Sunwolves must be given full credit in 2020

Enjoying a bye round, the Japan-based team will look to sustain their energy for next weekend. Just as the Sunwolves proved to be on form in 2019, they have blasted out of the starting gate this year. With more games in Tokyo, and the continued support of their mainland fans [just a single game in Singapore this season] this team looks good.

While upset might be used too often, for that opening game Sunwolves result in Fukuoka, they managed to secure a win over the Melbourne Rebels which just 26% of punters had predicted. Japan are good, yet it is unknown how much of the positivity generated from the Rugby World Cup would benefit the soon to be ejected Sunwolves. A moot discussion point.

After week one, SANZAAR could feel the facial splash of some egg on their faces – especially if the ‘Wolves continue to win.

Try of Round 1 – S’busiso Nkosi

Last weekend, S’busiso Nkosi (see below video) scored a miraculous try. Chasing a crossfield kick, the Bulls let the ball bounce, and ‘somehow’ Nkosi held the ball in midair, to score.

Sadly for his fans, Nkosi has been left in Durban to recover from what is called a ‘minor niggle’ as his team faces the Highlanders in Dunedin tonight. His try will be just one highlight of the season to date, but fans should look forward to Super Rugby Round 2, as the wealth of matches deliver on the continued high-tempo games out of the Southern hemisphere.

Last Word on Rugby will cover the full season, and encourage your feedback on our Facebook and Twitter pages. #rugbyunited

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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