So, my prediction of last week that at least 3 SA teams would win this weekend was shown to NOT be the ravings of a madman after all (how do you like them apples KSA? ).
The Stormers found their rhythm against an admittedly uninspiring Reds team, the Bulls out-brawled the Lions despite being down to 14 men for the majority of the match, and the Sharks brought the trigger-happy Blues back to Earth with a bump.
The Cheetahs should have been winners too, but they fought hard to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – yet again.
So, after 3 weeks of gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts by SA fans, where does this leave us? Time to slaughter the fatted calf or should we not put away the sackcloth and ashes just yet?
The only team that truly worries me is the Lions. To lose to a team that had 13 men for 10 minutes and 14 for about 50, is a pretty poor effort. Yet, the scrums weren’t bad, the lineouts were fine, and the breakdowns were savagely competitive. In addition, the backs often attacked with great purpose and there were some great movements.
My feeling is that the Lions need some added steel in the lock department, preferably big guys capable of brutal tackles and some bullocking runs. Although they spread the ball very well, they are sometimes too lateral, and the defence has time to fan out. A few big runners to draw tacklers would help remedy this, while a more effective general than Louis Strydom would help to create space for those outside him. In spite of this, once must remember that they have often had the beating of the Sharks, so we should be careful of that fixture next week.
The Bulls must surely take heart from a very brave performance – winning with 14 men is nothing to be sneezed at. Derrick Hougaard, the slightly homoerotic hero of many a Thswane resident, played a great game, with some superb kicking coupled with slick distribution. Having Morne Steyn outside him helped ease the pressure on the Darling of Loftus, while Wynand Olivier had his best game in a long while at 13.
If anything, the return of Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha underlined their worth, in that although they were both well below their best, they still added great value to the Bulls.
Unfortunately, I could only catch the highlights of the Stormers game, which I dearly wanted to watch, but from what I saw and read, they upped their intensity and skills levels and played a brand of rugby not unlike that of the late 90’s. The forwards didn’t seem to dominate, but their all-round performance was key. Peter Grant certainly has some ability, and was back to his best, while Gcobani Bobo and Jean de Villiers seem to be really gelling in midfield, though I still feel moving Bobo to 12 and Jean to 13 would be a better move.
I must mention the bizarre little try-celebration by Bolla Conradie, who looked like he wanted to threaten the entire stadium. Seems someones been slipping all the scrumhalves in the Super 14 some testosterone cocktails…
The Cheetahs played a great first half, with organized, hard defence, and slick, 15-man attacking rugby, before poor tactics and Tewis de Bruyn threw the game away. Jonghi Nokwe showed that genuine pace outside of good distributors inside can be truly devastating, and I for one hope he retains his place there, as he defended well while also giving the Chiefs backs a lot more to worry about than the evergreen, Salusa-45-sponsored Gavin Passens.
The terrible tactics consisted of the aimless kicking at the Chiefs, a team who surely score about 70% of their tries from counter-attacking from kicks, and one must wonder if that was a decision from the coach, or merely poor execution. Whatever the case, it gifted the Chiefs the majority of possession in the second half, and allowed them to play to their strengths.
Things got worse when Tewis de Bruyn stepped in for the impressive Conrad Barnard, and proceeded to knock-on, mis-kick, and lose possession in a display which earned him a warm and fuzzy place in the hearts of Chiefs supporters the world over, and also had me wondering if he maybe had been befriended by Hansie’s bookie. One wonders whether Hendrick Meyer maybe made fun of the Bloemfontein Waterfront or something, considering how far out of favour he has fallen.
The Sharks played a great game in upsetting the Blues, starting with some extremely robust play from the likes of Bismark du Plessis (playing an incredible game), BJ Botha, Keegan Daniel and Beast Matawira. Enough will be written about the why’s and wherefore’s of this great victory, but I would just like to note that Bismark du Plessis, Daniel, and Freddie Michalak had massive games, as did Beast and Adi Jacobs later on.
Keegan Daniel is of course completely mental. One look into his madly staring eyes, or perhaps a sight of the barely contained aggression that makes his whole body thrum like a geyser under great strain, is a giveaway, but his kamikaze style of play is another. This of course is a compliment, as all the great opensiders have been complete loonies – think Schalk Burger, Ruben Kruger, George Smith, and of course, the pin-up, Phil Waugh.
I hope Daniel can keep up his present standard of play, as he is finally back to where he was 2 years ago in terms of impact. With the Force showing that the Crusaders are not infallible, and that quick ball and intelligent play can beat their Trojan defence, a player like Daniel will be very important.
What is clear is that most of the SA sides are finding their feet with the new laws, which they have the least experience with, and that while we may not top the Super 14 table this year, we are no worse than before. The competition looks to be really getting into gear about now.Tweet