Super Rugby Round 11 was mostly disappointing for the South African teams and it was left to the Sharks to restore some pride in the game for their passionate supporters.
Super Rugby Round 11 – The South African Teams
Brumbies 23 Vodacom Bulls 9
Brumbies – Tries: Nigel Ah-Wong, Tomas Cubelli Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (2) Penalties: Lealiifano (3)
Vodacom Bulls – Penalties: Francois Brummer (2)
The Bulls will have disappointed their fans with this display. Hopes would have been high after winning their first game on tour, but the Bulls really let themselves down in Canberra. They spent extended periods of the game playing without the ball, racking up their tackle count. Two thirds of the game was spent in their own half, without possession. The sad thing for the Bulls though was that they did actually create chances on attack, but these were mostly wasted by turning over possession too easily, with the Bulls loose trio also being comprehensively outplayed at the breakdown.
The Brumbies defence also effectively snuffed out all the Bulls limited attacking attempts. Head Coach Nollis Marais will have to continue to work on his new, more expansive game plan and may have to consider his depth and variation at flyhalf. The Brumbies rushed defence cried out for a flyhalf that was prepared to use grubbers and kicks off the side of the boot to turn them around and put them under pressure. Neither Francois Brummer nor Tian Schoeman offer this variety.
Waratahs 21 Toyota Cheetahs 6
Waratahs – Tries: Reece Robinson, Bernard Foley Conversions: Foley Penalties: Foley (3)
Toyota Cheetahs – Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2)
The highlights reel of this game would be a short one if the truth be told. It was an ugly arm wrestle and a poor advertisment for Super Rugby. The only points scored in the second half came via a Bernard Foley penalty. All possession and territory statistics were even, pointing towards a very even game. However, it was the Cheetahs who lead the error statistics. They racked up 17 handling errors to the Waratahs 10, 13 penalties to 5 and recorded 13 knock ons to 8.
Bloemfontein has always been a valuable nursery for rugby talent in South Africa, which over the last couple of years has really worked against the Free State Rugby Union. Their resources have been raided every year by the cash flush unions in South Africa and they no longer have the big name players they used to have. Without a serious cash injection from their sponsors, they will continue to struggle to be really competitive.
Cell C Sharks 32 Hurricanes 15
Cell C Sharks – Tries: JP Pietersen 2, Michael Claassens and Daniel du Preez Conversions: Garth April 2 and Patrick Lambie Penalties: Garth April and Patrick Lambie
Hurricanes – Tries: Reg Goodes and James Marshall Conversion: Jason Woodward Penalty: Beauden Barrett
The Sharks have proven to be the most successful South African team against New Zealand opposition this year, having beaten then current champions the Highlanders in their own backyard and even in losing causes not being too far off the mark. Unlike the Lions last week, they chose to play the game at their own pace and were not drawn into a high-paced, helter skelter match up that would have suited the Hurricanes a lot more than the Sharks.
Keegan Daniel had a phenomenal day at the office and was involved with most of what the Sharks had to offer. The centre pairing of Paul Jordaan and Andre Esterhuyzen was also a lot more assured and their defensive cohesion is starting to look a lot better. The Sharks won the battle of the breakdown, stealing 16 turnovers to 8. The Hurricanes lineout also started to creak and they lost three of their own lineouts.
This game also marked the return of Pat Lambie to the Sharks number 10 jersey and he put in a solid 27 minutes after replacing rising star Garth April. Some might regard this as a little harsh on April, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise from relative obscurity playing in club rugby in the Gold Cup, to the starting flyhalf for the Sharks in Super Rugby within 12 months. However, national interest takes precedent as Lambie needs the playing time to prepare for the incoming Ireland tour.
Tendai Mtawarira has taken a lot of flak for his poor man management of referees in previous games, but he seems to have received a word of advise from someone as he seems to have dropped his petulant tone and was a lot more skilful at this tricky art this weekend.
Southern Kings 18 Blues 34
Southern Kings – Tries: James Hall, Edgar Marutlulle Conversions: Elgar Watts Penalties: Watts, Jurgen Visser
Blues – Tries: Melani Nanai (2), James Parsons, Billy Guyton, Tevita Li Conversions: Ihaia West (3) Penalties: West
The Southern Kings delivered the game everyone expected to. A gutsy performance with a strong set piece. CJ Velleman, Chris Cloete, Edgar Marutlulle, Steven Sykes and James Hall all put in great performances, with some flashes of class from Shane Gates. Their two biggest issues remain their poor defence and lack of incisive attack.
Neither incumbent Elgar Watts nor alternate flyhalf Louis Fouche appear to be able to ignite the Kings backline and sorry to say they are distinctly average. The Kings backline is generally under pressure when on the attack and decisions have to be rushed. With the group of players the Kings have at their disposal, rushed decisions generally end up in errors. In terms of their defence, falling off 37 tackles is not the recipe for success. The Kings can take heart from the fact that they were competitive for such long periods during this game though. The sad thing though is that the Port Elizabeth rugby community has generally not bought into this team that was assembled in a hurry using a number of players who have no direct connection with the team’s feeder union, the EP Kings. The mostly empty Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium stands as testiment to this. A far cry from the full stadiums that bought into the Kings first year in Super Rugby 2013.