After Super Rugby 2020 week 2, the South African teams have started to give us an early indication of what they have to offer in the competition.
The early results
The Sharks and the Stormers have come out of the blocks fast and each has two wins after their opening two games. The Lions have won one and lost one and the Bulls have lost both of their opening games.
Super Rugby 2020
Ryan Jordan considers the early form of each team.
Cell C Sharks
The Sharks defeated the Bulls 23 points to 15 at home in Durban and then tipped the Highlanders over in Dunedin, 42 points to 20. There seems to be something decent developing in Durban. Their first game against the Bulls wasn’t really impressive, but their second game in Dunedin started to give an indication of the direction they will be taking under new Head Coach Shaun Everit.
There seems to be a renewed intent to play a faster game, which brings their potent backline into play. The new additions to their forward pack have generally been smaller, more mobile than those used under Robert du Preez. If they can secure their fair share of possession, there is a lot of promise in what the Sharks are building.
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The Sharks next game is against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday. They should fancy their chances as they have not traveled this week. Their hosts are returning home after a long haul trip including Cape Town and Buenos Aires. The Sharks received a setback earlier with the news that Curwin Bosch has to return home due to a family bereavement.
Report Card Score 7/10
The Sharks have shown a lot of promise, especially against the Highlanders. Away wins have generally been hard to come by for the South African teams, giving the Sharks a strong score.
Super Rugby 2020 will be a sentimental year for the Stormers as it is the last year they will be playing at Newlands before the grand old lady of South African rugby is laid to rest.
The Stormers first beat the visiting Hurricanes 27 points to nil at home at Newlands. They followed this up with another home win. They kept the Bulls scoreless, scoring 13 points themselves.
It is probably a bit too early to determine exactly where the Stormers are under new Head Coach John Dobson. They need to be tested properly before we can do so, but it would seem that defense would not be one of their problems in 2020.
They take on the Lions at Emirates Airline Park this Saturday.
Report Card Score 8/10
The Stormers have won 2 out of 2, not conceding any points. They would have scored a 9 or 10 if their opposition was more testing.
The Lions were disappointing during their visit to Argentina for their first game. They lost 38 points to 8. They then laboured to a 27 points to 20 win at home to the Reds.
Their main concern will be their set-piece play, which has been below par so far. Their scrum has been especially disappointing, conceding a number of penalties to the Reds this weekend. They will continue to back their youngsters though, with the likes of Tyrone Green starting to grow in stature.
The Lions host the Stormers this coming Saturday.
Report card score 6 /10
The Lions score is negatively affected by their poor showing against the Jaguares. Their score is saved a bit by their narrow victory against the Reds.
Where do we start with the Bulls? Like many other teams in the competition, they have lost a number of leading players to the Pound and the Yen. What they have done with their remaining resources and new recruits in their first two games has been poor.
They lost to the Sharks in Durban and the Stormers in Cape Town. They will always put a physical and abrasive pack of forwards onto the field. It is what happens behind that pack that is proving to be their undoing. Decision making, a lack of attacking penetration ad handling errors have really hurt them. Morne Steyn is the consummate professional at flyhalf. Head Coach Pote Human must decide what is best for his team though. The Bulls lack the ability to score enough tries to firstly win games and secondly to score enough tries to earn bonus points. Without try-scoring bonus points, it is unlikely that any team can make it through to the playoff rounds.
It is probably best that the Bulls have a bye this weekend to allow them to regroup and rethink where they are headed.
Report Card Score 4/10
The Bulls have been competitive, but not convincing. They score an extra point as they have played both games away from home. They will hope that their home form brings them better results.
This writer suspected that Super Rugby 2020 might throw up a few challenges for the South African franchises due to the amount of change they have had to adjust to. Hopefully one or two of them can mount a challenge for competition honours.
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