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Super 15 - Week 5

Posted by McLook on March 25, 2014 at 3:45 AM

The matches played by South African teams during week 4 of the Super 15 in 2014 were;

• Blues versus Stormers;

• Lions versus the Reds;

• Sharks versus the Reds

• Cheetahs versus the Hurricanes.

 

Blues versus Stormers

Blues just returning from Africa was under the pump desperate to win. The Stormers on the other hand is a team struggling to find form. Both teams were in a desperate situation and striving to put a good performance on the park. The Stormers falling back on their defensive playing style did not play very well. They were out-scrummed, out-rucked, lost the lineout battle, and outscored. The manner of defeat is a bigger worry than the dismissal results. The Stormers are two the games into their tour, and are still searching for a win. It has been mentioned in the Cape media that the Stormers coaching staff Allister Coetzee, Matt Proudfoot and Robbie Fleck have met with The Western Province union president last Sunday. The speculation is that Brendon Venter or Gert Small will replace Coetzee as director of rugby in Cape Town. This this is a change that is long overdue but it will be too late to salvage the Stormers season.

The Blues had a reasonable game. Not as good as they were against the Crusaders but they scrummed well, their lineout looked solid enough and they scored some really good tries.

 

Lions versus the Reds

It was another victory for the Lions thanks do some dubious refereeing by a South Africa referee. In fact, to be accurate, it was the same referee that gave them a victory the previous week against the Blues. Referee Stuart Berry had another shocker. Last weekend he gave the Lions a victory by allowing a try after the ball was knocked out of the hands of a Lions player. His ruling that the ball was knocked forwards by the defending Blues player did not sit well with most pundits and media commentators. This week he penalised the Reds out of the game in the second half to the dismay of most of the South African pundits. Nick Mallet wrote that Stuart Berry spent the entire second half looking only at that Reds he penalised the Reds with four minutes to go at a scrum, which was never the penalty. He then allowed the skew lineout throw with two minutes to go and gave a try when the grounding was inconclusive. It was a shocking performance, writes Mallet. The manner in which he allowed the Reds to waste time at that scrum is also a concern. There was only about seven minutes left on the clock and Berry allowed the Reds to waste well over five minutes with substitutions and treatment of blood. The fact that neither Berry neither the Lions captain picked up the time wasting endeavours of the opposition was disturbing.

Mark Keohane writes that Stuart Berry's performance at Ellis Park was shameful, disgraceful and simply embarrassing. He opinionated that there should be referee accountability in Super rugby. It is not good enough to every week released a statement admitting to the referee and television match official mistakes.it is not good enough to publicly admit that apply shibboleth been awarded one of the yellow card should not have been issued. The result doesn't get changed. The Lions players that were asked to play with 16 men and to be honest the Lions should be complemented for their fighting spirit. They were totally outplayed the first half but showed some real grit in the second half. They clearly were the better team in the second half and it was the furiousness of their attack that forced the Reds into multiple infringements at the breakdown. They exhibited some real urgency at the tackle ball, good technique at the rucks and a willingness to run the ball. Their commitment and high energy levels clearly had the Reds against the ropes.

Winning with help of the referee leaves a bad taste in the mouth but this is a team that were thrown out of the Super 15 last season. They were thrown out of the super 15 as a result of a history of gutlessness. This season at least they are showing some guts and a willingness to front-up. That culture or softness that Coach Mitchell used to complain about has been replaced by a willingness to die for team and franchise. It is a vast improvement from what we used to see from the Lions. So whether it's with the help of the referee or not the Lions, this year, is a different team: a team who have won three out of the first four matches.

 

Sharks versus the Bulls

This was a typical South African derby. It wasn't grand attractive rugby. Sharks renowned for their running rugby was disappointing. They showed little ability with ball in hand probably due to the fact that they were totally outplayed at the set piece and the tackle ball. Losing both starting half-backs in the first five minutes must have had an impact on the Sharks. Replacement flyhalf Tim Swiel playing in his debut lacked the confidence to take responsibility. It was a Victor Matfield master class. Nobody could deny the impact that Matfield had on this franchise since he took his place in the starting line-up. If there was in doubt whether Matfield should be included -yet again- in the South African national team, his performance over the last two weekends must have silenced the doubters.

The Bulls have evolved -within the two weeks since Matfield’s elevation to the starting line-up- from a team totally inadequate at the set piece and at the tackle ball to a team that looks like they could go all the way. Matfield’s influence was clearly evident when he left the field late in the second half due to cramps. The Bulls as a consequence struggled to close the match in the last minutes.

Another positive in this match was the performance of Frans Steyn. Playing on inside centre he was less influential than previous weekend but it was his placekicking and midfield defence that kept the Sharks in the game. It was also good to see JP Pietersen back in South Africa and looking hungry.

