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SA teams going down in history

South African Super Rugby fans, still on cloud nine after a clean sweep over New Zealand teams the week before, came crashing back down to earth in round five of this year’s competition.

Massive losses by the Bulls and the Sharks, followed by the news that our only winning team this week had lost their star flyhalf for the rest of the season, left us all rather depressed.

It’s even worse if you have a few bucks riding on the outcome of a prediction league. There seems to be no sense in the way results have panned out so far in the tournament’s 2013 edition. It’s a lottery this year, and you’ll be excused if you’ve reached the point where you think your money would have been better spent drowning your sorrows at the local watering hole.

But fear not, dear readers. This is the SuperWrap, and we’ll clear that mist for you in just a couple of paragraphs.

You see, we know that history has a way of repeating itself, and we’ve hit the annals on your behalf. What we found could prove very handy ahead of your next round’s predictions. All you have to do now is to grab a notebook and a pencil, and feast your eyes on this:

Historically the Bulls were all but guaranteed to lose this weekend. They are keen to fly out on tour as late as they can to be as fresh as possible for their opening match, but this comes back to bite them the following week.

With this in mind, a good predictor would have known that since 2006 the Bulls won seven out of their eight tour openers (explaining the Auckland result) but that they have lost six out of eight the week thereafter (as they did once again in Christchurch).

And here is what you need to jot down: their week three record is even worse. In the same time frame they won only once in eight attempts.

History teaches us a thing or two about the Sharks as well. Their losses come in streaks, big ones. Here are a couple of examples: in 2010 they started their campaign with five straight losses. In both ’08 and ’09 they went through a patch where they could win only one of five matches. Even as high-flying finalists last year they had their work cut out to make the playoffs in the first place, because they lost four of their first seven matches.

This seems to suggest that they don’t respond well to losing. And make no mistake, that Brumbies loss will take some getting over. The last time they conceded four tries before halftime against an Australian team was against the same team but way back in 2000. That of course was a year in which they managed only one win for the entire season. Surely that is a fact worth remembering before you enter a score for them again.

The news is even worse for the Cheetahs. They were alone in manfully waving the rainbow-coloured flag this past weekend, but if history has anything to do with it, that win may well have been their last in quite a while.

The loss of Johan Goosen is something that all but obliterated them last season. With their young star starting, they had just beaten the Rebels and the Hurricanes on the road and pushed the seemingly invincible Crusaders to the point of breaking. Back home they hammered the Lions.

They were up 28-9 against the Highlanders with less than half-an-hour to go when Goosen hurt his shoulder scoring a famous try. The Cheetahs were done. They went on to lose that match 33-36, and then limped to season’s end; having only two narrow wins against weak Australian opposition to show from the seven matches that followed.

Of course, history will show that Goosen tore the ligaments in his right knee in a freak training accident on Monday, and that he won’t play again this season.

These are probably the handiest prediction tips you’re likely to find this year. If these things are important to you, now is as good a time as ever to go fill in your forms.

For the handful of you still reading, here’s our message: there is still hope. History only repeats itself if you’re not willling to learn from the past.

The Bulls have a shocking record in week three of their tours, but they know better than anyone else that times have changed. In the past they were willing to concede points down-under, knowing that they can go on a winning run back home and sneak into the playoffs. This year, and under the new conference system, they have to take every single point on offer.

They’re not coming home to their adoring fans at Fortress Loftus. They are still waiting for their hallowed stands to be filled by Sharks and Stormers fans, and then to go play those two teams away. Just there you’re looking at a potential 20 log points that could vanish without anything having gone drastically wrong.

No, we expect the Bulls to come out all guns blazing this Saturday as they face a Reds team smarting from an unexpected loss to the Force and reeling from news that their beloved coach will desert them at the end of the season.

The Sharks, likewise, are up against the Rebels. They are expected to win, but they’ll try to do it as handsomely as possible, because they are truly embarrassed about that first 40 last Saturday.

