Super Rugby

S15: SA’s travel angst has returned

Cape Town – South African teams have slumped to “nought from eight” from tour matches in Australasia thus far in the 2018 Super Rugby season … suggesting a return to the dark days of rank ineptitude abroad.

The comprehensive defeats for both the Sharks (46-14 to the Rebels) and Bulls (33-14 to the Crusaders) in the latest round ensured retention of the stubborn duck.

It is an even split: four reverses in Australia, four in New Zealand.

Although it is some comfort that South Africa’s best team for the past two seasons, the Lions – again domestic pace-setters this year – are yet to make their pilgrimage to Australia and New Zealand, both the Stormers and Bulls have come back winless from those shores and the spluttering Sharks are already in that position halfway through their four-game tour.

The situation means that SA sides have made their worst start in that neck of the woods in four years.

Last year, after the same tally of eight matches in Australasia, our sides had at least banked two victories: the Sharks seeing off the Brumbies 27-22 in Canberra (they lost to them in the tour opener this season) and the now-absent Kings earning a shock 26-24 triumph over the Waratahs in Sydney.

In 2016 the stats were the same at this point … two from eight.

Even better was the 2015 season, when SA sides boasted three scalps from their first eight Australasian fixtures (win percentage of 37.5).

Despite the depressing zero record thus far in 2018, local enthusiasts will be praying things don’t crash to the point they did in 2014.

That year, as many as 12 consecutive losses were experienced in Australasia before a merciful end to the sequence came fairly deep in the programme on May 2, the Sharks beating the Rebels 22-16 in Melbourne.

If SA sides are to stave off emulating that dubious landmark in 2018, a win will have to be found in at least one of the following four matches: Blues v Sharks (March 31), Hurricanes v Sharks (April 6), Waratahs v Lions (April 20), Reds v Lions (April 28).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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