Super Rugby Round 12 produced most of the expected results, except for the Southern Kings upset win over the Sharks.
In their third year of competition it was the Kings first triumph over a fellow South African franchise. Whether you love them or hate them, we have to doff our caps to Head Coach Deon Davids, who has moulded a squad of youngsters and journeyman players into a tight knit team who have started knocking over a few of the more fancied teams, delivering some attractive attacking play at the same time.
Super Rugby Round 12: The African Conferences
Blues 50 Toyota Cheetahs 32
Blues – Tries: Rieko Ioane 2, Scott Crafton, Akiru Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu, Steven Luatua, Augustine Pulu and Melani Nanai; Conversions: Piers Francis 2 and Ihaia West 3
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Francois Venter, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Elandre Hugget 2; Conversions: Fred Zeilinga 3; Penalties: Fred Zeilinga 2
The Cheetahs once again took part in rugby’s version of a penalty shootout. For yet another weekend, they came off second best. They certainly enjoy playing a loose, attacking game. Unfortunately, their defensive abilities are just as loose and this has become a repetitive issue. Missing 25 tackles is always going to put your try line under threat. Between Niell Jordaan and Henco Venter, the loose forwards were responsible for seven of those. Scrumhalf Tian Meyer fell off three on his own and winger Raymond Rhule missed an almighty five tackles, tacking his season tally to 31.
It is only their attacking play that was worth enthusing over as they kept on playing the ball wide with pace. Their driving maul also caused the Blues huge problems and resulted in three of the Cheetahs tries.
The Cheetahs defense will face an even tougher examination on Saturday against the free-running hurricanes. The Blues travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers, who will be smarting from their very poor tour to New Zealand and will be looking for some form of revenge and to regain their momentum.
Brumbies 6 Emirates Lions 13
Brumbies: Penalties: Wharenui Hawera (2)
Emirates Lions: Try: Kwagga Smith; Conversion: Elton Jantjies; Penalties: Jantjies, Andries Coetzee
In a very tight game in Canberra, the Lions eventually overcome a very tight Brumbies defense and dominance of possession, but it took a moment of individual brilliance by flanker Kwagga Smith to seal the deal from the Lions. In defense, the Brumbies did not commit many players at ruck time and spread width of the field to hold the Lions out.
At half time, the Brumbies dominated possession by as much as 68%. The Lions managed to even this out a bit during the second half, with the Brumbies enjoying a 58% to 42% advantage at the end of the game. In the first half, they used their possession advantage to put the Lions under significant pressure, but the Lions put in 143 tackles to hold them at bay for the entire game. The Brumbies also butchered a number of opportunities in the first half by making untimely handling errors.
The use of the bench also had a significant impact and once the Lions first choice front row entered the fray the Brumbies scrum came under pressure. Smith’s try though was a thing of opportunistic beauty. A loose Brumbies pass was picked up by Lionel Mapoe and shifted to Smith. His sevens instincts kicked in as he slipped past the first defenders, to sprint in for his try, outpacing the Brumbies backs and cover defense.
The Lions return to Johannesburg unbeaten on their Australian tour to take on the battling Bulls outfit at Emirates Airline Park. The Brumbies fly to South Africa at the same time to take on an increasingly confident Kings outfit in Port Elizabeth.
Vodacom Bulls 10 Highlanders 17
Vodacom Bulls – Try: Warrick Gelant. Conversion: Tian Schoeman. Penalty – Tian Schoeman
Highlanders – Tries: Matt Faddes, Malakai Fekitoa. Conversions: Marty Banks (2). Penalty: Fletcher Smith
It was an unseasonably cold and wet afternoon at Loftus, with little quality to warm the mood of the small crowd that braved the conditions. If the truth be told, the Bulls were probably lucky that the conditions were poor and did not allow the Highlanders to play a more expansive game. Keeping the ball in hand and playing a forwards dominated game suited their very limited attacking abilities.
One of the glaring differences between the two teams was the quality of their kicking game. The Bulls rally kicked in hope more than anything else. Their kicks were generally either too long and therefore out of reach of their chasers or simply directionless. For their part, the Highlanders either kicked with the intent to win possession back or to pin the Bulls back into their own half. Marty Banks’ kick through popped up perfectly for the chasing Matt Faddes to open the try scoring account.
The game was marred by two red cards. Firstly, Waisake Naholo was sent from the field after a reckless and unnecessary late shoulder charge on Burger Odendaal. The red card probably evened the contest out a bit rather than giving the Bulls and outright advantage. What happened next can only be regarded as stupid play. Bulls replacement prop Conraad van Vuuren crashed over after a ruck on the Highlanders try line. A referral to the TMO showed Bulls lock RG Snyman joining the ruck from the side with a shoulder to the head of a player who had no real prospects of pilfering the ball anyway. This was an especially poorly executed clean out and the resultant red card and disallowed try can rightly be considered as the turning point of the game.
That being said, the Bulls remain in turmoil. They are poorly coached and playing without any heart or commitment. The press release issued immediately after the game was effectively a mea culpa, with all the usual statements being made about the need for change, consulting the necessary people. It remains to be seen if the Bulls actually have what it takes to turn the entire franchise around, which would be a shakedown from the very top to the bottom.
The Bulls next face the Lions in Johannesburg, which they cannot be relishing under the current circumstances. The Highlanders stop off in Perth on their way home to meet up with the Force.
Southern Kings 35 Cell C Sharks 32
Southern Kings – Tries: Ashaun Bock 2, Lionel Cronje and Pieter-Steyn de Wet; Conversions: Lionel Cronje 3; Penalties: Lionel Cronje 2; Drop-goal: Lionel Cronje
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Daniel du Preez and Lwazi Mvovo; Conversions: Patrick Lambie and Garth April; Penalties: Patrick Lambie 2 and Garth April 3