The Brumbies result could well end up not being the start of a losing run, but the wake-up call the Durbanites needed to re-ignite an attacking game that looked almost unstoppable towards the end of last season. That will be the perfect frame of mind to be in as they face in Crusaders and the Stormers in weeks to come.

The past has a lot to teach the Cheetahs too. The performances put in by Sias Ebersohn in a Force jersey this year proves that there was nothing wrong with Goosen’s replacement when the Free Staters capitulated last year. Instead, they have only themselves to blame for letting their heads hang when they lost their talisman.

They can choose not to allow that to happen again.

To finish off we’ll leave you with an inspirational quote attributed to Winston Churchill. It is one we hope all three teams will print in bold letters and stick up in the changerooms before they run out this weekend.

No, it’s not the oft-quoted ditty of fighting a bunch of guys on all kinds of terrain while not surrendering. It’s this:

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”

Here are our teams of the week:

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.

Super XV for week 5:
15 Jesse Mogg (Brumbies), 14 Lelia Masaga (Chiefs), 13 Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), 12 Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies), 11 Hosea Gear (Highlanders), 10 Sias Ebersohn (Force), 9 TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), 8 Kieran Reid (Crusaders), 7 Matt Todd (Crusaders), 6 Liam Messam (Chiefs), 5 Sam Carter (Brumbies) 4 Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), 3 Owen Franks (Crusaders), 2 Stephen Moore (Brumbies), 1 Ben Franks (Hurricanes).

Bok Barometer for week 5:
15 Zane Kirchner (Bulls), 14 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 13 Paul Jordaan (Sharks), 12 Robert Ebersohn (Cheetahs), 11 Raymond Rhule (Cheetahs), 10 Johan Goosen (Cheetahs), 9 Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs), 8 Ryan Kankowski (Sharks), 7 Pieter Labuschagne (Cheetahs), 6 Deon Stegmann (Bulls), 5 Franco van der Merwe (Sharks), 4 Steven Sykes (Kings), 3 Kevin Buys (Kings), 2 Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 1 Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks).

Match of the week:

We’ll show our South African colours here by going for our only win of the weekend as our match of the week.

Fortunately it is not too tough to find excuses for it. The Cheetahs were excellent in the way in which, especially through winger Willie le Roux, they exploited the space in behind the Waratahs defence. The home side, in return, never gave up fighting, ensuring the match-up remained a nail-biter until the very last moments.

The win was the Cheetahs’ third consecutive victory over the Waratahs, and marked the second consecutive year in which they claimed two scalps in the Antipodes.

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.

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Try of the week:

Let’s start with the honourable mentions. We thought the way the Chiefs put Lelia Masaga away for the last two of his three tries was an excellent example of how running rugby can still work at this level. In both cases they used basic training-ground moves but with a fair dollop of pace and intent to get their flyer away.

There was also one in Sydney. In an age where so many of our teams employ aimless up-and-unders - mostly because they don’t have the imagination to try anything else – it was nice to be reminded how it should be done. It wasn’t the first time a kick in behind the defensive line led to a try this year, but Le Roux’s kick re-gather to put Robert Ebersohn away has to be the best so far.

The try of the week, however (and only because it gives us fatties hope) just had to be this:

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Congratulations to:

  • Liam Messam, who played in his 100th Super Rugby game.
  • Pat Lambie, who scored his 400th Super Rugby point.
  • The Whitelock family. The four Whitelock brothers have been in and out of the Crusaders team for a while now, but on Saturday – for the first time - all four were on the field at the same. The cherry on the cake? Reserve hooker Ben Funnell – who came on in the 50th minute – is their cousin.

Quotes of the week:

“I haven’t had a mayday call from anyone about a broken toilet yet, but there may be some of them that might be missing a washing machine or something like that” – Hurricanes hooker Jason Rutledge, who had to put his plumbing business on hold to answer a SOS call to join the Super Rugby franchise

“I’ve got a sh*tload of weaknesses and you’ve only got one back page” – Blues captain Ali Williams on why he won’t discuss his game.

