KSA Shark ©

Usual suspects front the opening charge

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news, Super 14 on 16 Feb 2009 at 12:10
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , ,

The expected answers were provided on the opening weekend to the question of which teams are most likely to challenge for Super 14 glory this year — the Sharks, the Waratahs, the Crusaders and maybe the Bulls.

In short, in most instances, the same old suspects, with those four teams having appeared in more semifinals over the past five or six years than any other team outside of that group, with the possible exception of the Hurricanes.

Yes, this competition is a marathon, and not a sprint, so we have to keep the Hurricanes near the mix somewhere, for while they conspired against themselves by being too loose – an overriding trend, by the way, in the first round – they did show when they came back from a big deficit to almost steal it at the death against the Waratahs that they have enough strength in most areas to challenge strongly.

But a win at the Cake Tin is a great way to start the Super 14, and in doing so the Waratahs provided an excellent riposte to those who write them off by virtue of them having lost their coach from last season (who anyway was sacked). They showed in this game, one of two really big ones on the opening weekend, that they have enough returnees from the team that made the final last year to be strong challengers again.

To be precise, there were 11 players who started in the final who played the opening match of 2009, and they showed against the Hurricanes that they retain the big element that was so impressive from them in their strong finish last year — namely their improved physicality, plus a great blend of deftness and power in most areas.

If an away win in Wellington is impressive, then one at a Newlands ground that was filled with 47 000 mostly Stormers supporters is even more so. And if you add to that the fact that the Sharks had to come from a ten-point half-time deficit to achieve their victory, then you begin to understand why so many fancy their chances of going all the way.

Like the Waratahs, there was a lot of impressive strength and physicality in the Sharks approach, but there was also great composure when they were under pressure in the first half and again towards the end, as well as a lot of clinical efficiency in the middle bits of the game, which they dominated.

Gavin Rich writes for SuperRugby that many have said that Jean de Villiers’s departure immediately after half time with what has turned out to be whiplash was the turning point of the Newlands match, but in reality the Sharks started winning it when their forwards clicked into over-drive at around the half hour mark and when Rory Kockott started controlling the game with his kicking from the base.

You should not write off the Stormers for they came back from an abysmal start last year, and they did show plenty of promise in the first half, but the way they looked so rudderless when De Villiers was gone answered in a negative way all those questions about their depth.

The Stormers can win the Super 14, but to do it, all the top players, the indispensible ones such as De Villiers and Schalk Burger, are going to have to remain fit the whole way through.

They are also going to have to improve the quality of their forward play, and find ways to turn Schalk Brits and Andries Bekker into players who contribute more in the tight-loose rather than just in open play when the game gets loose.

Indeed, the approaches and the strategies of the teams adopted on the opening weekend could make for the most interesting debating point over the coming week. There was much enthusiasm from commentators for the number of tries that were scored, but it should not escape the notice of critics that the teams that won the better, high quality games were the ones that kept it a bit simpler.

Certainly the Sharks management looked at their willingness to keep it basic as a significant factor in their win over the Stormers, who were the complete antithesis in their approach to the way they started last year, when they were criticised for being conservative.

For all the flash provided by the Stormers in the first half against the Sharks, that was not what brought them their points. Their first-half try came courtesy mainly of the pressure placed on a Sharks clearance under pressure near the tryline, with the Stormers running that clearance back with great effect.

There were some great tries scored across the first round matches at the weekend, and there were some teams who won playing extremely loose rugby. But then if one team playing loose rugby plays against another team playing loose rugby, one of them has to win. My money says that the game is going to evolve over the next few weeks in much the same way as last year, with teams best equipped to mix flair with pragmatism being the ones that will prevail.


Highlanders 31 Brumbies 33
Western Force 19 Blues 25
Lions 34 Cheetahs 28
Crusaders 19 Chiefs 13
Hurricanes 22 Waratahs 26
Stormers 15 Sharks 20
Bulls 33 Reds 20


  • For those who saw the game – should the Bulls be happy with the 33 -20 victory or should they be worried that the Reds were able to score 20 points?

