|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.