Twitter files:

Here is this week's look at what players got up to on Twitter:

The terrors of touring never seem to escape us. Fresh from their mauling in Christchurch, the Bulls chose to put a different face on their touring as they tried to blend into the seaside resort of the Gold Coast. Whether they were successful or not, we’ll leave up to you…
Juan de Jongh was understandably excited this week, having finally made it onto the honours wall at his alma mater Huguenot High School. It got us wondering, though. If he only made it on now, how high is the bar set?
St Patrick's day passed with a few headaches around here, but given their form on tour, it was great to see the Cheetahs found time to celebrate like the Irish. Here’s a happy tourist – with a not-so-Irish name in Ligtoring Landman - enjoying the celebrations.
We know this one doesn’t come from the Southern Hemisphere, but we couldn’t help but share it as Steve Walsh is a regular in Super Rugby anyway. The same ref who famously unloaded his vitriol on rugby officials after enjoying the delights of the local hospitality too much at one Sanzar conference is known to be rather concerned with his own looks. Ah well, the graphic explains it better – enough said.

Hark, the Herald's angles sting

Here at the SuperWrap desk we are permanently in trouble for being a little harsh on our precious teams, so this week we decided to show how the pros do it.

The New Zealand Herald won’t be the players’ most popular title after their “power ratings” last week.

After the Bulls demolition of the Blues they took aim at Pierre Spies – describing him as “a classic flat-track bully if ever there was one, looks on course to have a glorious season. The wing turned No 8 can motor and take the Bulls over the gainline and probably through to the playoffs. But let him have his Super Rugby moment, he'll curl up into a ball as he always does come the test season.”

They followed this up by saying Pat Lambie ”might just be every bit as limited as Morne Steyn” before launching into the Rebels and the Waratahs.

“David Bowie and Billy Idol both sang expertly about rebels back in the day,” they wrote. “Good topic rebels, in a generic sense, always doing things you didn't expect, pushing the limits, stretching and testing those around them. The Rebels, in a specific sense, do none of those things and will most likely never have a song written about them.

“There was a dramatic picture on the front page of the NZ Herald on Wednesday, with a farmer pointing his rifle between the eyes of one of his drought-affected cows. It is unfortunately true that at times it is kind to be cruel, which the Waratahs should remember when they read this: you suck, seriously, and that is being kind.”

We’re going to have to up our game to match that.

Jake the Snake?

Jake White’s big victory in Durban has his fans trumpeting his coaching skills again and pointing to the fact that White was dumped by Saru.

Those critics conveniently forget White turned down the job when offered, only to change his mind again when the process was under way.

Either way, the job he has done at the Brumbies deserves credit and their demolition of the Sharks was a sight to behold.

It was widely trumpeted as an opportunity when White, in conjunction with the University of Canberra, offered a scholarship to a South African to study abroad.

For us it was just another way of looting SA talent it seems – something White has had a major history with, having started by sending players to Wales when he was SA under-21 coach.

Not happy that he has already lured Ettienne Oosthuizen to Canberra, he’s looking for more talent to turn into Wallaby material. While the game has gone professional and each player has his right to go and play where he pleases, it is a pity that White wouldn’t rather try and develop Aussie talent before poaching from these shores.

Still, those who apply should think long and hard about it. As anyone who has been to Canberra will attest, it makes Bloemfontein look like Las Vegas…

Going flat out to help

Lastly, it was good to be reminded that the rugby fraternity still works behind the scenes, with Ryan Crotty shedding some light this week on the unfortunate mid-air crash that left Bjorn Basson in hospital when the teams last met in Christchurch last year.

We all know that Basson couldn’t fly home for six weeks because his injuries were so serious, and that several of the Crusaders visited him in hospital.

What touched us, however, was the story that Robbie Fruean offered Basson his apartment to recover in, as the Bok had to be in the city for three weeks out of hospital before he could fly.

We’ll almost forgive him for running circles around the Bulls midfield on Saturday.

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