Report card with a bit of everything

2015-05-13 06:00

IT’S AMAZING. People will see a rugby match and immediately pass judgement – indifferent, bad, good, sometimes even brilliant.

Rugby is a game in which success or failure of the teams involved is largely governed – as the war it often resembles – by attack and defence. Otherwise you’d get a lot of boring 0-0 results. This applies what’s more to any match from Under 10s to the Super Rugby series currently governing the lives of southern hemisphere lovers of the 15-man game.

To test the veracity of that statement let’s take some of the encounters the miracle of TV brought rugby enthusiasts last weekend.

Lack of consistency on defence put paid to a rousing attempt by the Sharks to put the overall log leaders, Hurricanes, to the sword in Wellington. The KZN franchise started like a house on fire. They led 7-0 after just six minutes. Back and forth went the lead, giving Sharks’ supporters real hope of a major upset. But gradually the old habit of sloppy defence at crucial moments began to raise its head.

The worst of them, which would turn out to be the killer-blow for the Sharks’ hopes, came as Hurricanes skipper, centre Conrad Smith, put Reggie Goodies into a gap for a try that heralded the beginning of the end for the South Africans. It was a defensive hole that shouldn’t have been there. Opposition centre, JP Pietersen, was so close he could have patted the Kiwi on the back, with an encouraging: “Go for it, lad. It’s a try all the way.” Who told Pietersen he’s a centre? The sooner he moves back to wing the better – for both the Sharks and his international career.

In all last weekend the Sharks missed 30 tackles. Perhaps the management should appoint flanker, Marcell Coetzee, as defence coach. Before the Wellington kickoff, he had made 100 successful tackles in this season’s Super Rugby Championship, missing a modest 10. There’s no arguing the case, sloppy defence has been the Sharks’ chief drawback since the start of the Super Rugby competition. Interestingly the Hurricanes remain top of the overall log by a long way – 48 points to second-placed Stormers’ 34.

You don’t get games that go closer than the Newlands affair between the Stormers and the Brumbies – the home side squeaking past the Australians 25-24. The turning point here came as flyhalf Christian Leali’ifano missed a conversion in front of the posts. Not surprisingly, you never saw a sadder face.

Opposite number, Demetri Catrakilis, never missed a trick – with five penalties, a conversion and a mammoth drop-goal for 20 points. Critics’ verdict? Dour struggle but a helluva game.

They may be only eighth on the log but Johan Ackermann’s Lions aren’t out of the playoffs yet. In a fine effort at Ellis Park they came from 3-23 at halftime to beat the Highlanders 28-23 in a thriller, sparked by an Oscar-like performance from halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies that had their Kiwi opponents reeling. Verdict: a cracker of the first order. A few more like that and Ellis Park fans will be jiving

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