Reminiscent of Ireland versus South Africa in 2010 when Jake White's big talk have inspired Ireland to a kamikaze effort to beat the Springboks Jake made a fool of himself yet again with his talk of how predictable the Bulls are and how easy it is to prepare for them. The sharks - after all that big talk- were totally outplayed and Jake is the one with the egg in his face. One would think that Jake is a senior campaigner would have learnt something about being humble and about not inspiring his opponents with dump remarks by now.

 

Cheatahs versus the Hurricanes

It was another dismissal performance by Cheethahs. This must be the franchise that is the hardest to support because one-week they can look like world beaters and the next week like chumps. As good as their attack seems to be as useless is their defence. At least they score tries something that the Stormers seems incapable of doing.

 

Some final thoughts

Watching super rugby at the moment is rather disappointing for me. The breakdown is a shambles. The attacking team doesn't seem to be favoured and the ball carrier seems to have no rights placing the ball; to many penalties at scrum time; no consistency in the awarding of yellow cards for professional fouls. The officiating is a mess, which makes for a messy tournament and messy viewing, according to Mark Keohane.

For me personally I find it hard to get into super 15 this year. The Bulls' victory over the Sharks was a pleasant surprise but they are back into their high school set-piece-box-kick-and-charge rugby. I just cannot see them beating the Chiefs or Highlanders with that sort of rugby. The Highlanders is the team that showed the most innovation and improvement so far since last year. Their performance on the weekend was the only one that really had me sitting on the edge of my chair.

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5 Comments

Reply Flourbomber
5:53 AM on May 13, 2014 
Here is a NZ perspective;

It was quite a weekend for New Zealand teams, all except the Blues making ground against the other conference sides.

The Blues played Friday night against the Chiefs in Hamilton and lost 20-32. They scored first when left wing Lolagi Visinia juggled and dotted down in the corner, and last through centre George Moala once the Chiefs had relaxed, but in between conceded four tries in succession. Prop Ben Tameifuna crashed over to begin the Chiefs fightback... Frank Halai?s no dwarf, but in his effort to force Big Ben over the sideline he was like a water balloon popping against the side of a bus.

Then Blues fullback Charles Piutau left the field with a left leg injury, disrupting any cohesion the Blues? backline possessed. The home town momentum built steadily. Flanker Sam Cane saw Moala hesitating and cut inside him, slipping the ball to Tim Nanai-Williams. The converted midfielder ran in the try after quick-handing to right wing Dwayne Sweeney and staying in support as Sweeney trampled a badly confused Moala.

The Blues backline wasn?t the only defensive system in disarray. Their fringes were also suspect, as demonstrated by Tameifuna for another try using his trademark one-man avalanche technique.

Nanai-Williams created the bonus point try for fullback Tom Marshall with a sweeping attack, splitting the defence off a short ball and drawing all three covering tacklers by keeping the ball in two hands. Marshall strolled around for the try with no one remaining to chase him, and put the Chiefs back into top spot.

Piutau (thanks Sam Cane, you big go-on-with-it-after-the-ball?s-gone munter) will be a big loss to the Blues. More of a loss than Benji Marshall, anyway. I excited one subscriber, a League fan calling himself the Count of Monty Cristo, when I suggested the Blues had put too much faith in Marshall. According to the Count ?he was a dried-up has-been when they went and got him. His lateral running and unpredictable play had not worked for years. No one shed a tear when he left.? The Count, entirely correct on this point, also claimed that he?d take the straight running and bigger collisions of League over ?pushing heads up other men's arses, standing around while one player kicks penalties to win the game, spilling the ball constantly and continually trying to understand the rules of that ridiculous mess called the breakdown...? but the French are well known for their problems understanding anything complicated, their disrespect for authority and disinclination to win at a cost.


The Hurricanes were next New Zealand side to run out, in Melbourne against the Rebels. After a Bryce Hegarty try they went behind early, but controlled proceedings to the point where they led 18-10 at the hour mark through six Beauden Barrett penalties. Left wing Julian Savea was a standout on defence, stopping most Rebel attacks out wide with bowel-loosening hits whenever they threatened there, and number eight Victor Vito securing several crucial steals in the red Hurricanes? red zone whenever the home team managed to avoid the predations of Savea.

Out of the blue the Hurricanes unleashed one of their patented blitzkriegs. Fullback Andre Taylor fielded a clearance and faced two chasers looking to close him down. Shaping to kick, he deceived them and hared through into the backfield where he drew all the cover to the left and unloaded pre-emptively to halfback TJ Perenara. The Rebels were toast. As the forwards arrived and committed the remaining tacklers with another charge, Barrett had enough time to look around, spot the space on the right wing and pick out Cory Jane with a pinpoint raking punt. Jane saw no need to exert himself because captain Conrad Smith was on hand to finish off.

