Super Rugby 2017

Post Mortem Review : Week Eleven

Match Reviews: Week Eleven

Friday 5th May 2017

Hurricanes vs Stormers

Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

The Hurricanes might have disposed of the Stormers by 41 to 22, scoring seven tries to the visitors’ solitary one, but it was not all the one-way traffic the score line suggests. The ‘Canes didn’t have things all their own way in Wellington as the Stormers were in touch right up to the 74th minute.

The first twenty minutes of the game suggested that the Stormers were in for another torrid afternoon as the Hurricanes dominated the opening quarter, but credit must go to the visitors, who rallied before the break to go in just six points behind.

That was despite a yellow card and losing their starting fly-half Robert du Preez to further add to their injury woes.

Those first twenty minutes saw Beauden Barrett kicking one of his pinpoint cross-kicks out to Cory Jane out on the right wing, who then cut inside to score.

A bit of very poor rugby by Nizaam Carr followed as he failed to ground the ball while sliding in his in-goal area allowing Jordie Barrett to rip it from his grasp and score the second try.

Another Beauden Barrett cross kick found brother Jordie on 24 minutes, this after Stormers hooker Bongi Mbonambi had been sin-binned for pulling down a maul.

Credit to the Stormers though who then rallied with a pushover try from replacement hooker Samuels. Things went wrong for them soon after when Robert Du Preez left the field with a shoulder injury.

Another Hurricanes cross kick, and another try for Jordie Barrett, it was an all-Barrett show in the first half.

Yet still the Stormers hung in there, chipping away at the 22 – 10 lead with two penalties, leaving them just six points adrift at the end of the first 40.

The Hurricanes were committing far too many offences and this allowed the Stormers to haul themselves back to even things up 22 all on 52 minutes.

The Stormers showed some superb bravery as they held firm against waves of Hurricane attacks right through the first 20 minutes in the second half. But the wall had to break as touring fatigue took it’s toll on the visitors. On the hour
Laumape scored on the right wing to give the hosts a five-point lead at 27-22.

Brad Shields was sinbinned and the Stormers attacked and almost crossed from a dangerous maul before a knock-on denied them the points.

Then it was time for yet another one of Beauden Barrett’s cross kicks as he found Julian Savea in his 22 with pinpoint accuracy. Savea had a clear run towards the line, offloading to Laumape for the try.

Barrett would also have the final say with a dart for the line from close range as the Hurricanes made it seven tries in front of their fans.

Seven tries to one is a hiding in anyone’s language, but this was truly not a fair reflection of the effort the Stormers put into this game. They had the ‘Canes worried for long stretches and on another day it could well have gone the other way.

Man Of The Match: Without a doubt, Beauden Barrett, again.

The scorers:

For Hurricanes:
Tries: Jane, J Barrett 2, J Savea, Laumape 2, B Barrett
Cons: J Barrett 3
Yellow Card: Shields

For Stormers:
Try: Samuels
Con: Du Preez
Pens: Du Preez, Marais 4
Yellow Card: Mbonambi

Cheetahs vs Highlanders

Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Vos (South Africa)

One of the great mysteries of rugby. When did the Cheetahs become the Chokers?

How on earth did they contrive to lose a game they were leading by 17 points with just 5 minutes remaining on the clock?

This must rank as one of the most stunning comebacks in rugby history, or perhaps one of the most stunning setbacks ever in the game? The Highlanders somehow pulled off a truly unthinkable comeback, with three tries in the last five minutes sealing a 45-41 victory.

The first half was remarkable only for the strangeness of some of referee Marius van der Westhuizen and his fellow officials’ calls, especially the harsh yellow card to Matt Faddes. It was not a good day for the referees of South Africa.

Two tries in the first half gave the Cheetahs a 15 – 10 halftime lead, but it had not been a half of great rugby by either side. The Highlanders looked to be out of sorts and struggled to get into gear, while the Cheetahs were all over the place, with plenty of mistakes to round off some superb moments.

The second half saw Torsten van Jaarsveld’s early score stretch the Cheetahs’ lead but the Highlanders hit back through Rob Thompson and Waisake Naholo to regain the lead.

