Focus fixed on man in the middle
The relevance of the Stormers/Brumbies result is massive in the context of the entire Super Rugby competition. In my view, it’s crucial for the competition’s sake that one of the trendsetting teams was beaten.
Prior to the match, Jake White’s men were the only unbeaten side this season. The Stormers, however, showed over 80 minutes that the Brumbies are far from unbeatable.
I felt White erred in the week by suggesting that the Stormers lacked a cutting edge on attack and made no secret of the fact his charges would target Elton Jantjies at ten.
The Stormers were excellent on attack and Jantjies had a brilliant game. Rugby followers must be patient with the young flyhalf, because I believe we have a real gem in him.
I feel that White’s comments gave the Stormers an unbelievable amount of ammunition and motivation. The way in which he spoke after the game, there is no doubt he realised that he made a mistake and for him it’s a lesson learned.
Turning to the game, I felt the scoreline flattered the Brumbies. Christian Lealiifano kicked everything which meant his side rarely enjoyed field position. In all honesty, the Brumbies looked toothless on attack largely owing to the fact that they diverted from the game strategy which worked so well for them against the Sharks.
Instead of running at space they ran at a face. Over and over again they tried to run through Jantjies’s channel, but he held firm in defence. The Brumbies beat the Sharks the previous round by evading players and finding space through brilliant running lines. Against the Stormers they employed a far more direct approach and the home side had all the answers.
The Stormers’ win puts the competition into perspective and proves the point that if a side is just slightly off their game, they can be punished by the other on the day in one of the southern hemisphere’s toughest competitions.
The Sharks showed just how good they can be in routing the Rebels, but it’s a genuine concern to a competition when a side concedes more than 60 points. The issue that has to be raised: Is Australian rugby strong enough to field five sides?
In reality, you want 15 equally strong sides competing for the Super Rugby trophy. While the Australians are welcome to debate this issue there is no denying they represent an easier prospect for New Zealand and South African sides.
The Stormers welcome the seven-time champion Crusaders to Newlands this Saturday.
Whenever the Crusaders are in action my first question is: Who’s refereeing the game? I ask this because I believe they are by far the team that cheats the most in all facets of play.
The Crusaders are the one team that have been most affected by the new law directives. Since these laws have been in place the Crusaders have gone backwards, having previously dominated the competition.
Because the Crusaders have a propensity to cheat and their discipline is their weakest point, it’s crucial to have a top referee policing the game. Take for example Glen Jackson’s display in the Stormers/Brumbies game.
He was calm and collected and made great decisions. He may have only recently hung up his playing boots, but is already an outstanding referee. He has a great understanding of the nuances of the game and his success shows that more former players should follow his lead and take up the whistle.
His performance highlighted the type of referee needed for this weekend’s clash at Newlands. If, for example, Craig Joubert allows a free-for-all at the breakdown, it will be chaos and prove disastrous for the Stormers.
I feel it’s a huge setback for the Crusaders to be without Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Kieran Read. They remain a very good rugby side, but I feel the Stormers will be relieved not to be facing that trio.
I would certainly expect the Stormers to win this game – if they don’t they will be really disappointed. It wouldn’t be just another home win for them – the Crusaders remain one of New Zealand’s premier sides and would therefore represent a significant scalp.
The Bulls end their Australasian tour against a Brumbies side just back from their South African adventure. It is a huge game for the Bulls in the context of their season and they will therefore be desperate for victory.
I believe this is a watershed game for the Bulls, because should the Brumbies win comfortably, the former will return to Pretoria in that knowledge that deep down they are no longer genuine title contenders. Mentally a win for the Bulls in Canberra is massive.
Taking everything into account, I expect the Brumbies to win this game as they remain a top side in spite of their disappointing display last Saturday.
The Chiefs host the Blues in what promises to be a high-tempo New Zealand derby.
The Blues started the season so well and just like the Bulls need to get their show back on the road after back-to-back defeats. It’s crucial they rediscover momentum – something every team covets in this competition.