In Super Rugby week 6, the South African teams won two out of the three games they were involved in. The Sharks and Bulls won easily and the Lions were soundly beaten by the Rebels.
Super Rugby Week 6
Ryan Jordan comments on some of the significant points coming out of Super Rugby Week 6.
Melbourne Rebels 37 Emirates Lions 17
Melbourne Rebels – Tries: Andrew Kellerway (2), Richard Hardwick, Dane Haylett-Petty, Isi Naisarani Conversions: Matt To’omua (3) Penalties: To’omua (2)
Emirates Lions – Tries: Jamba Ulengo, Sti Sithole Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2) Penalty: Jantjies
For the first time in Super Rugby history, the Lions lost to the Rebels. The Lions were poor throughout the game and will be wondering where the adventurous running game of recent years has gone. Their defensive abilities have also made a mysterious disappearance, missing far too many one-on-one tackles.
The transition from the Ackermann/De Bruin era to that of De Bruin and then to the leadership of Cash van Rooyen has not been easy for the Lions. There are many calls from fans to replace Van Rooyen, but these are probably premature. He has inherited a squad that was originally built by Ackermann and de Bruin and then hit fairly hard by player departures to pastures of a more red hue, for instance Gloucester. Experienced players were added, but have the likes of Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts really added anything in terms of performance?
The Lions have now dropped to last place in the South African conference and 12th overall. Next, they face the Blues in Auckland on Saturday.
Cell C Sharks 33 Jaguares 19
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Hyron Andrews, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Andre Esterhuizen and Kerron van Vuuren Conversions: Curwin Bosch 2 Penalties: Bosch 3
Jaguares – Tries: Santiago Carreras, Joaquin Tuculet and Sebastian Cancellieri Conversions: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and Domingo Miotti
The Sharks continued their strong start to the season, beating last year’s losing finalists the Jaguares in Durban. The Sharks are entertaining with some great running rugby, but it is their kick chase and the improvement of their forwards at set-piece time that has allowed them to score the tries they have racked up.
The points difference would have been a lot more significant had the Sharks been fresher. They had just returned from their four-week tour of Australasia and it was obvious that they were exhausted in the last twenty minutes, allowing the Jaguares opportunities to close the gap.
The aspect of the Sharks game this weekend that really stood out this weekend was their defense. The Jaguares are known for their ability to score long-range tries. The Sharks line-speed cut them down throughout the game. The Jaguares looked to be a shadow of the 2019 team and often looked to be bereft of ideas as to how to unlock the Shark defense.
The Sharks now head the overall standings, albeit having played one more game than the chasing pack, as well as the South African conference. Their next challenge is against the Stormers in Durban on Saturday.
Vodacom Bulls 38 Highlanders 13
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Rosko Specman (3), Cornal Hendricks, Jaco Visagie, Warrick Gelant Conversions: Manie Libbok (4), Morne Steyn (1)
Highlanders – Tries: Josh Ioane. Conversion: Ioane Penalties: Ioane (2)
The first half was very tight, if a bit low on quality. Both teams can lay claim to losing significant resources since Super Rugby 2019. Before this game, both teams were holding the wooden spoon in their respective conference. The half-time score of 10 points to five in the Highlanders favour was an indication of how tight and desperate it was.
The main story out of the first half was the lack of clashing colours in the teams’ playing strip. It was far too close for comfort and raises a few questions. The most important question is why the matchday officials do not check each team’s playing strip before the game to ensure that they are not too similar. The Bulls made the change at half time, running onto the field for the second half with their yellow alternative away strip.
The second half was probably the best 40 minutes of the Bulls Super Rugby 2020 campaign. They used their big ball carriers to hit the Highlanders defensive line to create space for their backs, who shared 5 tries among them. Rosco “Specmagic” Specman was the main beneficiary, scoring a hat-trick of tries.
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The Bulls have lifted themselves off the bottom of both the overall standings and the South African conference. They now occupy 11th place overall and 4th place in the South African conference. Their next challenge is against the Reds in Melbourne.
It is close to halfway in the round-robin stages of Super Rugby 2020. The South African teams appear to be split into two very distinct groups. The Sharks and Stormers who are doing well and seem to be destined to be at the sharp end of the competition and the Bulls and the Lions who are struggling this season.
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