You lost? Grab a Bok jersey then...
This past Saturday must rank among one of the more bizarre match days ever witnessed by South African fans of Super Rugby. It can’t have happened too often before that, despite the joy surrounding upset wins in two scintillating derbies, no one was able to go to bed that night entirely happy or sad.
The reason for that, of course, is that, soon after the Lions and the Stormers shocked even their own fans with their unlikely triumphs, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer crammed as many of the day’s derby losers as physically possible into the squad he named to take on England.
If your team had won on Saturday, chances are you choked on your champagne when the Bok squad was read out. If your team lost, you could console yourself with the knowledge that at least you’d see your heroes in action again next week.
Things, as always, were quite different here at the SuperWrap desk, though. Here we don’t allow trivial things like test squad announcements to distract us from assessing the fallout of what was a remarkable weekend of Super Rugby action.
And this much is clear: we are in for quite a scrap when the Super teams re-join their marathon already on the home-straight at the end of this month.
Nowhere is this truer than in the New Zealand conference, where the Chiefs will be looking nervously over their shoulders after the recent performances of the Crusaders and the Hurricanes. The men from Waikato currently hold a nine-point lead at the top of their conference, but they are still to face their two closest rivals, who have both hit some frightening form in the last couple of weeks.
The Australian conference is also far from settled, with the Reds finding their fit-again selves only one bonus-point win adrift of the Brumbies, with three post-break rounds of league play left.
Round 15 had quite the opposite effect in South Africa. Results here meant the Stormers now find themselves much closer to clinching the conference title than they would have imagined at the start of the weekend. But it is not only the results that will have an effect. Meyer’s shunning of the Stormers on Saturday night will have the unintended upshot of allowing virtually their entire squad the next three weeks off to rest their tired bodies.
The real drama here is expected to come from the Bulls and the Sharks as they fight it out for the three available wildcard spots.
Not only do these two teams provide the bulk of Meyer’s squad, ensuring they’ll be far more drained when Super Rugby resumes. They still have a clash between them scheduled in Durban that could put one of them out of the running completely.
The two teams also both have their demons to deal with.
The Sharks will have to figure out how a pack that, seen as individuals, is the envy of many an International side, has its set-pieces so easily dismantled so often. Answering that could give them platform that stars like Pat Lambie, Frans Steyn and Lwazi Mvovo need to bring them the glory that could be theirs.
The Bulls, for their part, will have to re-consider their loyalty to a game-plan that has seen them dominate their last four games, but fall short every so often because they simply can’t score enough points in the sixty minutes that they were in complete charge in each of those matches.
If the men from Pretoria - with the bulk of their coaching team not available - continue down that path, this rut could soon become a grave. The difference between the two, after all, is only a matter of depth.
Let’s move on to selecting our last teams of the week for this part of the season.
Note: our weekly teams are selected on the past weekend's action only, so overall season form is not a factor. Players in teams with a bye are then obviously not considered.
Super XV for week 15:
15. Israel Dagg (Crusaders) 14. Rene Ranger (Blues) 13. Francis Saili (Blues) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Zac Guildford (Crusaders) 10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) 9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) 8. Victor Vito (Hurricanes) 7. Richie McCaw (Crusaders) 6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers) 5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) 4. Luke Romano (Crusaders) 3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies) 2. Quentin MacDonald (Crusaders) 1. Tony Woodcock (Blues).
Bok Barometer for week 15:
15. Andries Coetzee (Lions) 14. Akona Ndungane (Bulls) 13. Lionel Mapoe (Lions) 12. Butch James (Lions) 11. Bryan Habana (Stormers) 10. Peter Grant (Stormers) 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls) 8. Josh Strauss (Lions) 7. Rynardt Elstadt (Stormers) 6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers) 5. Franco van der Merwe (Lions) 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) 3. Pat Cilliers (Lions) 2. Tiaan Liebenberg (Stormers) 1. Deon Carstens (Stormers).
- What Bok team do you think Meyer will put out on Saturday? Get it in now before 12pm on Wednesday in our Bok Barometer game and stand in line to win great prizes. There's also the Bok Prediction game...
Match of the week:
When the top-of-the-log Chiefs travelled to Albany on Saturday to take on the bottom-dwelling Blues many pundits expected one-way traffic. Well, weren’t we all pleasantly surprised!
The game had all you could ask for: nine tries, three yellow cards and two stunning fight-backs by the home side just as they started look to be out of touch.
In the end the Chiefs had just too much firepower and they held on for a 41-34 win.
We don’t know if it was a case of the Blues playing above themselves or if the Chiefs defence were just showing signs of fatigue. All we know is that this is our match of the week.
Here are the highlights:
Please note that video footage is for the website only and is rights restricted and therefore only available in regions that fall within SuperSport’s broadcast footprint.
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Try of the week:
Having scored a record-equalling four of them, Fijian winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma had by far the best chance to win this one. And he deserved it.
A move that started with a turnover on the Chiefs’ own line featured brilliant offloads by Sonny Bill Williams, among others, giving the speedster just enough space to burn the desperate Blues defence.
Here it is:
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Dewald Potgieter, Stephen Moore and Rudi Wulf, who all played their 50th games for their respective franchises this weekend. Moore has also played 47 games for the Reds.
Here is this week's look at what players got up to on Twitter:
| Force captain David Pocock took to Twitter this week to take a stance on stereotyping. Good on him.
|Highlanders flanker Adam Thomson has finally revealed his alter ego, and apparently he is available for children's parties.
|According to Louis Schreuder, MasterChef is where Duanne Vermeulen's heart lies. We wonder if someone will ask the other chefs, "Can you tackle Duanne Vermeulen?"
|How does Piri Weepu get to his goal weight…just shave those locks it seems. Hair today, gone tomorrow, and voila, you're in the test squad!
Springbok fans had plenty to moan about in the week, but they have quite bit bit to be thankful for, especially if you saw the ambush of Australia on SuperSport’s screens on Tuesday.
While we are all moaning about the five days given to Heyneke Meyer to prepare for Saturday’s test match against England, Robbie Deans literally had two days to prepare before meeting Scotland in Newcastle in atrocious weather.
Most players would rather be doing anything than playing two days after their Super Rugby games and it was madness to schedule a game for so soon after a derby weekend.
As Quade Cooper summed it up: “Not ideal, now back to the PS3”
To make matters worse for the Wallabies, they were reminded just how low in the pecking order they were when arriving at a top Sydney Private School on Sunday to practice.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, they were dispatched to the back fields to train, far from the bus and amenities, because some local boys were using the field to play “Aussie Rules” football at the time.
Sink the pink?
Kudos to the Bulls and their drive to raise funds for Cansa; a very worthy cause. While by no means original, the team in pink did manage to raise over R468 000 (and counting) after Saturday’s game against the Stormers.
The pink drive may have been a fund-raising success, but we don’t think Bulls supporters will be too keen to see the team in the strip again, whatever the marketing boys say.
Their record in the away strip is four losses in six games.