Super Rugby Round Seven provided us with many talking points, with some interesting and surprising results adding interest to the competition.
Super Rugby Round Seven: African Conferences Talking Points
Instead of doing a match analysis of each game, we have decided to rather focus on the salient points coming out of the weekend.
The Bulls Are Lost
Watching this Bulls team play, we get the impression that they have been told to go out and “express” themselves. We have to question if they have been coached to do just that. Their passing and offloading game appears to be hurried and more than a little frenetic. The Sunwolves put them under intense pressure with impressive line speed on defense, catching them behind the advantage line. This resulted in the Bulls throwing numerous wild passes in panic, losing acres of territory. There must be serious questions asked of the Bulls coaching and leadership at this stage. Is Nollis Marais and his coaching team up to the task at this level? Have the Bulls gone light on their coaching resources? The answer is probably yes.
We also have to wonder if captain Adriaan Strauss is still up for the job. The Springboks did not inspire under his captaincy in 2016 and the same can be said of the Bulls in 2017.
The Bulls have a strong squad and their performances do not reflect that. Maybe the time has come for radical changes to be made in order to change their course for 2017.
The Sunwolves Are Improving
The Sunwolves shipped 83 points against the Hurricanes in week 1 of the competition, followed by a loss to the Kings at home. This has been followed by encouraging performances against the Stormers at home and the Cheetahs and Bulls away. Their home win this weekend against the Bulls will be just the tonic they need. Do they have the depth they need to compete for the rest of the competition? That will be their litmus test. They will be further heartened by the fact that their participation in Super Rugby next year has been guaranteed.
The Sharks Have a Team for the Future
This might sound like a strange comment at first as they are currently second in the Africa 2 Conference and third in the Combined African Conferences. Consider how young the bulk of their squad is though. Add in the fact that Head Coach Robert du Preez is relatively inexperienced at this level and it becomes a reality that the Sharks may just be building something special.
Many of their youngsters were off colour against the Jaguares this weekend. Curwin Bosch, who was Man of the Match in the Sharks last two outings, made a number of uncharacteristic errors. In the last ten minutes of the game, Bosch and Innocent Radebe made the mistake of kicking up and unders at the Jaguares while defending only two points. On another day, a counter attack may have resulted in a winning try against them.
The Jaguares Are Starting to Fulfill Their Potential
For a team filled with Argentinian internationals, 2016 was both disappointing and a steep learning curve for the Jaguares. They have now started to win games and those that they have lost have generally been close encounters.
They now lie fourth in the combined African Conference and third in African Conference 2, third behind the Sharks with a game in hand. The mood in their camp will also be confident now that their participation in next year’s Super Rugby competition has been confirmed.
The Stormers Have Moved Forward
The Stormers have been talking about adding the razzle dazzle ball in hand style of play and they did that last week against the Cheetahs. No-one expected them to take the Chiefs on in this style though. This they did and if this means more tries like this one set up by Dillyn Leyds (a must watch video) will be scored, they will be a real handful for any team.
What might not receive the same attention as the fancy handling is the Stormers improved defense. Two of the tries they conceded were from a long way out and it was the general defense of their line that impressed. The Chiefs hammered away at the Stormers line for most of the last ten minutes, with the Stormers holding them out.
All Hail the King! The King is Dead!
The Kings ran the Force close in Perth on Sunday, with fullback Malcolm Jaer scoring a hat trick. The outrageous dummy and grubber that Lionel Cronje used to set one of those tries up (also a must see), was a highlight of the game.
The subtitle, although tongue in cheek, is probably a reality for the Port Elizabeth based franchise. They have been faced with their own version of “Mission Impossible” since their re-admission into Super Rugby. A bankrupt provincial union, a struggling Currie Cup squad and no sponsorship to change any of that. Their only hope is how SARU tap dances around the commitment they gave national government to deliver top level rugby to the region. This latest attempt was a lame duck from the start. More on this to follow.