A welcome break or heartbreak?
After 14 arduous weeks of Vodacom Super Rugby action it is not hard to imagine that there are quite a few players wishing it was this time next week already.
That is because, for the first time ever, the majority of Sanzar’s Super heroes will be able to take a three-week break from the on-field rigours of the world’s toughest provincial competition.
And for many of them the break comes at exactly the right time, a point perfectly illustrated by the Stormers this past weekend.
While there were signs of it in their previous two matches, it was in Durban on Saturday that Capetonians’ last legs were exposed. For the first time this season their defence was unable subdue an attack through sheer physicality, and as a result they were completely at sea for most of the 80 minutes.
They had hit the wall, and in the Shark Tank it was a bang that wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. It is the Durbanites, after all, that have given them a few shining examples in the past of how not to approach a Super season.
In 2009, for example, the Sharks raced to the top of the log when – employing a Stormers-like game that was fully dependent on a dominant pack and physical defence - they won seven of their first eight games (including three in Australasia). And then came that bang, and in its aftermath they limped to losses against the Cheetahs, the Crusaders, the Waratahs and the Bulls, finishing well out of contention.
It is a fate that, if Saturday was anything to go by, could very much turn out to be the Stormers’ this year, unless the mid-season break comes to their rescue. But will it?
The problem is that it is not a break for everybody, and it is the high-flying teams – the ones at most risk from burn-out – that will probably provide the most players for international duty. Instead of putting their feet up, star players will face confrontation every bit as physical as anything Super Rugby can throw at them, and they’ll have the bumps and bruises to show for it.
What effect this break for internationals will have on Super Rugby when the teams reconvene at the end of June is anyone’s guess. Will the fresher legs of the lesser teams turn out to be the downfall of some of the current contenders? Is there a way to combat the ring-rustiness that is certain to set in? Will it be possible for teams that are on a run now to maintain momentum (something that has carried so many teams to titles previously)?
We’ll all just have to wait and see.
Between now and then, of course, there is the small matter of a three-test series against England, and here at the SuperWrap desk it’s forced us to break with tradition. This year we won’t be able to hold back the Wrap’s Bok team until the playoffs, instead we’ll have one for these June Internationals and then the usual one (along with those for New Zealand and Australia) just before the start of the Rugby Championship.
The team is normally simply made up of players who’ve been selected the most into our weekly Bok Barometer line-ups, but in this particular case we’ve had to scratch our heads a bit more than usual.
For the first time ever we found ourselves with ties in four positions, so allow us a chance to explain our selections there.
At loosehead prop, open-side flank and inside centre we chose Beast Mtwarira, Heinrich Brussouw and Jean de Villiers over Coenie Oosthuizen, Siya Kolisi and Tim Whitehead simply because they have more Springbok experience.
At flyhalf we had a three-way tie between Johan Goosen, Morne Steyn and Pat Lambie. Goosen was ruled out because of injury, and we went with Lambie over Steyn because he also had a Barometer cap at fullback.
We also had to make an exception at outside centre, where Robert Ebersohn had one more tick behind his name than JP Pietersen. The Sharks flyer, however, was also selected at wing on three occasions, making him more popular overall and therefore a fair selection into the overall team.
Our team will no doubt differ quite a bit from the one that will be read out by Heyneke Meyer next Wednesday, with no overseas-based players eligible. It is a form guide, more tha anything else, and was not chosen with any gameplan or opposition in mind.
Without further delay then:
The mid-year SuperWrap Bok Barometer for 2012:
15. Joe Pietersen (Stormers), 14. Akona Ndungane (Bulls), 13. JP Pietersen (Sharks), 12. Jean de Villiers (Stormers), 11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls), 10. Pat Lambie (Sharks), 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls), 8. Keegan Daniel (Sharks), 7. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), 6. Heinrich Brussouw (Cheetahs), 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls), 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 3. WP Nel (Cheetahs), 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), 1. Beast Mtwarira (Sharks).
We will, of course, continue to select our weekly teams until the end of league play. Here is who we thought stood out this last weekend:
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.
- ps, don't forget to choose your team in our Bok Barometer game, and stand in line to win great prizes
Super XV for week 14:
15. Andre Taylor (Hurricanes) 14. Hosea Gear (Highlanders) 13. Tamati Ellison (Highlanders) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes) 10. Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) 9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) 8. Keegan Daniels (Sharks) 7. Adam Thomson (Highlanders) 6. David Pocock (Force) 5. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) 4. Jarrad Hoeata (Highlanders) 3. James Slipper (Reds) 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) 1. Tendai Mtwarira (Sharks).
Bok Barometer for week 14:
15. Pat Lambie (Sharks) 14. JP Pietersen (Sharks) 13. Juan de Jongh (Stormers) 12. Andries Strauss (Cheetahs) 11. Willie le Roux (Cheetahs) 10. Morne Steyn (Bulls) 9. Piet van Zyl (Cheetahs) 8. Keegan Daniel (Sharks) 7. Willem Alberts (Sharks) 6. Dewald Potgieter (Bulls) 5. Anton Bresler (Sharks) 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) 3. Jannie du Plessis (Sharks) 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) 1. Beast Mtwarira (Sharks).
Match of the week:
Let’s not kid ourselves, the match between the Cheetahs and the Waratahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday was not the best exhibition of defensive play we’ve ever seen, but it was a thrilling contest nonetheless.
Twice in the match the home side had to fight their way back from a double-digit deficit, and they were perhaps somewhat fortunate not to hear a whistle in those dying minutes for front-row offences that had been merrily blown up by referee Craig Joubert in the first half. But they never gave giving up a thought and that one-point win, in a season where many a close one slipped by, must have been very satisfying.
It had a lot more, but even if it was only for Berrick Barnes’ reaction to the final whistle, 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.
This video is not available in your region
Try of the week:
There were quite a few spectacular touchdowns this weekend, especially in the high-scoring matches in Wellington and Bloemfontein. The most significant five-pointer came in Hamilton, however, where a bit of Sonny Bill magic set up a try that proved to be the difference in a tight, top-of-the-log contest between the Chiefs and the Bulls.
Here it is:
This video is not available in your region
- Jacques Botes, Nic Henderson and Ali Williams, who all played in their 100th Super Rugby (SR) match this past weekend.
- Nic Cummins, who played his 50th SR match for the Force this weekend.
- Liam Messam, whose 90th SR match for the Chiefs on Friday was a new franchise record.
- Aaron Cruden, who also broke a Chiefs record when he passed Stephen Donald’s mark for most points in a season. He is currently on 165 points.
- Beauden Barret, whose nine conversions against the Rebels on Saturday passed the Hurricanes’ previous record of six, jointly held by Christian Cullen and Jimmy Gopperth.
Here is this week's look at what players got up to on Twitter:
| We were under the impression that budgie smuggling was illegal in most parts of the world, but as David Pocock shows, there's nothing wrong with it in Perth.
|We all know that Adam Ashley-Cooper is a bit fragile, and his teammates seem to share our concerns as they take strapping session too far trying to keep him together
|It could be the Olympic torch run or just an old Shrek movie. Whatever it was that served as inspiration, Drew Mitchell thinks it a good idea to have a photo taken of him with a candle stuck up his ear. Strange bunch...
If Anton Bresler hasn't done so already, we strongly suggests he gets that man a Bells.
This video is not available in your region