Super Rugby Round Four produced the expected results, along with a number of questions for the South African teams.
Super Rugby Round Four: The African Conferences
Pet peeve of the week: It is unfortunate that we have to repeat our pet peeve of the week from last week again. Referees must learn to apply the laws of the game to the letter and not their own interpretation. Jamie Nutbrown had a fairly ropey old game on Friday night blowing the Bulls versus Sunwolves game at Loftus Versveld. The Television Match official cannot be brought into play to review the validity of a try once the conversion has been taken, yet this is exactly what he did with the excuse that he had not heard the TMO earlier.
If referees are allowed to make it up as they go along, Craig Joubert would not be still unpopular with Scottish rugby fans who will not forget his role in their loss against Australia at Rugby World Cup 2015. He did not have the ability according to the laws to bring the TMO into play and therefore he did not.
Vodacom Bulls 34 Sunwolves 21
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Jan Serfontein (2) Pierre Schoeman, Jason Jenkins. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3), Tian Schoeman (1). Penalties: Pollard (1), Tian Schoeman (1)
Sunwolves – Tries: Kenki Fukuoka, Ed Quirk. Conversion: Jumpei Ogura. Penalties: Hayden Cripps (3)
The Bulls were once again mostly unconvincing, showing only glimpses of what they could do if they get it right, but those examples were few and far between. This does not bode well for the upcoming trip to to face the Blues in Auckland, the Chiefs in Waikato and the return fixture against the Sunwolves in Japan.
The Sunwolves gave this game a full go and tried to run at every opportunity. It was their poor handling that let them down at times, costing them possession at inopportune times. They racked up 39 handling errors. It they has held onto a few more passes, the result of this match might have been very different.
The Bulls tackling was lacking in intent and not focused on bringing attackers to the ground and creating rucks. The Sunwolves were allowed to play an offloading game, keeping the Bulls under pressure. The red carding of flanker Renaldo Bothma in the 41st minute probably galvanized the Bull a little, but not enough for them to truly put the Sunwolves away. Bothma was sent from the field for a swinging arm tackle that connected to the head of Ed Quirk. He has already appeared before the SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee and now faces four weeks on the sidelines.
Jan Serfontein returned to action after a long injury layoff, scoring two tries. He is much more suited to the inside centre berth though and hopefully we see him there very soon.
The Bulls soft tackling this season has been perplexing and out of character. During this round of Super Rugby, a sample of teams recorded the following dominant tackles:
Jaguares (23); Cheetahs (13);Lions (20); Kings (17). The Bulls managed only three.
Emirates Lions 44 Reds 14
Emirates Lions – Tries: Courtnal Skosan (4), Jaco Kriel, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Malcolm Marx. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2), Andries Coetzee. Penalties: Jantjies (1)
Queensland Reds – Tries: Duncan Paia’aua, Taniela Tupou. Conversion: Jake McIntyre (2)
The Lions started this game frenetically, forcing passes and making too many errors. Once they settled down though, they become much more of a threat to the Reds defense. Winger Courtnal Skosan gave a master class in finishing, dotting down for four tries. Once again the Argentine tour has had an influence on the Lions. Who can forget the game in 2016 that cost the Lions a home final? This year, they once again sent an under strength team to face the Jaguares and lost. This probably had an impact on the Lions in the early stages of this game and it took a little while for the players to really find each other and gel.
A controversial talking point was another red card for a high head shot, this time by Quade Cooper on Rohan Janse van Rensburg. The controversy is not the tackle itself, but rather that it was his second brutal tackle of the match. His late, no arms tackle on Faf de Klerk could have and should have been sent up to the TMO for closer investigation. It is disappointing that the circumstances around Cooper’s citing and that of Renaldo Bothma are very similar, yet their suspensions differ. Both players were red carded, both have a decent disciplinary record, both admitted guilt and both offences were regarded to be a mid-range offence, attracting a minimum of a four week ban. Bothma has been handed a four week ban and Cooper three.
The Lions broke the Reds defensive line eleven times and broke a further seven tackles. Any team having to turn around and chase that much is going to find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Cell C Sharks 19 Southern Kings 17
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Lourens Adriaanse and Kobus van Wyk; Penalties: Curwin Bosch 2
Southern Kings – Tries: Ruaan Lerm and Makazole Mapimpi; Conversions: Lionel Cronje 2; Penalty: Lionel Cronje
Sharks fans and coaches will be grateful for the win, but will also be wondering how one of the tournament’s minnows ran them so close and how they did not manage to come away with a bonus point.
The first thing to consider is the style of play which they relied upon. There was little imagination on display at Kings Park, with the Sharks tending to run directly at the Kings defense instead of spreading the ball wide. The Kings defense is known to be frail when the ball is given air and spread out wide, but engage them in a tough arm wrestle and they are more than up for it. We can expect Garth April or Curwin Bosch to start at flyhalf for the Sharks next game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Rookie flyhalf Bernhard Janse van Rensburg was not convincing and will need more time to develop.
The Kings managed to dominate the Sharks at ruck time, winning the turnover count 19 to 9. Head Coach Robert du Preez will certainly be concentrating on the Sharks ball protection and presentation during the week to prevent a recurrence against the Cheetahs.
Jaguares 41 Toyota Cheetahs 14
Jaguares – Tries: Ramiro Moyano (3), Matias Alemanno, Penalty try. Conversions: Juan Martin Hernandez (5). Penalties: Hernandez (2)
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Michael van der Spuy, Joseph Dweba. Conversions: Neil Marais (2)
The Jaguares are learning to win games in Super Rugby and this is no place like home to do that. A hat trick of tries by winger Ramiro Moyano underlined their dominance against the Cheetahs in Buenos Aires.
The current environment must be very difficult for Head Coach to operate in, with their future in the competition at stake and a mounting injury list. The Cheetahs have been given unofficial notice that they, along with the Kings, are probably not going to part of the competition as soon as 2018. Given that the Cheetahs are a rich source of players for the South African game, it would be sad to see them relegated to second class citizens in terms of Super Rugby.
Their injury list is also of great concern. A selection of players who are watching from the stands include:
Reniel Hugo – knee
Uzair Cassiem – knee
Francois Venter – ankle
William Small-Smith – finger
Sergeal Petersen – knee
Shaun Venter – hamstring
Ox Nche – knee
Nico Lee – shoulder
This is a strange one to call. In terms of statistics, one of the few that the Cheetahs did not dominate was the scoreboard. They dominated possession, line breaks and pass completion. What they did lose out on though were the critical statistics. The Jaguares kicking game was superior to the Cheetahs, allowing them to play in the right areas. The Cheetahs kicked far too little and that probably contribute to their loss. The Cheetahs made 111 tackles, but missed 25.
We look forward to Super Rugby week five with interest. Who has taken lessons out of week four and taken their game forward?
All statistics quoted courtesy of Vodacom Rugby.