The game grew in stature as the Cheetahs responded with tries by Mohoje and Meyer, then Ox Nche stretched them past the 40-point mark into what should have been an unassailable lead.

And then the nightmare final five minutes arrived, first Tevita Li scored, then Matt Faddes dotted down, both tries were converted, and the 17-point gap was down to just three points at 41-38.

Waisake Naholo then did the unthinkable, and the Highlanders had snatched a win that should never have happened.

There were some bizarre moments in this game.

Sergeal Petersen thought he had scored a legitimate try, only for the TMO to rule an obstruction that only he saw, yet he missed a clear forward pass by Raymond Rhule! The right decision for all the wrong reasons!

The next bizarre moment came when Assistant Referee Lourens van der Merwe recommended a yellow card for a stiff-arm tackle by Matt Faddes. Referee van der Westhuien accepted the recommendation without going to the TMO review. Off went Faddes for 10 minutes. This was a complete miscarriage of justice as the TV replay showed no stiff-arm tackle whatsoever. At the very worst it should have been a penalty for a no-arms tackle, and even that was questionable as it seemed that Faddes did try and get his right arm around in the tackle.

The officials did get it right with the Highlanders’ second yellow card after a tip tackle from Siate Tokolahi.

Man Of the Match: There were a number of players who put their hands up for this award. I will go with Marty Banks for his try, converting all 6 of the Highlanders scores, and keeping the Highlanders in the game whenever it looked as if they were about to be blown away.

The scorers:

For Cheetahs:
Tries: Meyer 2, Petersen, Van Jaarsveld, Mohoje, Nche
Cons: Zeilinga 4
Pen: Zeilinga
Yellow Card: Cassiem

For Highlanders:
Tries: Banks, Thompson, Naholo 2, Li, Faddes
Cons: Banks 6
Pen: Banks
Yellow Cards: Faddes, Tokolahi

Saturday 6th May 2017

Rebels vs Lions

AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Ed Martin (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Ian Smith (Australia)

Nothing much to report on here. The Lions simply had way too much firepower for the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday, running in seven tries in a 47-10 victory at AAMI Park.

They did not start well, with handling errors and basic mistakes early on, but once they clicked into gear it was going to be another miserable afternoon for the Rebels.

Kwagga Smith, Ross Cronjé and Courtnal Skosan all crossed before the interval to make it 19-7, the Rebels’ points coming from a Tom English score.

The second half saw a beautiful solo effort by the youngster, Sylvian Mahuza, then a penalty try. And then Anthony Volmink crossed to made sure of the result long before the final whistle. Captain Warren Whiteley put the cherry on the cake with the final score of the game.

Clearly the better side, the Lions were continually undone by silly mistakes, such as when two players were offside ahead of Elton Jantjies’ chip over the top with the Lions bearing down on the line. But when they clicked, they looked like contenders for a spot in the final again.

Man Of the Match: That spectacular solo score by Sylvian Mahuza, breaking tackles with ease after taking Jantjies’ offload and racing 60 metres to score, makes him the recipient of my MOTM award this week.

The scorers:

For Rebels:
Try: English
Con: Hodge
Pen: Hodge
Yellow Card: Retallick

For Lions:
Tries: Smith, Cronjé, Skosan, Mahuza, Penalty Try, Volmink, Whiteley
Cons: Jantjies 5

Chiefs vs Reds

Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
Television match official: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)

Referee Jamie Nutbrown was on top form as he focused his attention of the offside line and dished out penalty after penalty for infringements that another referee might have let go. It did not matter than the infringing player was not going to make any impact on the flow of the game or interfere with the ball, if he was offside the whistle shrilled, the game stopped, and Jamie lectured.

However, the performance of the referee was just a sideshow as the Chiefs cruised past Reds in the second half at Yarrow Stadium, with a seemingly ageless Stephen Donald grabbing two tries in the 46-17 win.

Rugby fans will be pleased to see Charlie Ngatai back in the game. Despite obvious ring-rust he contributed some sublime moments and also scored in his first Super Rugby game since May 7 last year after almost a year out with concussion.

The Chiefs held the advantage at the break, ahead 20-12, thanks to tries from Kane Hames and Ngatai plus two Damian McKenzie penalties cancelling out Reds’ tries from Stephen Moore and Eto Nabuli.

