South African professional rugby returns: Super Fan Saturday

South African professional rugby

South African professional rugby returned to action on Super Fan Saturday. The event was held at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on Saturday, with the four Super Rugby franchises on display.

A return to rugby action

It is too easy to make assumptions about teams and players, but the context of the matches does need to be considered. This was their first competitive match in six months. Two of the teams have had significant changes in playing personnel. The Bulls reshuffled their resources under new Director of Rugby Jake White. The Lions added to their playing talent as well, most notably from players departing the Bulls.

The quality wasn’t great and that was to be expected. The Bulls performance for the first thirty minutes was by far the best on display on Saturday. For all teams, intensity was in very short supply.

Ryan Jordan takes a look at some thoughts coming out of Super Fan Saturday.

Vodacom Bulls 49 – Tries: Schalk Erasmus, Kurt-Lee Arendse 2, Stedman Gans, Travis Ismael and David Kriel 2; Conversions: Morne Steyn 5 and Chris Smith 2

Cell C Sharks 28 – Tries: Grant Williams, Marius Louw, Dan Jooste and Jaden Hendrikse; Conversions: Curwin Bosch 2 and Jordan Chait 2

The first half was probably the best indicator of how each team approached this matchup. The Bulls stuck to their structure in the first half. They dominated with their forwards. They were dominant at the breakdown but cut the Sharks to pieces with their pacey and skillful backs. Many doubted White’s recruitments over the last few months, but it does appear as if he has a decent balance of youth and experience.

What should be remembered is that the Sharks were giving a raft of youngsters an opportunity to make their mark. Their play was disjointed at times and lacked structure on attack. The impression is that they pitched up for a runout, but did not show their full hand.

South African professional rugby returns

DHL Stormers 34 – Tries: Dan du Plessis, Scarra Ntubeni, Siya Kolisi, Warrick Gelant and Paul de Wet; Conversions: Damian Willemse 2 and Tim Swiel; Penalty: Damian Willemse

Emirates Lions 21 – Tries: Courtnall Skosan, Jamba Ulengo and MJ Pelser; Conversions: Elton Jantjies and Gianni Lombard 2

The feature of this game was the Stormers pack. They used their dominance up front to keep the Lions under constant pressure and controlled the pace of the game. Although the Stormers built an early lead and the Lions did show character to keep themselves in the game and not suffer a big loss that looked on the cards when the Stormers were up 27 points to 7.

Much like the second half of the earlier game, continuity was a problem for both sides. Both coaches took the opportunity to rotate their expanded squads of 30 players to give everyone game time.

Green vs Gold

Next weekend sees another festival-type game taking place at Newlands in Cape Town. After a schoolyard pick. the Deon Davids coached Gold team takes on the Green team coached by Mzwandile Stick.


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