Through the opening nine matches of this years competition, there was fair weather and fine rugby on show. No out-of-the-ordinary results, with just a handful of outcomes that went against the projections. So with that positive introduction, let us look toward the Super Rugby Round Two ‘Forecast’.
The full compliment of matches saw games across three continents and had fans attention, after the long break. They weren’t to be disappointed either, as many games were top class.
Round One results:
Melbourne Rebels 18 Blues 56 | Highlanders 15 Chiefs 24 | Queensland Reds 28 Sharks 26 | Sunwolves 17 Hurricanes 83 | Crusaders 17 ACT Brumbies 13 | Waratahs 19 Western Force 13 | Cheetahs 25 Lions 28 | Southern Kings 26 Jaguares 39.
And with these matches completed, it proved many points. There were highlights, expected finishes and some that were not so expected. Not many expected the Blues to score 50 points, and less who believed the Force could stay within six points of the Waratahs.
A total of 508 points were scored, 58 tries. The home sides scoring 202 points/the away team 306–and there were five away winning teams. It was not a good week for the home sides, but with an average winners score against them of 37 points, which only goes to show that Super Rugby is still ‘all about that Attack!’
— Fox Sports Lab (@FoxSportsLab) February 28, 2017
Besides those outstanding performances, there were others. The statistics will provide interest for many across the season, but with only one game played, little can be gained from over-study. The one primary point which is constant from 2016–bonus points.
In 2017, the first team to score a ‘three try bonus point’ were the Chiefs. The rule that your first must score four tries has been repealed, so a clear three try advantage earns you one point. By denying the fancied Highlanders any tries, they could sit comfortably on James Lowes pair and a sweet planned move by Hika Elliot [that old dog stretched his legs to outsprint Waisake Naholo].
Who Did Well? #1 – the Hurricanes
The Champions did what few others could. Not many returning champions open so decisively, and while the Sunwolves are not the Lions, they still played with heart. A 13 try to three thrashing, but also a chance to give Dane Coles and Beauden Barrett a good 20 minute stint, before the Rebels at home.
Too many are already saying ‘shame on the Sunwolves’ but not Last Word On Rugby. This page believes that a full season is the true test. They may fall at times, but Japanese rugby is a fine example of ‘how to get back up’. In Singapore, against the Kings, it will be their focus to claim a solid win.
Who Did Well? # 2 – the Stormers
It is not often that commentators will heap praise on the Stormers (so early). The team who always seem to be around, they are not the shining lights like the Lions. But they are powerful, and scored some brilliant tries. 24-0 at halftime, it might have been a rout….the Bulls scored immediately in the second half, and a great South African derby match followed.
Yes, these are only the first round results of course, but one surprise is the high placing of the Jaguares. Overall, they sit in second place, and lead the Africa Two conference. Full credit, to open their two-match African leg. Keep up that momentum, and the predicted emergence of the ‘Jags will come to fruition.
Standings: NZ Conference – Hurricanes | Australian conf – Reds | Africa One – Stormers | Africa Two – Jaguares.
Fans learned several things from Round One. That teams can win away from home. That teams who focus on the defense will ‘start as they mean to carry on’ yet the Chiefs best defense only just held–the Highlanders lack of precision was as much to blame for their failure. So teams too, must adapt. Take learnings from last week.
This applies to the Bulls, the Sunwolves and the Force. Redress the wrongs of week one, concentrate on improvements and focus. That focus will also be made by the victorious sides, as they too can improve. Even the Hurricanes, who scored 83 points in 60 minutes–yet gave away 12 points even with two All Blacks joining their ranks. It proves that International players also need to get up-to-speed quickly. No team can afford for players to sit on their laurels.
Super Rugby does not respect your test cap history. Everything is about ‘the game you are selected to play in’…not what you did in 2015. Whether you start, or come off the bench, you are a part of the group. And the bench is going to have to play 20-25 minutes of super-intense rugby. No holding back for any players in 2017.
News: Etienne Oosthuizen suspended for two weeks
The SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee has accepted a guilty plea from Etienne Oosthuizen of the Sharks for contravening Law 10.4(a) Striking another Player with a hand, arm or fist, after he was Cited during a Super Rugby Match at the Weekend.