Smith was yellow-carded for a marginal offside soon afterwards and without their centre the Hurricanes conceded another try, to Smith?s opposite number Tamati Ellison, but at 25-15 they were well worth the valuable road win and jumped into a wild card spot on the table.
Reply Flourbomber
5:56 AM on May 13, 2014 
On Saturday the Highlanders were at home to the Lions and escaped from a desperate situation with a combination of luck and poor officiating.

They stretched out to a 23-0 lead with three tries, everything seeming to go right and the crowd in good voice. Captain Ben Smith looped behind a dummy runner, found centre Malakai Fekitoa on his shoulder for the quick transfer to Richard Buckman, and the unsung unkempt hero of Napier Tech beat three tacklers in a zig-zagging run to the corner. The right wing got a second try showing scorching speed, giving two Lions backs a five yard headstart to chase down a perfectly-weighted kick by second five Phil Burleigh. The third came when Smith carved the Lions open with an angled run. The fullback was brought down a yard short but a quick recycle put replacement flanker Gareth Evans over in the corner.

There were plenty of southerners buying an extra Speights at the half-time stalls. And short of the Highlanders having a beer themselves in the changing sheds, not many things could explain how everything changed so quickly after the break.

Lions halfback Francois de Klerk snuck over for a try with a quick dab around the fringe after a quick tap. It drew good-natured applause from the stands, where thousands were expecting more of the same from the first half but plenty were happy the Lions were at least going to make a fight of it. But when prop Chris King was sin-binned for stupidly obstructing Lions captain Warren Whiteley and a no-look offload from replacement JW Jonker put his midfield partner Lionel Mapoe over for a second, a nervous note was audible in the crowd?s reaction.

When a simple move at the front of the lineout let substitute hooker Armand van der Merwe in for a third try to bring the Lions within six points, there were still nine minutes to play and the Highlanders were looking like they?d left their lungs on the plane back from Cape Town. TMO Vinny Munro added to the rising tension by refusing to award the Lions a try when it had been clearly grounded against the goalpost padding, so when they finally did score out wide through wing Courtnall Skosan, many were already thanking their stars that the upcoming conversion was exponentially more difficult than the one under the posts would have been.

But that didn?t excuse the Highlanders charging the attempt early. Conrad Jantjes was still in his pre-approach shuffle when they took off and were waved back by Angus Gardner. Jantjes carried on with his interrupted routine, missed, and looked towards the ref for confirmation that a second attempt was pending. But Gardner blew for full-time, a point short, and mixed in with the palpable relief of the Highlander fans was a well-justified chorus of howling protest from a few beefy men wearing red and white jerseys in the ringside seats... whad the vuck.

Ben Smith offered ?no comment? when asked about it afterwards, while Warren Whitely showed real class with his shrug and ?fair call? assessment. His smiling irony and the controversy notwithstanding, it was a thrilling match.

But that?s where the weekend stalled. After three thrillers to start the round, the action moved ever further west and higher above sea level.

The Brumbies beat the Sharks 16-9 in a wet Canberra. Weather aside, referee Glen Jackson did his best to assist the spectacle by ignoring knock-ons, forward passes and foul play, but couldn?t hide the fact that these two conference-leading sides have a dreadful inclination towards one-out running and kicking the leather off the ball. And it may have been a preview of the final, unfortunately. The South African and Australian conferences have ultimately proved weak, allowing a team in each to cash in on regularly easy opposition and the inside running at home field advantage in knockout. But if the conclusion to this year?s competition is watching the Brumbies and Sharks feel each other up for another eighty minutes, I may not.

The Cheetahs went down 16-23 to the Force in Bloemfontein. The Force, who travel an average of 3250 miles for every away game, are holding their own in the Australian conference. Their first inclination is to keep ball in hand, which endears them to New Zealanders, but they didn?t need much razzle-dazzle in round 13 and were simply the most recent side to hold the Cheetahs? hair while they puked.

The Bulls came back from two tries down to beat the Stormers 28-12 at Loftus Versfeld. At 0-12 this looked very interesting, a young, undersized Stormers side (without Jean de Villiers) running rings around the kickingest team in rugby... picture the mice v elephants scene in Dumbo, except the mice have cattle prods... but then the Bulls did what they do best, slowing everything down and squeezing all the fun out of life. Squished rodents were strewn everywhere as I struggled to fight off a nasty feeling of being force-fed mashed potatoes with a balling gun.
Reply Flourbomber
5:56 AM on May 13, 2014 
So when as a Sunday treat the Crusaders played the Reds in Brisbane, it wasn?t just another match, it was a chance to rinse a taste of undercooked rugby from my mouth. The commentators, between the usual vowel-chewing and cheat-excusing, came up with some outrageous stats for New Zealand sides at Suncorp Stadium, like no New Zealand team had won there since 2010 (a stat I didn?t believe until I checked at Pick and Go), so there was more than a little mint on the trans-Tasman lamb.

