Super Rugby Week Five: The African Conferences

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From Last Word on Rugby, Ryan Jordan

Super Rugby Week Five provided a few interesting contests in the African Conferences, with the Stormers, Lions, Sharks and Jaguares recording wins.

Super Rugby Week Five: The African Conferences

Pet peeve of the week: Player gamesmanship. Everyone does it to try to influence a referee’s decision making. It is good to see a number of referees take charge of this over the weekend and issuing warnings to captains for the verbals they were being exposed to after each decision. Hopefully the same warning will be issued for the inane shouts of “holding!” when the ball is clearly lying at the back of a ruck.

Blues 38 Vodacom Bulls 14

Blues – Tries: Augustine Pulu, Matt Duffie (2), Ihaia West, Matt Moulds, Nanai Vai. Conversions: Piers Francis (2), West (2)

Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Lizo Gqoboka, Rudy Paige. Conversions: Handre Pollard, Tian Schoeman

The Blues over ran the Bulls with a fast passing plan of attack, neutralizing the Bulls massive pack of forwards. It was tight game up until half time, with the Blues high error rate keeping the Bulls in the game.

Other than the performance of flyhalf Handre Pollard, there can be few positive words for the Bulls. Pollard looked every bit the class player he was touted to be in age group rugby. His tactical kicking did help to put this team in decent areas of the field, only for poor option taking to negate that advantage. Aside from his kicking, he was making tackles and running the ball up to the advantage line. He was replaced in the 60th minute, which smacked of a formulaic plan. It was really all downhill from there.

For the rest, it was a very disappointing outing. Scrumhalf Piet van Zyl was generally poor. He was not helped that he rarely had option runners volunteering themselves when the Bulls were in possession, suggesting that the Bulls players were waiting for the kick and chase.

Fitness must be a concern for the Bulls as players were seen to be sucking in air from as early as the 30th minute. Decision making also seems to be odd at times, with the Bulls opting to run the ball on their own try line on more than on occasion. For all his attacking prowess, Jamba Ulengo seems to be all at sea in defense, especially if he is turned around.

Other than questionable depth at scrumhalf, the Bulls have a very strong squad. The four performances they have delivered in this campaign fall far short of the potential of this squad and there are serious questions being asked of Head Coach Nollis Marais and his support staffs’ ability to compete at this level.

The Bulls trip to meet up with the Chiefs next Saturday is looking more daunting than ever before.

Vital Statistic:

The Blues recorded eleven line breaks, the Bulls zero. It’s tough to score tries if you are not breaking the defensive line….

Sunwolves 31 Stormers 44

Stormers – Tries: EW Viljoen, Rynhardt Elstadt, Wilco Louw, Dewaldt Duvenage, Bongi Mbonambi and Bjorn Basson; Conversions: Robert du Preez 4; Penalties: Robert du Preez 2

Sunwolves – Tries: Derek Carpenter 2, Shota Emi and Liaki Moli; Conversions: Jumpei Ogura 4; Penalty: Jumpei Ogura

The Sunwolves gave the Stormers a big wake up call in Singapore. The Stormers rested a few players for this game and they paid for it with a lack of cohesion, both in attack and defense. They struggled with the high paced offloading game of the Sunwolves. They were often caught out short of defenders or having poor defensive alignment, allowing the Sunwolves to either create an overlap or to step into defensive holes.

The Stormers showed great character in coming back from 24 to 10 down and it took a change in game plan to bring themselves back into the game. Instead of competing against the Sunwolves preferred wide approach to the game, the Stormers reverted to a more conservative ten-man game plan. This approach sucked the Sunwolves into making a lot more tackles than they would have liked.

Having said this, EW Viljoen’s try, set up by Dylan Leyds, is one of the best you are going to see this season.

The Stormers will host the Cheetahs at Newlands this weekend.

