New trends emerging
It’s still early days, but a few trends are starting to emerge in Super Rugby.
A glance at the conference logs suggests that South Africa have a strong three-pronged challenge, now headed by the Stormers, The Crusaders and Blues will carry New Zealand hopes and the Australian conference is looking comparatively flimsy.
Sharks fans will no doubt be grumbling about aspects of their side's loss to the Chiefs, but in tricky conditions the Chiefs did a better job of hanging onto the ball, forcing the Sharks to make over three times as many tackles.
The Sharks kicking game also didn’t put enough pressure on, and they’ll need to improve if they’re to beat the Crusaders in London.
One thing John Plumtree and co will have noted was the Crusaders, for the third game running, making a slow start against the Highlanders.
But once the red and blacks got things going they were unstoppable. Expat Kiwi and South African fans, and Brits interested in a dose of Southern Hemisphere rugby are in for a treat as these two class sides meet at Twickenham.
The Blues-Hurricanes game was a really good spectacle. The Blues still carry the mantle of inconsistency, but having made their trip to South Africa early and facing only one more game out of the country they are not in bad shape after pulling away against the Hurricanes.
The best thing about this match was the relatively low error rate. There have been a lot of handling errors over the past few weeks, which some put down to “in your face” defence, although I’ve also heard the balls are getting slippery with a sheen of sweat or in light rain, but at Eden Park the dropped ball count was low, and we got a good contest.
Did anyone, barring the most committed Cheetahs fans, see Saturday night's result in Sydney coming?
Driving home from Eden Park I heard score updates on the radio, and thought it would probably prove to be a case of the Waratahs getting off to a rough start, and that they’d get better in the second half and score one of those “ugly” wins that you sometimes have to be content with.
Not on your life.
I got home in time to watch the second half, and sat back in a mix of admiration, disbelief and hilarity as things went from bad to worse to diabolical for the ‘Tahs and the Cheetahs scored an historic win.
Fair play to the Cheetahs. They took their chances well...the Phillip Snyman try was as good as we’ve seen this year. They defended stoutly, kicked well, and suffocated the Waratahs attack....all of this without Juan Smith and Andries Strauss.
The return of Heinrich Brussouw will send an ominous warning ahead of the international season, he was phenomenal.
But the Waratahs were awful, even worse than they were against the Crusaders in Nelson ...it’s not often you hear the Aussies booing their own.
Finally I picked the Stormers to beat the Bulls in our Virtual Rugby tipping competition, so wasn’t shocked by the result. It was a real arm wrestle, good to watch and a significant victory for the Stormers.
The Stormers aren’t scoring a lot of tries, but their defence...”The Great Wall of Cape Town” is outstanding, their controlled aggression at the breakdown is coming up trumps, and Peter Grant is making the Springbok selectors pay attention.
The Bulls can’t be written off at this early stage, but that’s now two defeats at home. The formula that has done them so well in recent years just doesn’t seem to be working for them right now and they are letting their frustration show.
It’s developing into a fascinating competition.