The second half was all about the Chiefs, with Dominic Bird, Stephen Donald (2) and James Lowe all crossing in a simple but effective performance.

There is not much else to say about this game. The Reds tried hard for a while, and then the Chiefs simply stepped up a gear and it was all over.

Oh, and Quade Cooper still cannot tackle.

Man Of The Match. Unusually, this week it is not Damian McKenzie! This week it has to be Stephen Donald, who controlled the game superbly from flyhalf after Aaron Cruden dropped out of the starting XV late in the week. And Donald also grabbed two tries!

The scorers:

For Chiefs:
Tries: Hames, Ngatai, Bird, Donald 2, Lowe
Cons: McKenzie 5
Pens: McKenzie 2

For Reds:
Tries: Moore, Nabuli, Magnay
Con: Cooper
Yellow Card: Smith

Waratahs vs Blues

Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Will Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)

A late comeback effort by the Waratahs took some of the gloss off the Blues win as their dominance is not reflected by the closeness of the 40 – 33 score-line.

The Blues showed excellent control in the first 40 minutes and capitalised on some poor discipline by the hosts to go 26-0 up, thanks to four penalties from Piers Francis and tries by Rieko Ioane and Scott Scrafton.

Israel Folau and Tolu Latu brought the Waratahs back into the game for a bit, but a second Rieko Ioane score put a dampener on the comeback.

Despite late scores from Bernard Foley, Israel Folau and Paddy Ryan, the game was long gone, as the Waratahs fell to a fourth defeat in five matches, even though they, bizarrely, finished with more tries on the night at five to four.

The few home supporters who actually turned up at Allianz Stadium were booing long before half-time as the Waratahs produced another performance riddled with moments of indiscipline, poor tactical kicking and some marshmallow-soft defence.

The only black mark for the Blues was a concussion to Sonny Bill Williams, with the Rugby World Cup winner not returning for the second half after failing his HIA.

Man Of The Match: I was impressed by the work rate of Rieko Ioane, and he deserved his two tries. He won three turnovers, tackled like a demon, and cover more meters of rugby field than anyone else.

The scorers:

For Waratahs:
Tries: Folau 2, Latu, Foley, Ryan
Cons: Foley 2

For Blues:
Tries: R Ioane 2, Scrafton, A Ioane
Cons: Francis 4
Pens: Francis 4

Sharks vs Force

Kings Park, Durban
Kickoff: 15h05 Local Time; 13h05 GMT; 15h05 SA Time
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Yep, pretty much as expected, the Sharks won. A 37-12 victory over the Force was predictable.

Tries from Jeremy Ward, Jean-Luc du Preez, Curwin Bosch and Lukhanyo Am ensured victory for the men from Durban as they cruised past the Force.

Yet, I am not impressed. They should have scored a lot more tries, and they could have scored a lot more tries if they had taken their chances. They should have taken the bonus point that was on offer! When they spread the ball wide they looked really good. There was pace, penetration, and powerful running. They can play the running game!

But then they creep straight back into their old habits. Pods of forwards dominate the midfield and the ball is simply popped to a pod, taken to ground, recycled, and then popped to another pod of forwards….

Far too much good quick ball was trundled straight back to the forwards by the first receiver, most usually one of the Du Preez brothers.. It is predictable as tomorrow’s dawn, and easy to defend.

And those handling errors…..

Man Of The Match: Curwin Bosch remains a gem. He is a star in the making and I hope the Springbok coach does not shove him into the deep-end too early. He needs plenty of game time to smooth those rough edges!

The scorers:

For Sharks:
Tries: Ward, Du Preez, Bosch, Am
Cons: Bosch 3, Lambie
Pens: Bosch 3

For Force:
Tries: Verity-Amm, Brache
Con: Prior
Yellow Card: Rona

Bulls vs Crusaders

Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Nic Berry (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

I started my Preview of this game with the following:

“Do you think the Bulls will knock the Crusaders off their pedestal this week? Will that wonderful winning streak come to an end in Pretoria?

Nope, I did not think you thought so!

I don’t!

The Bulls have looked like men playing in mud for most of this season. They seem to have zero self-belief and even less confidence.”

