As the years of Super Rugby have shown followers, there are favourites, there are strugglers…and there are also upsets. In 2017, we have seen the Sunwolves beat the Bulls but there might be an upset or two still looming. And with Super Rugby Round 12 this weekend, the forecast maybe for the strugglers to ‘turn one over’.
Possibly, we are spit balling. Dreaming, but that is what a team like the Kings must do. They cannot be certain of their own future, so wouldn’t it be amazing for them to upset the Sharks. Or, the Bulls tip up the Highlanders…or, the Brumbies stand tall at home…or “the sky will fall on our heads”. But in sport, dreaming and achieving goals is a crucial part of success.
So before the we look at the variables, a brief look at last weeks results.
— Fox Sports Lab (@FoxSportsLab) May 7, 2017
Record Setting Points Scored in Round 11
The biggest ever ‘eight game’ round. In comparison to the highest weeks points tally in Super Rugby history. It fell just three points short of the all-time record for all rounds of 565 (Round Two, 2017), despite having one less match.
Chief executive Andy Marinos observed that the average number of points per match in Super Rugby had increased from 45.3 in 2015, to 52 in 2016. Meanwhile the number of tries per game had risen from 5.1 to 6.4 per match. That trend seems to be under threat, so importantly teams must look at their defense; as much as offense. The Cheetahs v Highlanders game had huge swings in points–86 points in total.
It’s ‘Moving Time’ in Super Rugby 2017
Even though it is an 17 week competition, not including the June International break, this is an important segment of the season. For some, it’s moving time! Time for teams who didn’t have the perfect start like the Crusaders, to continue their run towards a higher place on the ladder.
Think Blues, Jaguares and Waratahs–sides who are mid-table. Each is at a point where they could leap over other sides; Blues over the Highlanders, Jags above the Sharks or the ‘Tahs overtake the Brumbies. Some are the long shot, but if they gain more five point wins (especially before the International break) then then the side above them, it might determine a Wildcard place.
NEWS | @BluesRugbyTeam are on a high but taking nothing for granted against the Cheetahs.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) May 11, 2017
The Blues, who have two important offshore games coming up, this is critical segment with the Cheetahs at home. In the ‘cannot lose phase’ if that side wants to believe they can reach a semi-final place for the first time in many years; the Jaguares for the first time ever. And every side facing these mid-table teams will be happy to cut them down a peg, or two.
That is sport. And that is why fans love the competition.
Now, to look at the forecast for Round 12. The official match packs from SANZAAR shows that eight games will be enjoyed across all conferences (BYE: Chiefs, Stormers, Sunwolves, Waratahs). Three out of those four sides had losses last week, so a rest is well deserved to recharge the batteries.
Super Rugby Round 12 Forecast
Friday May 12
Two matches, and the forecast is for a wet-weather clash in Auckland, and a chilly match-over in Canberra. Conditions may part a part, but it is the fan expectation that many will be interested in.
After Scott Scrafton (see main picture) and his Blues team did well to create a streak of two overseas wins. Fans now are keen to see more–but in the past, that has been their crutch. Falling over, when the semi-final is in near sight. Tana Umaga needs them to keep approaching each game by itself…and watch those Cheetahs!! they are just as desperate to perform.
In the Australian capital, if the Brumbies fall again, it is almost time to put out the ‘position vacant’ sign. Every side who commits errors and cannot convert chances will be ‘hung out to dry’ by the fans and the media. Aside from the home side, even the visitors should take care. A loss now for the Lions will only allow the Sharks an opportunity to bite [literally, as the second team in Africa 2 chase hard].
‘Match of the Round’ – Saturday May 13
No doubt about it. The Crusaders v Hurricanes match is a top-notch occasion. Worthy of a final, fans who have imagined the return match from 2016 will now get their wishes. Remember, that in mid-July last year, the ‘Canes blew through Christchurch on the way to a title. So the onus is on this years Crusaders side to improve on.