Vital Statistic:

By reverting to a more forwards based plan of attack, the Stormers starved the Sunwolves of possession. The enjoyed 61% of possession and 66% in the territory count.

Southern Kings 19 Emirates Lions 42

Southern Kings – Tries: Anidisa Ntsila, Yaw Penxe, Malcolm Jaer. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (2)

Emirates Lions – Tries : Madosh Tambwe (2), Malcolm Marx, Elton Jantjies, Jaco Kriel, Harold Vorster. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (6)

The Lions produced a powerful display in the first half of this match up, setting themselves up to put the Kings to the sword in the second half to take the try scoring bonus point as well as to build up their points differential in their conference. They did come away with the bonus point, but they were strangely quiet and out of focus in the second half, making numerous errors. Jaco Kriel was the stand out performer for the Lions and rookie winger Madosh Tambwe impressed by scoring two tries of his own.

Little can be said about the second half. It was of poor quality and completely uninspiring to watch.

The Lions will host the Sharks at Emirates Airlines Park next weekend, with the Kings having the bye.

Vital Statistics:

The Kings had their fair share of the ball, with a 51% count of possession. Their limitations on attack meant that they did not really represent a threat to the Lions. They carried the ball on 27 times compared to the Lions 90. They made 192 running meters as opposed to the 613 of the Lions.

Toyota Cheetahs 30 Cell C Sharks 38

Cell C Sharks – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Kobus van Wyk 2 and Daniel du Preez; Conversions: Curwin Bosch 3; Penalties: Curwin Bosch 4

Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Francois Venter, JW Jonker and Raymond Rhule; Conversions: Fred Zeilinga 3; Penalties: Fred Zeilinga 3

The Sharks took a tight yet deserved victory against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Both teams tried to play an entertaining game at high pace. The Sharks played with a lot more structure and probably earned the right to go wide before the Cheetahs did. The Cheetahs often threw passes for the sake of passing and have yet to bring quality tactical kicking to their game.

Young flyhalf Curwin Bosch delivered a quality performance starting and flyhalf and was pretty much unflustered by whatever was thrown at him. He was rightfully announced as the Man of the Match. At center, Lukhanyo Am looks to be improving in every game he plays. For the Cheetahs, returning captain Francois Venter looked really sharp and tested the Sharks defense.

There remains a real concern that the Sharks continue to use Coenie Oosthuizen as a starting tighthead prop. He was often placed under pressure by a competitive Cheetahs scrum.

Vital Statistic:

The strange statistic coming out of this game was how even all the recorded statistics were, with neither side being able to really claim dominance anyway. It was the Sharks who relied more on structure to effect their game plan and were therefore more clinical in their approach.

Both teams now face tough away fixtures. The Sharks visit the Lions in Johannesburg and the Cheetahs are off to Cape Town for a match up with the Stormers.

Jaguares 22 Reds 8

Jaguares – Tries: Jeronimo de la Fuente (2), Ramiro Moyano. Conversions: Juan Martin Hernandez (2). Penalty: Hernandez

Reds – Try: Scott Higginbotham. Penalty: Jake McIntyre

The Jaguares continued their strong start to the 2017 Super Rugby season with a hard fought win over the Reds. This was probably not their best performance of the season as they struggled to really put away a struggling Reds outfit, missing flyhalf Quade Cooper due to suspension. It could have been even worse for the Reds after wing Eto Nabuli and lock Kane Douglas were yellow carded within a minute of each other, leaving the Reds to hold the Jaguares off with only thirteen players on the field.

Vital Statistics:

The Reds tried to run the ball at the Jaguares, but some grim defense held them at bay. The Jaguares made 147 tackles to the Reds 85. Of those tackles made, the Jaguares can claim an impressive 27 as dominant as opposed to the 4 of the Reds.

After a tough and unsuccessful trip to South Africa and Argentina, the Reds will host the Hurricanes in Brisbane this weekend and the Jaguares will enjoy a weekend off.

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