Super Rugby Week Six: The African Conferences

From Last Word on Rugby, Ryan Jordan

Super Rugby Week Six provided a lot more to cheer about for the South African franchises.

Watching the games in the African Conferences, it is evident that the national template that SARU has called for does involve a higher tempo of play and a lot more off-loading in tackles. There is still a very long way to go in order for this to became an instinctive style of play, but it is a start.

There were only three games to cover in the Africa 1 and Africa 2 conferences, with the Kings, Jaguares and Sunwolves all having a bye.

Chiefs 28 Vodacom Bulls 12

Chiefs – Tries: Shaun Stevenson, Damian McKenzie, Atunaisa Mol Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2) Penalties: Cruden (3)

Vodacom Bulls – Penalties: Handre Pollard (4)

Bulls fans will be wondering where this performance for the first sixty minutes has been hiding away. They may not be celebrating in defeat, but the increased intensity in play both on attack and in defense was in stark contrast to what they have delivered so far this year.

The Chiefs will rue dropping the ball far too many times on attack. Some of those handling errors, were as a direct result of a much tighter and aggressive Bulls defensive line. The Bulls were really in with a shout until the final quarter. The Chiefs were able to kick up a gear and the Bulls could not respond.

Some areas of concern will once again include the defensive and kicking abilities of Jamba Ulengo. For a former sevens international, he was far too easily left flat-footed by Shaun Stevenson who went on to score. His kicking out of hand was also poor.  If he does not work on these two vital elements for a member of the back three, he may find that he will be singled out a lot more going forward.

The Bulls will now travel north for their rematch against the Sunwolves and the Chiefs will visit Cape Town to take on the Stormers.

Vital Statistic:

The Chiefs made 35 handling errors as opposed to the 12 of the Bulls. Cut those Chiefs handling errors in half and the Bulls evening may have been a lot more challenging.

DHL Stormers 53 Toyota Cheetahs 10

DHL Stormers – Tries: Dillyn Leyds 2, Sikhumbuzo Notshe 3, Dan du Plessis, Robert du Preez and Siya Kolisi Conversions: Robert du Preez 4, Kurt Coleman Penalty: Robert du Preez

Toyota Cheetahs 10 – Try: Paul Schoeman Conversion: Fred Zeilinga Penalty Fred Zeilinga

The Stormers delivered their best performance of their 2017 campaign with a relatively easy demolition of the Cheetahs. They unlocked the Cheetahs defense with some sublime offloads in the tackle. Winger Dillyn Leyds continues with his impressive season in 2017, as does fullback SP Marais, who has brought a lot of attacking edge to the Stormers backline.

For the Cheetahs, there were more negatives than positives. Their attacking play was again naive and executed at the incorrect times. Kicking the ball is not always a bad thing, especially  Center Nico Lee was drafted in as a late replacement for winger Sergeal Petersen. Twice he was caught out angling in on defense, paving the way for both of Leyds’ tries.

On the plus side, the Cheetahs, mostly through Paul Schoeman, were a nuisance at the breakdown, much the same as the Kings were a few weeks ago and this might be an area for Robbie Fleck to consider.

The Stormers now await the Chiefs, which should be the litmus test of the new offloading game plan and the Cheetahs have the bye.

Vital Statistics:

The Stormers produced 26 offloads to the Cheetahs 12. They used the offload in the tackle to break the defensive line, while the Cheetahs used the traditional pass before the tackle. The Cheetahs kicked the ball 15 times as opposed to the Stormers 27, who used the kick out of hand to play in the Cheetahs half.

Emirates Lions 34 Cell C Sharks 29

Emirates Lions – Tries: Malcolm Marx, Courtnal Skosan, Jaco Kriel Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2) Penalties: Jantjies (4) Drop goal: Andries Coetzee

Cell C Sharks – Tries: Coenie Oosthuizen, Kobus van Wyk Conversion: Curwin Bosch (2) Penalties: Bosch (4) Drop goal: Bosch

This game was the highlight of Super Rugby Week Six, with both sides pitching in to deliver a high pace, high quality game. The Sharks nearly pulled off a spectacular upset by beating the Lions at home and it took a Jaco Kriel try in the closing minutes for the Lions to eventually overcome the Sharks. The Sharks kept the Lions under pressure with a solid defensive line and good line speed, forcing the Lions to play behind the advantage line. It was the Lions superior experience in closing big games out that gave them the edge this time around.

Young Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch once again produced a man of of the match performance that belied his years. He had to rely on some additional assistance in defending his channel, but with a few additional years and with bulking up a bit he will be able to defend with much more authority. SARU should not rush him into the Springbok squad and rather continue to gain experience. Let him play in the upcoming Junior World Cup in Georgia and not expose him to Test rugby for another year.

Sharks lock Ettienne Oosthuizen’s discipline cost the Sharks dearly. His neck roll clear out at ruck time in the first half meant that Andre Esterhuizen’s try was disallowed. He committed the same offence in the second half and was sin-binned. The Lions immediately took advantage of the Sharks having a forward off the field and went for the corner. The subsequent driving maul ended in a try for Malcolm Marx. Courtnal Skosan’s try was as the direct result of a Sharks scrum, down to seven forwards, was monstered by the Lions.

It took a missed touch kick by Bosch was run back at the Sharks, ending in Kriel’s try and sealing victory.

The Sharks will host the Jaguares in Durban this weekend and the Lions will enjoy a weekend off.

Vital Statistics:

Most recorded statistics for this game were pretty even, but the one that made the real difference was surely the yellow card count. Lions 0, Sharks 1. It is unfortunate that we have to highlight this again, but having one try disallowed and then conceding two as a direct result of that yellow card is a body blow that few teams can recover from.

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