I guess I could not have started any Preview of any game more accurately. This was probably the Bull’s worst performance in their Super Rugby history. Ten tries to three almost flatters the Bulls, they were that poor.

I have never seen a Bulls’ outfit that looked quite so reluctant to play a game of rugby. There was simply nothing on offer.

The visitors needed only five minutes to take the lead against the Bulls through flank Pete Samu and built a 31-3 advantage by half-time. The Crusaders simply had too much class for a woefully poor Bulls team.

Fortress Loftus was almost empty as a tiny crowd witnessed the destruction of their once proud team. Perhaps it is good that so few of the faithful were present. Those that missed the game will live on with their memories of great Bulls teams and wins.

Samu, Bateman, Barrett, Goodhue (2), Tamanivalu, Havili, Mo’unga, Makalio and Hunt were the Crusaders’ try scorers.

Mo’unga also slotted fire conversions from eight attempts and substitute Hunt one from two.

Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo and Jan Serfontein scored tries for the Bulls, all converted by Francois Brummer while Tian Schoeman kicked a penalty.

Strange as it may seem, the Bulls enjoyed parity in both possession and territory. Possession was shared equally at 50-50, while the territorial stakes went to the Crusaders, but marginally at 51% to 49%.

That, however, was the only part of the entire game where the Bulls achieved anything.

The Crusaders managed 13 line breaks, and 12 tackle breaks, 9 offloads, and 59 rucks won. They made 112 tackles and missed 22. The Bulls made 121 tackles, yet missed 33.. a tackle success rate of just 85%.

In the scrums the Bulls coughed up 4 penalties, while the “Saders conceded none. The Bulls also gave up 4 tightheads as their pack simply crumbled under the Crusaders pressure.

When last did a Bulls pack, featuring two Boks in the front row, Adriaan Strauss and Trevor Nyakane, a Springbok lock, Lood de Jager, and a Springbok flanker Jacques Potgieter, along with a Junior Bok Jason Jenkins, show so little scrumming guts? And when they brought on the subs, Springboks Lizo Gqoboka and RG Snyman, it was no better.

There is something very seriously wrong with the Bulls. Their on-field leadership is missing in action, and they have no game plan, no strategies, and no idea what they should be doing to win a game. Their backs pass the ball down a static backline, their forwards operate in ones and twos, kicking is desperately aimless, and the entire team appears clueless.

Regrettably, it is time for coach Nollis Marais to go. He has a squad that is loaded with rugby talent, and he has somehow coached them into a squad of headless chickens. Adriaan Strauss would do well to leave the game behind too. His leadership is questionable and he does nothing at all to rally his troops when the wheels are wobbling.

Man of the Match: I can do no better than pick Richie Mo’unga, who owned the field and owned the game for the Crusaders on Saturday.

The scorers:
For the Bulls:
Tries: Kriel, Ulengo, Serfontein
Cons: Brummer 3
Pen: Schoeman

For the Crusaders:
Tries: Samu, Bateman, Barrett, Goodhue 2, Tamanivalu, Havili, Mo’unga, Makalio, Hunt
Cons: Mo’unga 5, Hunt

Jaguares vs Sunwolves

Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
Television match official: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)

The Jaguares, predictably, outscored the Sunwolves and won this game. However, the unpredictable was also in evidence with how close the game actually was. Winning by seven tries to five gave the home team a 46-39 win in Buenos Aires. But it was a strangely interesting game to watch.

It was the Sunwolves who had the half-time lead thanks to tries from Will Tupou, Shota Emi and Yu Tamura as well as Tamura’s boot, with the Jaguares behind by just three at 25-22. after scores by Leonardo Senatore, and a penalty try.

The second half saw Agustín Creevy score off the back of a rolling maul and give the Jaguares the lead for the first time, but the Sunwolves showed great character, hitting back with tries from Tamura and Sam Wykes to open up a 39-27 lead.

Matías Alemanno’s try, the Jaguares’ fifth, set up a tense finish with the hosts within touching distance of the lead before Creevy again crashed over off the maul.

It was left to Matias Moroni, with his first try of the year, to then seal an entertaining win for the Jaguares with five minutes to go, ending a four-game losing streak in the process.