Missing both sides respective leaders, that may not affect either side as much as any other team. The visitors have adapted, with Reece Prinsep taking the number eight role, with Ardie Savea taking his ‘more suited’ blindside position. The battle in the packs will be hearty–possibly suiting the home side….but they are shaded in the backline. Only just, with both sides leading the competition in tries scored. It is just ‘how well’ the Hurricanes are creating them.
It is going to take the attention of [pretty much] every conference. With all sides following these two, some will just simply sit back and enjoy it. Local derby games in New Zealand are usually the top rating matches, and the forecast is that it should be the most anticipated match of Super Rugby Round 12.
Action Across the Tasman
From an outsiders perspective, the Australian conference has been disappointing. So the thought of the Melbourne Rebels hosting the Reds might not be the fancy for everyone. Still, it is a ‘State v State’ rivalry, so that usually brings out the best of most sides. So each team needs to put the past in the past.
Nick Styles said that he was sick of only competing for 40 minutes, when his side went down to the Chiefs in New Plymouth.
“Rugby is won over 80 minutes, our ability and desire to compete in the second half has got to improve.”
The test for each side, is desire. Rugby is played on emotion and energy. Skill is a necessary element, but it is attitude that will show in Melbourne on Saturday night.
The interest then increases, when the Blue Bulls face a stiff test against the fancied Highlanders. The visiting New Zealand team held the title two years ago, so must be respected. And after their huge four minute effort against the Cheetahs, they have the winning edge. Add to that, how the Bulls might feel after leaking 62 points…bad, you would assume.
This clash might have more reward for the ‘Landers, who can push towards a higher place on the standings–from the eight finalists, three Wildcards will come from the Oceania Group–and the best forecast is that the Bulls might fail to trouble the Dunedin-based side.
Clutch Match in Port Elizabeth
As noted, the Sharks are looking hold their status as the next best side in the Africa 2 conference. Finding it tough to overhaul the Lions, it will take all their might to retain the high standing ahead of the Jaguares. And every week; right across Super Rugby, every side is wanting to knock you off your target. The Southern Kings might not have seemed to be one, but with extra motivation of proving that ‘they deserve a place in the competition’ it has been a boost for the home side.
— Port Elizabeth (@MyPE) May 11, 2017
So, why should the Sharks be fearful? Because it is in the determination of the Deon Davids coached side that is a revelation. The culture created by this stressful situation is now used a strength. A powerful motivating factor, and one that the Sharks must respect. In fact, the Kings have scored more points than many others–they have the same number of wins as the top ranked Brumbies. So a full 80 minute game awaits the visitors.
And to wrap up Round 12, the Jaguares play the last of three home games. They invite the Western Force, but in competition terms, the ‘Jags may have given up an advantage to teams above them. They will be hoping that the game beforehand see’s an upset, and they can hold back the visitors. Just as the Force are a stumbling block for teams traveling through Perth, at this point they have a great amount to play for.
The final match of our ‘Super Saturday’ will require the South American side to maintain focus on the team across the halfway line. By good results, they could still gain a Wildcard place–but only through stringing more consistent wins together.
International Watch – Only Weeks Until June Window
It is now only three weeks until sides are affected directly by the June Test window. Players will have been given instructions from national selectors with some ‘work ons’. Those are for the training field only, as franchise coaches must have their teams full attention. Anyone caught easing off the throttle, should be penalized in selection for either team [national or club].
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) May 4, 2017
Patrick Lambie maybe just returning, so the forecast is that he will be only selected for the Springboks if Elton Jantjies is not the desired pivot to drive Allister Coetzee’s team. If Lambie is rushed, that might diminish his return to full health.
Note: the 2019 Rugby World Cup draw has been made in Japan. See full details here.
This Week In Rugby History
Ireland become the first Home Union to win a Test in the southern hemisphere, defeating Australia 11-5 in Sydney.
The touring British team were held in New Zealand for the first time, drawing 3-3 with Wellington.
For the first time, the Super 12 round-robin matches finished with no New Zealand team in the top four to go forward to the semi-final stage. The semi-finals were to be contested by the Brumbies, Sharks, Cats and Reds.
England started their tour of Australia with a rousing 64-3 rout of Western Australia in Perth
“Main photo credit”