By Jody Hendricks
The 2013 edition of the super 15 kicked off this weekend. Well it actually started last weekend when the Australian teams were in action but no one in South Africa really took note.
The South African conference kicked off on Friday night with the Stormers and Bulls playing in a North vs South derby.
Fans who were expecting lots of running rugby and bonus point tries were left a tad disappointed. The game as it always is when these two sides play each other was about one thing and one thing only. Defence…
Both teams made great first time tackles and it was very difficult for either team to break the game line. Discipline thus became a very important factor in the game. Both sides were penalised for various offences and this brought the two no 10’s into the game. Morne Steyn had a suburb game and slotted penalty after penalty. Elton Jantjies on the other side had an off day (evening) and missed four penalties.
The Backs were evenly matched but the Bulls forwards dominated the Stormers. This will be a worrying factor for the side from Cape Town but the return of Tiaan Liebenberg, Eben Etzebeth and Schalk Burger should boost their pack when they return from injury in coming weeks.
Three of the four tries in the game came from broken play and not as a result of set pieces or open running rugby. The try scored by Chillyboy Ralaphlele is still open for debate but I will leave that up to Naas, Kobus and Bob Skinstad to analyse this week.
The bulls will be happy with their four points while the Stormers will be disappointed that they could not even get a bonus point out of the game. But both teams can still improve, the bulls need to work on their line-outs, while the Stormers need to work on their scrums.
Sharks vs Cheetahs
This game was expected to be a one sided affair. The Sharks with several springboks in their line-up were expected to dominate the Cheetahs team who had several new faces in their match 22. And they did to certain extend. The sharks led 16-5 at half time but the side from Bloem staged a serious fight back in the second half and left the Durban outfit with some serious defending to do in the last 10 minutes of the game.
For the Sharks Pat Lambie controlled the game well at no 10 while Luwasi Mvovo showed great pace on the wing. Flanker Marcel Coetzee also had a good game and managed to score a try.
The Cheetahs outscored the Sharks by three tries to two. Johan Goosen had a solid game at flyhalf and his interplay between forwards and backs had the Sharks guessing at times. Johan Sadie who was not happy at the Bulls last season looks to have adapted well to life in Bloemfontein and scored a vital try for his team.
This game showed that there will be no easy games in the tournament. The Sharks with all the depth in their squad will have to up their game if they want to beat the Stormers next week. The Cheetahs on the other hand have got to learn to finish off these close games and not be content with bonus point losses.
Kings hold off Force
The Kings made their Super 15 debut with a “cheeky” 22- 10 win over the Western Force in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night. The Kings who has been criticized for their lack of quality players was up against a team in a similar position. The Force lost 17 players in the off season and is also in a rebuilding phase. But unlike the Kings they have a guaranteed spot in next year’s tournament, while the Kings, like all the other SA teams would want to avoid ending last in the South African conference and thus the play-off games against the lions.
What this victory did for the Kings is to let SARU know they are not going to be push overs in the tournament.
What if the Stormers or Bulls end last in the SA conference and the Lions beat them in the play-off games? I can’t imagine the smart gentleman running SA Rugby will allow one of the top teams not to participate in the competition.
So the Kings have four points after round one and it doesn’t matter who they played against, a win in Super rugby is earned and not given freely (Just ask the Lions)
The super 15 is a tough tournament and you can’t judge a team after just one game. But the side showed maturity and did not entertain the ill-discipline and off the ball incidents of the Australian team. The Kings forwards stood up to the challenge and were competitive in the scrums and held their own at the break-down.
The backline was very impressive and the centre combination of Andries Straus and Ronnie Cooke will trouble some of the top teams this year. Also let’s not forget man of the match, Sergeal Petersen. The 19 year old who was still at school last year scored two great tries and is a player Springbok Coach Heyneke Meyer should take note of.
The Kings have a bye next weekend and if the Stormers beat the Sharks and the Force produce a miracle and beat the Bulls at Loftus, the team from the Eastern Cape will be top of the South African conference. (Please don’t tell Kevin De Klerk this)
We’ve had some great rugby this past weekend and some players gave a good account of themselves while others looked a bit rusty and below par. So after round one in the Super 15 this is what my SA team looks like.
15 Louis Ludik (Sharks)
14 Sergeal Petersen (Kings)
13 Ronnie Cooke (Kings)
12 Andries Straus (Kings)
11 Luwasi Mvovo (Sharks)
10 Pat Lambie (Sharks)
9 Francois Hougaard (Bulls)
8 Duane Vermeulen (Stormers)
7 Pierre Spies (Bulls)
6 Marcel Coetzee (Sharks)
5 Andries Bekker (Stormers)
4 Flip v/d Merwe (Bulls)
3 Werner Kruger (Bulls)
2 Deon Fourie (Stormers)
1 The Beast (Sharks)