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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Here's the punch, now where's the line?



It wasn’t the best of Fridays for match officials involved in the Easter weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby action this year.

While the long weekend gave us the usual mix of results and action to talk about, it is two aspects outside of normal play that caught our eyes.

Firstly there is the eyesore that is the combined log of this year’s competition.

The Australian teams have managed to lose 10 out of the 14 matches they have played against South African and New Zealand opposition so far this season, while their derbies have gone the way of the underdog very often. Their conference is somewhat unexpectedly led by Jake White’s Brumbies.

The problem is that the combined log system, introduced last year, reserves a top-three place for conference leaders. As a result we have the Brumbies in third place, but a full five points behind the fourth-placed Bulls and trailing three other teams in the points column as well.

Not only does it look wrong, it is. The Australian teams already have it a lot easier, as their derbies do not come close to the physical intensity witnessed in those of their Sanzar partners, and a third place on the log guarantees a home playoff and the inside lane into the semifinals that comes along with it.

We understand that their player resources are stretched with the addition of an extra team, but we shouldn’t be the ones paying for it. If they’re not good enough to be in the playoffs, they shouldn’t be there, especially if it means a more deserving outfit is kept out of the running.

The other eye-catching feature of this past weekend’s action is that it saw the first two instances of fist-fighting in this year’s tournament.

Here are the two incidents:

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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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Now, we’ve certainly seen worse cases of physical violence on a rugby field, but the way in which it was handled by the officials, on and off the field, left a bad taste in the mouth.

In both clips there a clear punches to be seen, and that is only from the angles we had available to us from live coverage. Yet, despite this, only props Jannie du Plessis, Ben Daley and Dan Palmer got mentions by the judiciary officers in charge. And it was nothing more than mentions, because let’s face it, an off-field yellow card is hardly the world’s best deterrent.

We’ve been told by many a judiciary panel in the past that a punch is to be met by a red card, and if not spotted on the field, a noticeable sanction off it. But when they were confronted with it over the weekend, Sanzar officials on both sides of the touchline decided to stick their heads in the sand.

Over the same weekend we had reports in the Sunday papers of an instance in schoolboy rugby where a player knocked a referee unconscious because he disagreed with a previous decision.

We are in no way trying to draw parallels between any of the incidents, but we do feel that we have to bring it up, because this weekend the wrong message was sent out to players at all levels of the game throughout our hemisphere.

Ignoring foul play is akin to condoning it, and if officials at the top level don't stick to the laws, what chance do they have of convincing players at any level to pay those laws any respect?

Let us rather move on to looking at players who did do themselves proud. Here are our teams of the week.

Note: all our teams are selected on the past weekend's action only, so overall season form is not a factor. Players with a bye are then obviously not considered.

Super XV for week seven:
15. Andre Taylor (Hurricanes) 14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs) 13. Nick Cummins (Force) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Zac Guidford (Crusaders) 10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls) 8. Kieran Reid (Crusaders) 7. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers) 5. Andries Bekker (Stormers) 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) 3. WP Nel (Cheetahs) 2. Andrew Hore (Highlanders) 1. Arizona Taumalolo (Chiefs).

Bok Barometer for week seven: 15. Joe Pietersen (Stormers) 14. Gio Aplon (Stormers) 13. Robert Ebersohn (Cheetahs) 12. Tim Whitehead (Sharks) 11. Bryan Habana (Stormers) 10. Johan Goosen (Cheetahs) 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls) 8. Duanne Vermeulen (Stormers) 7. Ashley Johnson (Cheetahs) 6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers) 5. Andries Bekker (Stormers) 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) 3. WP Nel (Cheetahs) 2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs) 1. Dean Greyling (Bulls).

Match of the week:

This week we have to give it to the Stormers. There may have been tighter games this weekend, but nowhere did we see a more clinical delivery of a gameplan than in Dunedin.

The Highlanders were up for the show, trying manfully to muscle their way into the contest, but in the end the Stormers knew that their set-piece and defence should be enough to hold sway, and they were proven right.

The Cape-based outfit is still unbeaten after seven rounds, and unless the Crusaders dish up something quite different from what they did in Pretoria, it will remain that way for another week.

