Year in review: Green and Gold gets ruggered

2011-12-23 09:40

The 2011 season will go down as one of the most disappointing years for our proud rugby nation on the international front.

At least the Golden Lions Rugby Union and their fans had one of the most memorable years in their history.

The Springboks crashed out of the Rugby World Cup in the quarterfinals in New Zealand after being pipped 11-9 by foes Australia.

They registered only one Tri-Nations victory against a New Zealand “B” side in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

Their latter result could be forgiven, given the fact that more than 20 star players were on the sidelines with niggling injuries during the away leg. The star team only played the two home matches.

But the World Cup will remain a bitter pill for most of the players and die-hard fans for years to come.

Apart from the poor refereeing in the quarterfinal, tThe Springboks lacked innovation in attack.

Boasting the most territory and possession, and having one of the best goal-kickers in flyhalf Morné Steyn, the mighty Green and Gold opted to kick only one drop goal.

Mistakes such as the marginal forward pass from Jean de Villiers to Patrick Lambie en route to the tryline and opting to kick for touch rather than having a shot at goal after being awarded a penalty in Australia’s 22m area, came at a high cost.

In Super Rugby, the Stormers became the first rugby franchise to lift South Africa’s conference trophy – under the new competition format – after winning 12 of their 16 matches.

This earned them second spot on the combined log standings – behind Australia’s Queensland Reds – for a home semifinal in Cape Town.

The Sharks also sneaked into the top six on the combined log for a play-off spot after shoving aside defending champions Bulls in their final match.

But after a long journey to New Zealand to face the highriding Crusaders, they suffered a heavy 36-8 defeat.

The Saders defied the odds by thumping the Stormers 29-10 in a one-sided encounter to book their place in the final against the Reds in Brisbane, Australia.

The Reds, this season’s surprise package, were crowned the Super Rugby champions for the first time.

On the domestic front, the Lions finally gave their fanatical fans something to smile about.

A combination of consistency in selection and the fact that the Blue Bulls, Sharks and Western Province were missing their star players due to the World Cup, allowed the Joburg Pride to work their way to the top of log table with 10 victories in 14 matches.

Their impressive form continued in the semifinal where they beat Province 29-20.

The Sharks beat the Cheetahs 20-13 to book their place in the final.

With the Sharks’ Springbok players looking exhausted and the team battling to gel as a unit, the Lions ran riot inside the den for a convincing 42-16 win and first Currie Cup title in 12 years.

Next season, the Super Rugby format will change slightly as a three-week break has been incorporated into the series in June to accommodate the domestic tours.

Meanwhile, Argentina will feature in the new Rugby Championship with the Tri-Nations teams, which should give the fans something new to look forward to.

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