  • Comment 1, posted at 16.02.09 12:24:08 by blackshark Reply
    blackshark - I'm back!
  • I believe Schalk Burger had a poor game??? 😳

  • Comment 2, posted at 16.02.09 12:27:12 by wpw Reply
  • @blackshark (Comment 1) :

    They should be VERY worried. There is a stat on the match that I will go and dig up quickly that will show Just why they need to be worried.

  • Comment 3, posted at 16.02.09 12:29:38 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • “with teams best equipped to mix flair with pragmatism being the ones that will prevail.”

    I think that is the defining feature behind success – and dare I say it something the Sharks exhibited?

  • Comment 4, posted at 16.02.09 12:30:48 by Baldrick Reply

  • “…the Sharks, the Waratahs, the Crusaders and maybe the Bulls.”

    Dude, that’s a long shot. Crusaders looked like half the team was picked in the pub 30min before kick off. They won against a ‘dangerous’ Chiefs side, but the standard of rugby was not good at all.
    And best you reserve judgment about the Bulls ’til after a few rounds. For that matter reserve judgment on all teams – you know, the whole sprint vs marathon thing ❓ ❓ ❓

  • Comment 5, posted at 16.02.09 12:45:13 by Namboer Reply

  • Compare these two comments / Stats

    Heres a stat that gives an indication of the game so far

    Tackles made

    Reds 28
    Bulls 2

    After 14 minutes it has been ALL the Bulls.

    Comment 22, posted at 14.02.09 19:29:38 by KSA Shark ©


    Half time Stats

    Handling Errors
    Bulls 6
    Reds 5

    Turnovers conceded
    Bulls 2
    Reds 4

    PK & FK conceded
    Bulls 6
    Reds 4

    Tackles made
    Bulls 20
    Reds 41

    Tackles missed
    Bulls 6
    Reds 5

    Bulls 54%
    Reds 46%

    Comment 33, posted at 14.02.09 20:02:45 by KSA Shark ©

    If you take those two stats then the for the 26min before half time:
    Tackles made
    Bulls 18
    Reds 13

    That tells me the Bulls relaxed and let the Reds back into the game.

    For a team to have been THAT dominant in the first 14 and then let the other side come back so well must be very worrying for a coach.

  • Comment 6, posted at 16.02.09 12:50:38 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • These are NOT the figures of a good – well disciplined side IMO.

    Handling Errors
    Bulls 6 (Rusty??)
    Reds 5

    PK & FK conceded
    Bulls 6 (understanding of the laws or ill discipline?)
    Reds 4

    Tackles missed
    Bulls 6 (Rusty??)
    Reds 5

  • Comment 7, posted at 16.02.09 12:52:50 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Ok – so the Bulls it was a case of the Bulls taking the foot off the pedal a bit…as opposed to the Reds overpowering them ?

  • Comment 8, posted at 16.02.09 13:00:16 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • @blackshark (Comment 8) :

    It’s half dozen of the one and 6 of the other I suppose. It just depends who is answering the question. 🙂

  • Comment 9, posted at 16.02.09 13:09:31 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 9) :
    He he he…I guess…

    I’m just glad they didn’t waste my lifeline…

  • Comment 10, posted at 16.02.09 13:46:38 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • The bulls were very poor. No plan. No motivation. No understanding of the laws either.

  • Comment 11, posted at 17.02.09 04:32:13 by fyndraai Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @fyndraai (Comment 11) :

    Yet they still scored max pts, top the log… despite losing their captain…

  • Comment 12, posted at 17.02.09 06:22:20 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 12) :

    There is no need convincing Fyndraai, I think he is a Bulls supporter although I may have that wrong. 🙂

    The thing is though that THIS weekend will show how good the teams really are when we can start drawing comparisons from last week’s opponents to this week’s opponents.

    I think there will be a surprise or two.

  • Comment 13, posted at 17.02.09 06:34:39 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©

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