Here are the highlights:

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Try of the week:

The last time we were given this much pleasure by a prop scoring a try was when Richard Bands bumped off Carlos Spencer on his way to scoring against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

This time it was another Bulls prop doing the trick. Dean Greyling had everyone fooled when he threw an outrageous dummy just as he ran in a vital try against the Crusaders.

Here it is:

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Congratulations to:

  • Jimmy Cowan – who played his 100th game for the Highlanders this weekend.
  • Jason Rutledge, Duanne Vermeulen and Zac Guildford – who all ran out for the 50th time for their respective franchises.
  • Johan Goosen – who became the first player to score 100 Super Rugby points this season.
  • James O`'Connor – whose 24 points in the game against the Blues is the Rebels’ new franchise record.

Quote of the week:

“They reckon he practised this week…wait I was there…” – Aussie commentator Greg Martin is having memory problems. Nevermind, Marto, we still love you. Just as long as you don’t remember that we said so.

Twitter files:

Here is what your favourite players got up to on twitter this week:

Being a bachelor is tough, but at least we can see some players are trying to improve their skills. Here Highlanders flank Adam Thomson shows us where he is learning his culinary skills
How to sneak into a practice session while being suspended 101: Digby Ioane found the mascot’s headgear, but in true Ioane form, forgot his shirt once again…
Good to see that there is still some camaraderie left in the game. Here the Blues and Rebels share an Easter dinner in Melbourne last week.
This weekend also featured a small golf tournament called the Masters. The Stormers gave up one of their video sessions to take in the last round and support Louis Oosthuizen. Nice one guys.

Come fly with me...

We were pleased to hear that the Sharks and the Hurricanes had done something a bit different by sharing a charter plane to New Plymouth for their match last Friday.

Apparently both teams did not want to travel by road, and with the coaches both Kiwis, had a bit of a chat, and ended up sharing the flight to their Taranaki destination.

Having travelled the same road during the recent Rugby World Cup, we weren’t surprised. New Zealand’s highways are nothing like we experience here in South Africa, with a maximum speed of 100, and towns littered everywhere in between, you can’t keep a constant speed anywhere on the 300km journey.

A town pops up every 10km and you have to slow down to 50kph on a single-lane highway. That means the journey from Wellington, just over 300km, took us a good 5½ hours to drive.

Believe us, we would have flown as well.

Better late than never

Here at the SuperWrap desk we are quick to pass judgement, and we gave it quite a frown when one prominent national writer for an English daily phoned just as the halftime whistle had blown in the Bulls-Crusaders game.

“Bru, what time is the game, isn’t it 7pm?” the terrified and exasperated voice said at the other end.

It seems the writer had been casually relaxing at home, thinking the kickoff was 7pm when in fact the game started at 5pm.

His only option was to turn on SuperSport and watch the second half from home. Luckily for him the Bulls came right in that period of the game, after a poor first half.

Time and time again

A prominent Australian writer devoted an entire column to his hatred of scrums.

Bemoaning that one scrum in the Rebels-Blues match took 1minute and 52 seconds to complete, he spent the rest of the column telling us of the things you could do with that time, like “You can hear a full rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis's Great Balls of Fire, or Elvis Presley belting out Long Tall Sally. Alternatives include the Beatles' Carry That Weight and Duane Eddy's Ramrod

Considering Australian props have never been known for their scrumming abilities and that if Australia had their way, we’d all be playing a game very similar to Rugby League, we chose to ignore the tirade.

Funny thing through, he didn’t mention the near 90 seconds its takes his favourite player James O’Connor to kick for goal.

We rather enjoyed one reader’s reply, which was simple and straightforward: “It’s easy mate, stop watching games involving Australian teams…”

Where in the world

Finally we were treated again to another twitter geography lesson on the “world according to Kurtley” this week as Mr Beale answered another thought-provoking question.

Asked which his favourite country to play in is, Beale replied: “Europe or Japan - both are awesome countries”

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The 2014 SA Rugby Annual is the official record of the South African season and is widely considered to be one of the finest yearbooks in world rugby
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