The regular season is done with and we take a look at the South African Super Rugby Report card part one, the three teams that did not make the playoffs.
South African Super Rugby Report Card One
So many times this year, we have used the words “plucky” or “tenacious “, but victorious has only been used twice. There has to be some sympathy for the players themselves. Many of them did not know until a few weeks before the start of the tournament that they were actually playing in it. There was an entire squad of players that thought they were in the tournament and ended up unemployed.
The Kings game plan was based on a very competitive first phase. They offered far too little on attack, mostly through a lack of patience with ball in hand. The lack of a quality flyhalf was always going to hamper the Kings. The Kings had some quality in the centres and in the back three, but very rarely was that potential unlocked. Neither Louis Fouche nor Elgar Watts impressed with their game management throughout the season.
This is not another forum to bash SARU, but it is well worth noting that the bulk of this team was forced on the Port Elizabeth rugby public who voted with their feet. Crowd attendances were never close to the 2013 season. There is certainly talent in this Kings squad, but without a sponsor they will experience a mass departure of players at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby Season. Talents such as Edgar Maratlule, CJ Velleman, Malcolm Jaer, Shane Gates and James Hall will have to be the backbone of yet another rebuild of the Kings squad in preparation for the 2017 Super Rugby season.
The Cheetahs mixed some entertaining running rugby with some poor defence and generally sloppy play throughout the season. This is a real coach killer and Franco Smith will be very disappointed with the inconsistent performances his charges delivered.
They had a high error rate in terms of handling, snuffing out promising attacks early on in the piece. Their scrum also displayed some inexplicable inconsistencies, being dominant one week and then being completely dominated the next.
Bloemfontein is known as a prolific generator of rugby talent in South Africa. They have yet to reach the heights they did under then Head Coach Rassie Erasmus and the continued player drain certainly hurt this year and will continue to do so. They have lost yet another marquee player in Lood de Jager to the Bulls for 2017.
Skipper Francois Venter was a standout player in 2016, along with winger Sergeal Petersen who was a cut above the rest. We can only imagine how effective he would be in a team that offered more attacking opportunities. Number 8 Paul Schoeman also showed that he has a lot to offer at this level.
In yet another rebuilding year, the Bulls probably ended up where most expected them to. Their campaign was severely affected by the injury to Handre Pollard, with backup flyhalves Tiaan Schoeman and Francois Brummer being mostly disappointing. Poor game management and basic errors prevented both from having a positive impact on the Bulls Super Rugby playoff aspirations.
The Bulls scrum was not the much respected weapon of the past. Tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe topped the competition’s scrum time penalty count. Should anything more be said? Skipper Adriaan Strauss has also been strangely quiet in 2016 and is not the player of two or three years ago, despite him being appointed him as Springbok captain. They also had an issue at scrumhalf, with neither Rudi Paige nor Piet van Zyl reproducing the form of previous seasons.
This Bulls team has plenty of talent outside of the ten channel, such as Burger Odendaal, Travis Ishmael, Jamba Ulenga, Warrick Gellant and Jessie Kriel. They have built up a decent backline, but have critical issues at tighthead, scrumhalf and flyhalf. They would also do well to reconsider the role of their openside flanker. They seem to prefer a flank that acts as a linking player between the forwards and the backs, but would benefit greatly from a true opensider with a streak of mongrel. Too often this year they have been turned at ruck time or have not competed effectively against opposition rucks.
Some have claimed that this was a relatively successful first season under Head Coach Nollis Marais — a sad departure from previous successes.
All things considered, these three teams will be disappointed with their seasons.
We will take a look at the three remaining teams after the playoff stages, being the Emirates Lions, DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks.