Naas Botha Comments on the SuperRugby Super 14 Blog.
We’ve never seen a better start to a Super Rugby tournament than this past weekend. All 14 teams produced rugby of the highest standard, and the conditioning and general fitness of the players was top notch.
Even the switch to appointing referees based on merit and the re-introduction of the dreaded hybrid ELVs went smoothly. We had a few calls in to the SuperSport studio over the weekend claiming otherwise, but as always, it seemed to be supporters of the losing team blaming everything but their team for the loss.
Of the overseas teams I was most impressed by the Waratahs and the Blues. Taking on a star-studded Hurricanes side first up in Wellington is a tough ask and the men from Sydney made it look easy. The Blues, despite a whole number of injuries, also claimed a tough away win in Perth. Both outfits look set for good seasons.
Locally, Friday night’s match at Ellis Park was brilliant. Both sides played a quick, entertaining brand of rugby and showed outstanding skills. It is a pity that the Cheetahs have to go on tour now, but I do fancy them to upset a few sides on the road.
I thought the Stormers looked a little shocked after going down to the Sharks. They clearly did not expect to lose the opener at home. Credit must go to the Sharks for that gritty comeback.
The Bulls’ win over the Reds may have been the biggest of the weekend, but I was not overly impressed. The match was played at a much lower tempo than the rest and both teams made a lot of mistakes. Looking at the lineups, the Bulls should have won by a lot more.
Having said that, I understand that the Bulls came off three losses in the pre-season, so a win at all costs was the priority. I fully agree with that approach, but they will have to improve a lot if they want to have a say later on in the tournament.
The recipe for getting to the playoffs remains the same as always: win your home games and two on the road. I still believe all the South African sides are capable of doing that.
The only negative aspect of this weekend was the low match attendances. Except for Newlands, stands were empty from Christchurch to Pretoria. Perhaps it is the first signs of the global financial crisis hitting the sport in our parts, perhaps it is something else. All I know is that if the overall standard of rugby remains at this level the crowds will come flocking back in no time.Tweet