It began as most clashes between Australian and New Zealand sides refereed by South Africans do, with blatant off-the-ball obstruction going unheeded. Richie McCaw came in for some especially close attention, Ben Daley catching him flush on the jaw, Beau Robinson diving through a ruck to tackle him without the ball and Jake Schatz whacking him in the face as he pretended to contest the ball in the air (he used to be a handsome man, McCaw, before his whole head became scar tissue). It wasn?t just Richie copping unpunished cheap shots, either, Sam Whitelock took a flagrant shoulder to the bread basket in mid-air from Reds captain James Horwill... as touchies looked on, smiling sweetly, and Jaco Peyper once again decided not to disturb the pea in his whistle.

But that?s the beauty of the Crusaders who, better than any other team, can blithely suffer such slings and arrows, then as punishment, seeing as the officials aren?t interested, stomp the offenders? guts out with sublime rugby.

Their six tries were all highlight reel stuff. First five Colin Slade began the first with a wraparound offload to Luke Whitelock, almost ignoring the tackle of Schatz to keep his arms free, and Whitelock hit the gap with big Nemani Nadolo in support. The number eight was brought down within a few yards of the tryline, but aimed an optimistic over-the-shoulder ball at the winger?s knees and somehow it stuck.

Loosehead Wyatt Crockett got into the action next. Making up for a knock-on which had killed a multi-phase attack, he single-handedly destroyed the Reds scrum under their posts and earned three easy points before half-time, then immediately after the break tapped quickly and smashed through three tacklers to score.

Fullback Israel Dagg got a chip kick to hop straight up, and wing Johnny McNicholl timed his run onto it so perfectly that he flat-footed two more defenders with the angle. The Reds, whose ugly tactics had only served to anger the Crusaders, were all at sea by this stage, yelling at each other and blaming everyone except themselves. It was like one of those checkpoints in middle eastern countries where nobody?s in charge of anything except pistol-waving.

It only got worse. Sorry, I mean better. Slade hoisted one, no Reds seemed interested in catching it, McNicholl slapped it towards Whitelock who (still struggling to win hearts because he understudies Kieran Read) proved to have hands like glue and sprinted forty yards to secure the bonus point.
Reply Flourbomber
5:57 AM on May 13, 2014 
Halfback Andy Ellis began the next, jinking to elude a couple of kick-chasers then spotting two men unmarked out wide to his right. He found Dagg with a spiralling masterpiece of a pass, and Dagg?s quick transfer to McNicholl had the Reds scrambling backwards again with Crusaders converging from everywhere. McNicholl got his hands in front of Quade Cooper?s cover tackle and unloaded inside for Slade, Nadolo stayed wide for the final pass and I knocked over the coffee table as I leapt into the middle of the room pumping my fist like Jimmy Connors.

The cat peeped back around the doorway as I rearranged the furniture feeling guilty and a little hypocritical after the disparaging notes I?d jotted down about chaotic checkpoints... watching rugby can be a little chaotic too, sometimes, especially in the War Room when the Crusaders are playing. I was reminded of P.J. O?Rourke?s Holidays in Hell, when he asked ?What?s Arabic for calm down?? and was told there?s no such word.

Things were no calmer on the field, where after emptying the bench the Crusaders had conceded two late tries, but Cooper had flung a Hail Mary miles off target and gifted them the final say via a McNicholl intercept. At 29-57 I?d seen more rugby in eighty minutes than the three preceding matches combined.

It struck me that while the Crusaders are still capable of playing the best rugby in the competition, they hamstring themselves almost every year now with slow starts. Cast your mind back to March, when Todd Blackadder was still unpacking the tackling bags and trying to find replacements for all the Makos he?d let slip. Now they?re on fire. I hope we continue to see their best, and they host knockout games in Christchurch.

When was their last title, 2008? Blackadder may have some lofty expectations to manage but at the moment his Crusaders are like Beyonce, whose career has stalled since marrying Jay Z... Todd may not be a tuneless, one-trick producer who thinks his wife is a stripper, but his Crusaders are still searching for a number one hit and they?re capable of so much more than they?ve achieved under his direction.

It?s an ongoing mystery. Their set piece is efficient, their defence is awesome, their counter-ruck and counter-attack are incomparable and their roster is the envy of most teams. What?s the problem? Your thoughts please.

Jeeesus, I must be old. I just compared my Crusaders to Beyonce. If only winning Super Rugby was as simple as the advice I?d give her i.e. ditch your pimp and for crying out loud put some clothes on.
Reply Flourbomber
5:59 AM on May 13, 2014 
Do we really need a sixth SA Super team?

The answer of course is no!

I we need more teams and it is getting overblown as it is - lets have a Pasifika team; Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and Japan and an Argentinian one