Super Rugby Week 13 saw the battle for supremacy in the African Conferences become even closer.
Super Rugby Week 13: The South African Franchises
Emirates Lions 52 Jaguares 24
Emirates Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck (2), Courtnal Skosan (2), Lionel Mapoe, Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Jaco Kriel Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2), Ruan Combrinck (1) Penalties: Ruan Combrinck (2)
Jaguares – Tries: Nicolas Sanchez, Javier Desio Conversions: Sanchez Penalties: Sanchez (4)
The Emirates Lions overcame a nervy start and some staunch defence early on from the Jaguares to run out easy winners. Once the Lions found their rhythm though, the Jaguares were blown away and started falling off tackles – 28 in total, representing 25% of their tackle attempts. The famed Argentine tight phase was also under pressure, coughing up two tight heads at scrum time and losing two of their own line-out throws.
A slight worry for the Lions and Springboks was Elton Janties’ poor performance off the kicking tee, which saw him hand over the place kicking duties to Ruan Combrink. His game management was again top class, but given that Sharks pivot Patrick Lambie put in a Man of the Match performance against the Kings his claim to the Springbok number 10 jersey took a dent. The Springbok backine is unlikely to include another specialist place kicker, so Alister Coetzee will need his place kicker to be on form come the Test series against the Irish. The cauldron that Loftus is expected to be next weekend when the Lions face off against the Bulls should give Janjies the opportunity to set the record straight.
Editorial update: Since first publishing this article, it has been confirmed that Janjies has fractured a finger and is out for between 3 and 4 weeks, ruling him out of at least the first two Tests against Ireland.
Speaking of national aspirations, if Ruan Combrink and Lionel Mapoe are not in Coetzee’s first Springbok squad, they would have every right to be very disappointed. Combrink has developed into a devastating finisher and his 6 tries this year could be so much more. He has beaten 30 defenders and made 16 line breaks . Mapoe’s statistics this season is also impressive. Eight tries, 24 defenders beaten and 19 clean breaks. You can’t expect your outside centre and wingers to do much more than that.
Cell C Sharks 52 Southern Kings 0
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Patrick Lambie 2, Paul Jordaan 2, Willie le Roux, Andre Esterhuizen, JP Pietersen, Thomas du Toit Conversions: Patrick Lambie 5 Penalty: Patrick Lambie
Southern Kings – 0
This game seemed to be bridge too far for the struggling Kings. Their defensive was especially naive in the first half and they were often caught short of defenders when the Sharks attacked out wide. Their scrambled defence also deserted them and when the Sharks passed inside there was no Kings player to cover the move.
We can take two things out of this game. Firstly, the Kings simply don’t have the depth required to compete in Super Rugby. They are sorely missing CJ Velleman and Chris Cloete, but are also not in the position to rotate their squad as the other teams are able to do. Their return game against the Jaguares in Port Elizabeth this weekend could prove to be another severe test for the Kings.
Taking a look at the Sharks, they did exactly what was expected of them. They put away the team that was put in front of them. Leading 43 to nil at half time, the game was done and dusted. The second half was not played at the same intensity as the first and the Sharks managed their way through to full time, scoring ten points and conceding none.
Patrick Lambie put in a Man of the Match performance and in a very short time after returning from injury has put himself squarely in the frame to be selected as the Springbok starting flyhalf.
Vodacom Bulls 17 DHL Stormers 13
Vodacom Bulls – Try: Piet van Zyl Penalties: Francois Brummer (3) Drop goal: Tian Schoeman
DHL Stormers – Try: Damian de Allende Conversion: Jean-Luc du Plessis Penalties: Du Plessis (2)
In a game played at near Test match intensity, the Vodacom Bulls overcame their more fancied opponents from Cape Town. Their victory was based on a superb defensive display, along with a return to form by the Bulls loose forwards. The Stormers played the most rugby. They enjoyed 63% of possession as well as 68% territorial advantage. They ran 370 meters with the ball in hand as opposed to the Bulls 175. The truth of the matter though is that the Stormers ball in hand attack was ineffective and was easily closed out by the Bulls defense.
The young Bulls loose forwards also dominated their more illustrious counterparts, stealing 10 turnovers to 5 and also being a lot more effective in cleaning out their own attacking rucks than they have been this season, allowing them be a lot more effective in building their phase play. The Bulls might not have the consistency to be a threat come play off time, but they have certainly thrown a spanner in the works for the Stormers.