Super Rugby Week 3 saw the DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks deliver disappointing results, while the Vodacom Bulls and Emirates Lions presented an entertaining though mostly one-sided affair.
Super Rugby Week 3
This week saw all four of the South African franchises in action, with the Cell C Sharks enjoying the bye last weekend.
Crusaders 45 DHL Stormers 28
Crusaders – Tries: George Bridge 2, Cody Taylor, Billy Harmon, Bryn Hall, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mounga; Conversions: Richie Mounga 5
DHL Stormers – Tries: JC Janse van Rensburg, Wilco Louw, JD Schickerling, Steven Kitshoff; Conversions: SP Marais 3 and George Whitehead
The DHL Stormers arrived 20 minutes late for this match-up, leaving the Crusaders to entertain the crowd with their training-field planned moves. The Stormers finally pitched up for the game with the score being 26 to nil. Their fightback was admirable, but being so sloppy in the first quarter meant that they were always chasing the game.
For all his running abilities, Dillyn Leyds is not the answer at flyhalf at this level. Admittedly he was mostly on the back foot, but he does not have the kicking out of hand game that is needed to manage space and work his team forward.
Being a lock with the Stormers at the moment is a bit of a health risk. Pieter-Steph du Toit was taken from the field on the medical cart, but it turns out the knock to his head is not serious and will be available for selection this weekend. Not so lucky is JD Schickerling, who is on his way back to South Africa. His replacement is 20-year old prospect, Salmaan Moerat.
The Stormers next face the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Cell C Sharks 24 Waratahs 24
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Lukhanyo Am 2, Robert du Preez; Conversions: Robert du Preez 3; Penalty: Robert du Preez
Waratahs – Tries: Jake Gordon, Michael Hooper, Mitch Short; Conversions: Bernard Foley 3; Penalty: Bernard Foley
— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) March 3, 2018
This became a horrible game to watch. Neither side could find the handle on the ball and produced 33 handling errors. The match did not deliver much quality, with not much intensity either. The highlight was the performance of the Sharks center pairing of Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am. Esterhuizen popped everywhere, both in attack and defense. Am had a great game with ball in hand, scoring twice and earning a deserved man-of-the-match award.
Last week, the Waratahs benefited from a brain-fade moment against the Stormers. After having fluffed a tail ball lineout call a few minutes earlier, the Stormers called the same throw that lead to the match-winning try by Ned Hannigan.
This week, it was the Sharks’ Keegan Daniel who had spectators shaking their heads in wonder. With the Sharks in the lead, he fielded a touch kick. A quick throw-in to himself went horribly wrong and ended up with Michael Hooper diving over to score next to the posts. There is a time to play “entertaining” rugby and there is a time to be circumspect. In this case, it was time to be circumspect and trust your lineout.
The Sharks next face the Sunwolves in Durban.
Vodacom Bulls 35 Emirates Lions 49
Vodacom Bulls –Tries: Johnny Kotze, Handre Pollard, Lizo Gqoboka, Travis Ismaiel Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff, Francois Brummer (2). Penalties: Marnitz Boshoff (3)
Emirates Lions – Tries: Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Marvin Orie, Malcolm Marx, Penalty try, Sylvian Mahuza, Ross Cronje. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (6)
— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) March 3, 2018
Even the most dedicated Vodacom Bulls supporter who is a Superbru player should have known to pick the Lions to win this one. This is in no way derogatory towards the Bulls. The Lions are a far more mature team, playing to an attacking and defensive structure that they have been applying for a number of years. They faced a very young, inexperienced team under a new coach in their second outing as a group.
Make no mistake, the Bulls are a team on the rise and will grab a few decent scalps this year, but they need time to develop and gain experience. The Lions are past that stage and will be at the sharp end of the tournament again in 2018. What the Lions did prove was that they are a team that can adapt.
For all their daring-do on attack, it was one of the most impressive rolling maul displays in years that really lead to them overcoming the Bulls. Their continuity in coaching by appointing Swys de Bruin as their Head Coach after the departure of Johan Ackermann to Gloucester is paying dividends. The experiment of playing Springbok lock Franco Mostert at blindside flank produced fair results, but he would tested a lot more by a more experienced pack. Was it a Rassie Erasmus call to play Mostert on the flank?
The Bulls discipline was also a major issue in this game. Despite conceding many penalties, they also had to play for 9 minutes with only 13 players on the field after conceding two yellow cards within a minute.
The Bulls have had to learn a hard lesson about employing “budget” coaches. There may be one or two other franchises who might consider the direction they are taking.
The Bulls will travel to Brisbane to take on the Reds next weekend and the Lions host the Auckland Blues in Johannesburg.
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