Hi All! I did a few articles last year during the Currie Cup, and I'll try to do an article after each round of Super Rugby action. I will only look at South African teams. I will try to stay as objective as possible.
So, the Super 15 officially got underway for everybody involved the past weekend. On Friday we had the Bulls vs the Stormers at Loftus. In a match were both teams never really got going, the Bulls, only through the accuracy of Morne Steyn's boot, were able to secure a bit of a surprise win. I thought the Bulls started the better of the two teams, with Wynand Olivier running just about straight through Elton Jantjies. While we're on the subject of Elton, I think the biggest mistake AC made was starting with Eton. Don't get me wrong, I think very highly of Elton. Maybe the lack of pre-season game-time and the tragiy of his father passing had a negative effect on his game. Maybe it just wasn't his night? Personally, I think Carlos Spencer and Butch James had major influences on Elton. He might be missing them... Read and heard a lot of Stormers supporters going on about "could have" and "should have". But the fact of the matter is that rugby isn’t about either of those things. The Bulls very slightly better on the evening, and maybe even a bit lucky. I was glad to see Morne re-finding his kicking form. 100% off the tee, and a few clever kicks behind the back three of the Stormers. I think Joe Pietersen made a big difference when he came on. Hougaard was, I my opinion, in very good form. Spies looked like he was in the mood the play the game again. (Let’s be honest, last year wasn’t his best year.) Negatives out of the game: Both line-outs were a mess. The Bulls have the best line out lock in the history of the game, but struggle to secure proper ball (although I attribute this to Chillieboy's appalling line-out throws.) The Stormers have the man who is supposed to take over from Victor, but couldn’t secure good ball either. For now I will put this down to early season rust. But I hope that both teams work hard concerning this aspect of the game. I didn’t like it one bit to see our Springbok Captain doing a classic All Black by knocking the ball out of Hougaard’s hand while the Bulls were on the front foot in a very advantageous field position. I’m not convinced on the whole “loan player” idea. I already aired my views on Elton, but I was disappointed in Jaco Taute, this coming from a BIG JT fan. Let’s hope he settles in as the season progresses. Lastly, the Stormers scrum. I don’t know what’s going on in the Cape, I thought that with Pat Cilliers coming into the squad, that maybe things will be better. I was massively disappointed to see the Stormers reverting to their old tactic of rather opting for uncontested scrums.
Second game of the weekend saw the Sharks visiting their folks back in Bloem. Oh, and play the Cheetahs… Cheetahs started like a house on fire, but the fire fizzed out quite quickly. Through nothing too special the Sharks began to build a healthy lead. But how about Willie le Roux gaining about Five metres on Mvovo in the space of 25 metres?!? He’s got some wheels!!! At half time I was thinking to myself that after all the talk from Naka Drotske about how the Cheetahs could beat anyone in Bloem, he might have been dreaming. And for the first ten minutes in the second half, it seemed as if it would continue in that fashion. As I was thinking to myself that Johan Goosen is really disappointing (after all, as they kept on hammering in the match build up, this was the battle of the Springbok 10’s), that Cheetahs house re-ignited! For the next 20 minutes the Sharks were outplayed. And did Goosen manage to change my opinion quickly!? I think everybody will now agree with Naka that the Cheetahs CAN in fact, beat anybody! I think the Cheetahs will be very disappointed in their defensive effort. Mvovo’s try was a bit of good luck, but the Cheetahs could have done a lot better in defence. Andries Strauss was sorely missed in the midfield. I think Frans Steyn had a very good game, and did well in his first game as Captain. Cobus Reinacht has impressed me since last year’s Currie Cup as well. Í think if he can continue his good form, he will surely be the second choice 9 in the Bok Setup. Then Louis Ludik. Need I say more? Since his days at the Lions, I knew he was a special player. I just hope Mr. Meyer can see past Zane’s hair, and give Louis his hard earned and well deserved chance in a Bok jersey. Lastly, although I have already spoken about my disapproval of loan players, I have to take my hat off to Franco van der Merwe. I’ve always liked him, and if Heyneke had to choose a Bok team based on the weekends performances, Franco would definitely starting in the number 5 jersey. He managed that pack of forwards like he had been part of that team for a decade. Negatives in this game weren’t much. I think Coenie Oosthuizen might feel slightly aggrieved about conceding two penalties to Tendai. I agree here. Tendai doesn’t hit straight, and he is prone to a short bind. This is all fine when he can get away with it, but it takes one referee to pick it up, and he will be penalized at each and every scrum. But, a good win to the Sharks, they did what was needed to secure four points.
Lastly we had the Kings up against the Western Farce. WOW! Need I say more??? I think the Kings managed to surprise every on (themselves included) by winning their maiden Super Rugby match. Things started off a bit jittery, but they settled down and managed to score a very good try. After about 25 minutes or so, the Force started to look better. After the break, with the Force leading 12 – 5, I thought that the Kings might have ran out of steam. Boy was I wrong! I do feel that the Force might count themselves unlucky with a few decisions not going their way. But the Kings just kept on and on and on! Luke Watson might be a big people, but he sure can play rugby! When he got injured, I thought to myself “Okay, their Captain is gone now. This is what the Force needs!” But enter Jacques Engelbrecht… I was blown away! This guy CAN play!!! But, let us keep in mind that this was just the Force, none the less a great win for the Kings. Let’s see how they fare in the rest of the competition.
Lastly a few things from the weekend that I think can improve. Apart from the Bulls v Stormers, the other two games had acres of open seats left. One of the arguments from the Kings to be able to able to play Super Rugby, was that “the people are dying to see top level rugby”. Here’s some advice, at least try to get your stadium full then??? Secondly, no matter how you change the scrum engage call, as long as the referees have various lengths of pauses in between each call, we will have collapsed scrums. One referee calls “Crouch, Touch, Set!” hardly without any pause in between, while others have at least two seconds in between each call. Sometimes I get the idea that some referees try to purposefully catch out front rows by doing this. Then, the new “five second rule”. I think it is a very good idea, but then it needs to be implemented every time. On a few occasions I got the idea that the referee forgot about it. Some refs call it immediately, while others first call it after being told to do so by the defending team.
But, the Super Rugby season is underway! Congrats to the Bulls, Sharks and Kings on their victories, and I hope that they can build on them. I’m sure that the Stormers and Cheetahs can bounce back swell. This weekend sees the Bulls take on the Farce. The Bulls will be keen to bury their bogey team of the last few seasons, and I honestly can’t see it going any other way. The Cheetahs take on the Chiefs in Hamilton, it will be a daunting task, but lest hope the Cheetahs manage a win. The Sharks host the Stormers in what I think will be another close encounter, with the Sharks edging it just because it’s a home game for them. And the Kings can have a nice rest.
Keep well until next week!