There are four outstanding memories of this weekend’s Super 14 matches from a South African perspective of which only the Cheetahs’ first win in the competition was really a positive one.
News 24 reports that the others were the inability of the Lions and Bulls to close their opponents out, the stupid head butt by Sharks replacement Epi Tainone and the way the Sharks this time ironically escaped defeat because of an inept referee.
The Cheetahs’ 29-14 win over the Reds also had the effect for South Africa that only two of their franchises, and no longer three, now prop up the bottom of the log.
The Free State side played well, and they were good value for their win.
The cheers for their bonus-point try were as loud as for the win itself and fully deserved.
There are still many weaknesses in the Cheetahs side, but they have youth on their side and a bright future as team. In particular, they have Meyer Bosman who is growing in stature, and two outstanding loose forwards in Duanne Vermeulen and Heinrich Brussow.
The Sharks – in adverse conditions, it must be said – were still not wholly convincing, and they’ll smile broadly about the ineptitude of Paul Marks, who emphasised the dearth of good referees in Australia.
He let them off the hook against the Hurricanes in a match drawn 13-all with his decision not to refer what seemed like a try and, if not, should have been a penalty try. However, he declined to refer it – and on that decision of his rides a possible semi-final place for the Hurricanes, and the future of a coach.
What went through Tainone’s head with his senseless act right in front of the referee, no one will know. This red card, one must grant, was the right one by referee Marks.
Tainone appears before a judicial hearing on Monday, and a stiff suspension undoubtedly awaits him.
The Bulls and the Lions both did enough to win. Once again a lack of finishing, wrong options, discipline and in the case of the Lions, poor tackling, cost them victories.
For the record: the Bulls lost at the death, 15-14 to the Highlanders, through indiscipline when discipline was needed, and an intercepted pass.
The fact that it was the Highlanders’ first win of the season is an indictment of the defending champions’ standard at the moment.
The Lions lost 29-20 after what must have been their worst rugby of the season in the first half.
They were much, much better at the break, but slacked when it counted and that was that: one win and a draw from seven matches.
In other matches, the Waratahs looked good and the Blues continued their poor standard in the Sydney-based side’s 37-16 loss at home, while the Chiefs lifted their play with an impressive 42-28 win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
They are, on this performance and their fourth place on the log, suddenly an unlikely but strong contender for semi-final honours.Tweet