Super Rugby Round Two Fixtures
With the Thursday night fixture in it’s second use, will it bring out the crowds to nib Stadium. Stakeholders will hope so, as the Force side are in financial trouble now–so a large crowd, and a good result will keep them in touch with the leading Australian teams. But the Reds were true to form, in beating the Sharks. It looks tough going in West Australia.
Thursday March 2 – Western Force v Queensland Reds, Perth
Friday March 3 – Chiefs v Blues, Hamilton
Saturday March 4 – Hurricanes v Melbourne Rebels, Wellington | Highlanders v Crusaders, Dunedin | ACT Brumbies v Sharks, Canberra | Sunwolves v Southern Kings, Singapore | Lions v Waratahs, Johannesburg | Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town | Cheetahs v Bulls, Bloemfontein.
The Friday night clash is probably a nominee for ‘match of the round’ but it will be eventful enough on it’s own. The Battle of the Bombays is true derby match, and with traveling fans, the Blues might just have enough firepower. Six All Blacks on the bench–if they are used wisely, then it could be the first win in Hamilton for many a year.
A statement game if ever there was one; for both Tana Umaga and for the departing Dave Rennie.
Super Saturday – Seven Matches Worth the Wait
The ‘Canes open this full-day, with the early match. The focus then shifts to a massive Mainland Battle: Highlanders v Crusaders. That will have plenty of All Blacks on show, to delight the Kiwi rugby fans.
Over in Canberra, a confident Brumbies side will watch for the circling Sharks. As each side are without a win yet, it’s a key match-up. As is the match in Singapore, where the Sunwolves host the Southern Kings. ‘Wolves fans will hope to avenge the 2016 result, won by the Kings in Africa. Now on Asian soil, the Sunwolves must bounce back from a 13 try thrashing–and ‘the forecast looks good.’
— Singapore Sports Hub (@SGSportsHub) March 1, 2017
The convergence of so many teams to the republic increases those games to three. The Waratahs travel across, while the Jaguares complete their second fixture and a ‘tasty’ local derby is going to hold interest.
Forecasted ‘Match of the Round’
Cheetahs v Bulls – some would ask “where will these teams finish?” but at this stage, it is hard one to judge. And that is hard to forecast. You might expect the Lions or Stormers to be dominant, but after both these sides lost the opening round, both need to win.
While it is far too early for desperation, the effort needed in Super Rugby Round Two should be just as strong as it might be in Round 14. The same points are on offer now, so the ability to peak early is key–but so is capitalizing on your . The Cheetahs may have only lost by three points, but they were competitive.
The Bulls may want to believe that Handre Pollard is a natural cure, but they had other issues last week. Ryan Jordan diagnosed that “their poor performance at scrum time and the speed at which starting scrumhalf Rudi Paige clears the ball from scrums” were major issues. How they have rectified that, will be truth that the Bulls are the real deal in 2017.
Who to Watch in Round Two: Codie Taylor
As any hooker will tell you, they just want to get a chance to ‘wind up’ out on the wing. Codie Taylor is no different to Danes Coles, Rory Best or even Bismaark du Plessis. The hooker is so bound up in the scrum, why wouldn’t they want to stretch the calves.
The Crusaders number two needs to stamp his mark in 2017. He began well last week, but in the ‘Mainland Battle’ he will face Liam Coltman–a challenger to the All Blacks position Codie wants. So as much as he loves to run, Taylor needs to do his core role first and foremost.
If Taylor can retain a 100% record in throws and scrums, he will have the opportunity to ‘run about’. Scott Robertson will ask for everything out of his young hooker, before the subs come on. So for Taylor, he will want to have a blinder this weekend.
This Week In Rugby History
A weekend best forgotten in France. After a wretched crossing of the channel in raging gales, snow and mud greeted them in Cardiff where they were thumped 35-3 by Wales.
Tries by Rory Underwood and Mike Teague brought home England’s first Triple Crown for 11 years.
Davy Tweed, aged 35, became the oldest Irish debutant in a Five Nations match when he took the field against France in Dublin. (Editors note: A fantastic effort at 35 years)
The ‘Week in Rugby History’ is sourced from the ESPN UK ‘on this day’ webpage.
“Main photo credit”