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New-lands a knockout





SuperWrap 8, 2017

Saturday’s Super Rugby clash at Newlands couldn’t have been more hyped if Don King himself grabbed a loudspeaker and sold us 'Mayhem on the Mountain'.

A convoluted conference system left us as South Africans no choice but to see the match as a heavyweight title bout, a pre-knockouts knock-out of sorts. It was the only time we’d see our two best prize fighters face each other in the regular season.

Fighting out of the left corner we had the lightning-fast reigning champs, the Lions. In the right corner - weighing in with a massive tight five and a thunderous uppercut - we had the undefeated challengers, the Stormers.

The stage was set for a try-fest as the country’s two best attacks went head to head, and fans from both sides were frothing at the mouth all week.

“Let’s get r-r-r-r-ready to r-r-r-rumble!” And they actually listened.

From the kickoff both sides showed attacking intent. It was the Lions who landed the first body blow with an early Malcom Marx try from a rolling maul. The Stormers soon replied with a straight right to the nose when Dillyn Leyds grabbed a good pass from his flyhalf to go over in the corner.

It seemed as if they were going to match each other blow for blow all afternoon, but the Lions weren’t reading the script. They jabbed next through some clever off-the-ball angling by replacement Harold Vorster and then – with considerable help from the TMO - connected with a Jaco Kriel right-hook.

At halftime the Lions were leading 22-13 but everyone knew that things were only getting started. The unbeaten Stormers were a team that had been averaging five tries a match all year and there was no way they would take that scoreline lying down.

They would come out swinging in round two, was the general belief. And they came out swinging as soon as action got back underway.

For the next 12 minutes or so they, by George, did the Foreman and pushed their opponents into a corner, attempting one muscular blow after the other. They were bigger and stronger and if brute force was the way forward, then they had plenty to offer.

FIGHT LIKE A LION

But then the Ali was put into A LIons effort. They stood up to the bullying, fending off every blow, rolling with every punch until there was nothing left. They won the match in those opening minutes of the second half without even attempting to land a punch.

History will show that from that point on the Lions pack was transformed. Not only could they live with the Stormers, they had drained the life out of them. Now they were the ones calling the shots, they now had the Springbok selectors sitting up and taking notice.

The knockout punch came a bit later when some quick hands freed up space for the pacey Sylvian Mahuza to finish things off with a bonus point, but that was nothing more than a formality.

Bruised, battered, but STILL undisputed champions of the land: The Lions!

It was a fight worthy of a title, but both our boxers now move on to bigger things. And both can take a lot from what happened in Cape Town on Saturday.

The Lions are unlikely to face a test like that again until the playoffs start late in July. They will draw heavily on the experience and confidence gained from keeping out a more dangerous challenger when they finally get to face opponents from the New Zealand conference in an unforgiving playoff environment.

The Stormers will use this as a timely reminder that their new-found attacking prowess is not yet enough to better the efforts of all opponents. The Lions taught them what the Chiefs couldn’t: that fights can turn nasty, and when it happens you have to be able to box clever.

The Stormers leave for a three-week tour of New Zealand knowing that they should not throw out the baby with the bath water. Their attacking intent remains both laudable and valuable, but their traditional strengths upfront and metronomic goal-kicking will be just as vital if they want to pick up any noteworthy log points on the road.

They will also have learned first-hand how demoralising an unrelenting defence can be if you’re faced with it. They will want to become soul-crushers themselves now.

Our two best teams faced off on Saturday and only one came away with the spoils. Both of them, however, can look back on that bout as the key moment of their respective 2017 campaigns.

Our two best teams may face each other one more time this year. Let’s hope it is to decide who is the holder of the actual Super Rugby title.

For now, here is our team of the week (based on performances this last weekend only).

Bok Barometer for week 8:
15. Jesse Kriel (Bulls), 14. Makazole Mapimpi (Kings), 13. EW Viljoen (Stormers), 12. Harold Vorster (Lions), 11. Raymond Rhule (Cheetahs), 10. Elton Jantjies (Lions), 9. Ross Cronje (Lions), 8. Warren Whiteley (Lions), 7. Ruan Ackermann (Lions), 6. Jaco Kriel (Lions), 5. Franco Mostert (Lions), 4. Lood de Jager (Bulls), 3. Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), 2. Malcolm Marx (Lions), 1. Jacques van Rooyen (Lions)

Tries of the week:

 

 

Best of social media:

 

 

 

Best pass he had all day

 

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Not the worst suggestion ever. How's about that Bloemfontein and Pretoria?

 

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*Standing ovation!*

 

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Sure, #StrongerAsFive

Face Off

One of the more interesting reactions this week to Sanzaar cutting Australian teams was that of Scott Fardy, the Wallaby flank, who used every opportunity to tell the media his dismay at the decision.

And one of the key issues he has is that he doesn’t know who Sanzaar’s head is.

"The officialdom in this game has always been like that.

"Obviously everyone looks at the ARU at the moment but you wouldn't know who the head of SANZAAR is at any point -- I wouldn't know what he looks like," Fardy said of SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos.

"In other sports, especially in Australia, you have a head we can look at. In SANZAAR rugby we don't know who is running it.

"It's faceless men in suits in boardrooms."

Marinos is the current head of Sanzaar, and the organisation is run by a board of the four unions who decide on consensus.

Premature Elation

After telling the world they are ready to be Super Rugby champions, the Cape media had to eat humble pie this week when the Lions ended up on top in their local derby and by some significant distance as well.

The Lions on the other hand were telling each other they were doing it for their coach, Johan Ackermann, who leaves for Gloucester at the end of Super Rugby.

We’ve unfortunately seen this before, where one swallow doth a summer make in the Cape, and their local scribes go completely overboard - forgetting there is still a massive competition to run.

Also, the small fact that the Stormers haven’t toured yet.

It is hard not to chuckle at them sometimes, especially when Allister Coetzee used to tell anyone who would listen while he was Stormers coach that he gets a warmer welcome outside Cape Town than at home.

We sincerely hope for a Stormers run that takes them to the final, as we do with any other Super Rugby side, but let's not pop the champagne until it is really deserved.


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