Super Rugby Week 14 served to confirm the pecking order of the South African Super Rugby franchises.
Southern Kings 29 Jaguares 22
Southern Kings – Tries: Schalk Ferreira, Penalty try, Wandile Mjekevu, Dewald Human Conversions: Louis Fouche (3) Penalties: Fouche
Jaguares – Try: Facundo Isa Conversion: Nicolas Sanchez Penalties: Sanchez (5)
The Southern Kings won their second game of the 2016 Super Rugby season via the ugly route as they struggled to put away a Jaguares team that were reduced to 13 players for more than half the game and down to 12 for ten minutes during the second half.
Many arm chair pundits disagreed with the red cards handed to both Thomas Lavanini and Ramiro Herrera. The unfortunate truth is that the laws of the game state that if you dive into a ruck shoulder first and make contact with the head of an opposing player, the sanction is a straight red card. There is no scope for a referee to make a decision based on the result of the shoulder charge.
This is very much in keeping with the interpretation of two other rugby laws. If a player is in the air, it doesn’t matter if the chasing player slipped causing him to bring the defending player down. Just ask Leolin Zas. The same applies when kicking the ball out of a player’s hands when in the act of scoring a try. The act does not have to be intentional. Just ask another Stormer, Siya Kolisi, who was carded and conceded a penalty try for this very reason against the Sharks earlier in the season. Completely unintentional, but it happened.
Back to the game, it was disappointing to see how the Kings had very little to offer outside of their pack of forwards. It was only after Tomas Lezana was yellow carded that the Kings were eventually able to gain the upper hand and run in the tries they needed to defeat the tiring Jaguares. The June break couldn’t come early enough for the Kings and they will be hopeful to receive a few of their injured players back for the final few games of the normal season.
DHL Stormers 31 Toyota Cheetahs 24
DHL Stormers – Tries: Daniel du Plessis, Leolin Zas and Kobus van Wyk Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis 2 Penalties: Jean-Luc du Plessis 4
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Paul Schoeman and Sergeal Petersen Conversion: Fred Zeilinga Penalties: Fred Zeilinga 3 and Niel Marais
When looking at the current log standings of these two teams, many expected the Stormers to easily defeat the visiting Cheetahs. This proved not to be the case though, with the Cheetahs refusing to lie down and staying competitive throughout the game. There was plenty of niggle on show, with Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth first showing off their grappling skills. Torsten van Jaarsveld and Rynard Elstadt were then tagged in and had two separate altercations.
Pieter-Steph du Toit continued his fine run of form and Siya Kolisi seems to be peaking at the right time, breaking the advantage line on a number of occasions and deservedly winning the Man of the Match award. After having started poorly this season, the Cheetahs scrum did not take a step back for their more illustrious opponents.
The Stormers were dealt a severe blow when fullback Cheslyn Kolbe was stretchered off with a suspected concussion. Replacement Louis Schreuder was forced to play out of position and the Cheetahs found some profit in kicking the ball behind the Stormers defence.
There were two moments in the game that separated the two teams. Firstly, whith the Cheetahs strongly on the attack, a poorly directed pass was intercepted by Leolin Zas, who sprinted in from 85m out. The second moment came when the score was 24 to 21 in favour of the Stormers. The Cheetahs were awarded a penalty in a very kickable penalty, but opted to go for the corner. A lineout steal and a breakout by the Stormers resulted in Van Wyk scoring. What should have been 24 all became 31 to 21 to the Stormers.
Vodacom Bulls 20 Emirates Lions 56
Vodacom Bulls– Tries: Jesse Kriel, Adriaan Strauss, Deon Stegmann Penalty: Francois Brummer
Emirates Lions – Tries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2), Lionel Mapoe, Julian Redelinghuys, Jaco Kriel, Courtnal Skosan, Faf de Klerk Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (6) Penalties: Boshoff (3)
The Emirates Lions completely outclassed the Vodacom Bulls in their own back yard, inflicting the first home defeat on the Bulls in 2016. The Lions enjoyed two thirds of both possession and territorial advantage and did not allow the Bulls to play. The fact that the Bulls missed 12 tackles in each half will be of major concern for them, as it did allow the Lions to play their fast temp game plan with a lot of confidence.
One area in which the Lions completely blew the Bulls away was at the breakdown. The turnover count was pretty much even, but The Lions superior structure when defending their own possession as well as flooding the breakdown to disrupt and slow down the Bulls possession was key to their success.
For the Lions, this was pretty much as close to the perfect execution of their game plan as they could get, given the number of players they are missing due to injury. In terms of running with the ball in hand, the Lions covered 628 meters. The Bulls could only respond with 189. The Lions have been rewarded with a strong representation in both the Springbok squad as well as the South African A team that will be taking the England Saxons on in June.
The Bulls will have to reconsider what their game plan is supposed to be. For them to be able to fall in with the higher paced game that the rest of the rugby world is embracing, the Bulls will have to consider their lack of a true open side flanker, was well as the ability of their current half backs to effect that game plan.