Let me add that it was not great Super rugby, it was just an entertaining game between two sides that had a full go at winning. There were plenty of mistakes, plenty of handling errors, and some silly moments, but it was still fun to watch.

Man Of the Match. The Argentine and the Jaguares have one of the gutsiest captains in the world. Agustín Creevy’s influence on his team and his never-say-die approach to the game are an example for everyone. (Were you watching Adriaan Strauss?) He deserves the MOTM nod for his leadership, and then he goes and scores two tries too!

The scorers:

For Jaguares:
Tries: Senatore, Boffelli, Penalty Try, Creevy 2, Alemanno, Moroni
Cons: Hernández 2, Penalty Try, Díaz Bonilla
Pen: Hernández

For Sunwolves:
Tries: Tupou, Emi, Tamura 2, Wykes
Cons: Tamura 4
Pens: Tamura 2
Yellow Card: Wykes

My Top Four

1 Crusaders

Winning 10 games on the trot, leading the competition with 46 log points, and leading in many of the important game stats too. Can anyone doubt the class of this Crusaders outfit? It is going to get a little tougher now as four Kiwi derbies in five matches loom ahead of them, starting with Saturday night’s long-awaited showdown with the Hurricanes.

2 Lions

Equal second on the overall table with the Chiefs on 42 points, the Lions have a better points difference than their rivals from Waikato. 140 vs 112 makes a difference. The Lions seem to be heading for another final this year. If they beat the Brumbies this coming weekend, they have four more games back in SA to determine home advantage in the final, if they get there. The Crusaders will be looking over their shoulders as they face four tough derbies.

3 Chiefs

The Chiefs have so much attacking quality that they win even when they are playing really badly. They have a bye weekend ahead before travelling to Fiji to play their table topping rivals in a game that could decide the venue of this year’s final!

4 Hurricanes

It is all about squad quality, then you add the world’s best flyhalf. Beauden Barrett must be giving Warren Gatland nightmares as he thinks about the upcoming Lions tour to New Zealand. The ‘Canes just seem to be able to score tries from anywhere, and they do it with a certain amount of joy! An obvious inclusion in my Top Four.

The Bottom Feeders

Cheetahs

How do you blow a 24-point lead against the Chiefs, contrive to lose against the Bulls in the last minutes of a game, and then somehow blow a 17 point lead against the Highlanders? An indication of their entire season, winning two and then losing seven on the trot? Time for them to leave Super Rugby.

Bulls.

Oh Wow, how bad can it get? Woeful is too flattering a word to use for the Bulls. They are somehow not in the firing line to be cut from Super Rugby, but they should be. Terrible.

Waratahs, Reds, Rebels, Force

The Brumbies escape a Bottom Feeder listing this week, simply because they had a bye. Australian Super Rugby is in a very bad place at the moment, and then the cellar dweller Rebels and Force are threatening legal action to avoid being dropped from a competition in which they simply cannot compete! The RUPA players union also want to go on strike about the issue, yet the players are not giving any indication that any of them deserve to be in Super Rugby.

The Kings & The Sunwolves

Both teams get an honorable mention for trying really hard, but they also do not deserve to be in the Super Rugby competition.

The Referees

This was not a weekend where the Referees covered themselves with glory. Marius van der Westhuizen and his assistant Lourens van der Merwe, with their TMO Willie Vos deserve a sharp kick in the nether regions for the miscarriage of justice that saw Matt Faddes yellow carded for a fictitious stiff arm tackle!

A second kick for Willie Vos who saw an obstruction but missed and obvious forward pass. The right call for all the wrong reasons Willie. Brace yourself bud, this is going to hurt.

Rasta Rasivhenge and Jamie Nutbrown had some questionable calls, especially Rasta’s insistence on the ball being put into a seriously unstable scrum and then giving a free-kick because Cobus Reinach could not put it in! That was silly Rasta!

Both Rasta and Jamie were very quick on innocuous misdemeanors, yet missed more serious moments. Catch a wake-up guys!

Player of the Week

Beauden Barrett is simply streets ahead of any other flyhalf in the game at the moment, and his sublime cross kicking is a thing of beauty. He brings so much more than just flyhalf play to the game.

Here ends the Lesson