Super Rugby

Weekend Review

Round Fifteen

The Elephant In The Room

Aaaargh, another week, another reason to talk about the referees!

In my preview to this weekend’s game I suggested that Sanzaar’s functionaries seem to be making a concerted effort to blow their own feet to smithereens as refereeing controversy follows refereeing controversy, followed by deafening silence from those who wear the suits and eat from the sponsored buffet tables.

And what has happened this week?

More of the same.

We are not talking about ordinary mistakes. I have it on good authority that the referees are human, and human beings do make mistakes. A mistake can be forgiven.

I am taking about considered decisions that are simply wrong!

In the Crusaders/Blues clash we saw referee Mike Fraser and TMO Aaron Paterson inexplicably decide not to penalise Blues’ fullback Melani Nanai for a high tackle on Richie Mo’unga. Quite how they decided that the tackle, with Nanai’s arms around Mo’unga’s neck was not worthy of a penalty and a yellow card is beyond me.

We are told that Crusaders’ boss Scott Robertson will be contacting Sanzaar’s referee boss Lyndon Bray about the decision.

This will be the second time in two weeks that Lyndon Bray is going to have an awkward discussion with Robertson. Last week it was the forward pass, this week it’s a high tackle.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the only controversial and contentious TMO call of the weekend. 

Glenn Newman was at it again on Friday, denying Chiefs’ wing Etene Nanai-Seturo a try for a knock-on, after apparently utilising a camera angle viewers were not privy to. 

I commented on this decision in my preview for Saturday’s games, and was told that there was a camera angle that only the TMO had access too. We have since seen a couple of still photos of the ball clearly separated from Nanai-Seturo’s hand. Based on those photographs, the call was correct.

Yet, how is it possible that the TMO has camera angles that are not available to the referee, and thus to the viewing public? 

Does that not run contrary to the Laws of Rugby where the referee’s decision is final?

Law 6, Match Officials is the one in question.

Law 6, Paragraph 5, Section 1 says: The referee is the sole judge of fact and of law during a match. The referee must apply the laws of the game fairly in every match. 

The 2019 World Rugby TMO Protocol, referred to in Law 6. 16. contains the following:

Guiding principles 

  • The TMO is a tool to help referees and assistant referees. The referee should not be subservient to the system.The referee is responsible for managing the TMO process 
    • The referee is the decision-­­maker and must remain in charge of the game 
    • Any relevant information taken into consideration must be CLEAR and OBVIOUS and in the context of materiality 
    • The application of the TMO system must be credible and consistent, protecting the image of the game. 

From my seat on the armchair in front of my television, the decision to deny Etene Nanai-Seturo’s try is neither CLEAR nor OBVIOUS. Referee Angus Gardner’s on-field decision was “try”, so Glenn Newman had to find “clear and obvious” evidence to overturn it.

To all that were watching, including the often seriously jingoistic Aussie commentators, the replays at normal speed showed a clear grounding, but Newman felt one of the slow motion ones didn’t paint a good enough picture. If that video clip was available, why did he not ask the producer to play that angle on the TV coverage? 

The decision may or may not have been correct, but it certainly does not follow the letter of the Law, nor does it comply with the TMO Protocol published by World Rugby.

A replay that no-one but the TMO saw gave us a baffling no-try decision, and that is simply wrong.

 (As for the veracity of the photograph that proves the ball clearly separated from Nanai-Seturo’s hand? I am not a specialist, but even I am good enough with Photoshop to provide any number of such photographs! I want to see the video evidence, and I want to see it immediately, not a couple of days later when a video editor has had a chance to fiddle with it!)

Newman was in the spotlight a couple of times in Hamilton, with two double movement calls going against the Reds, one of which looked to be the right call, but another that seemed as if the Chiefs had dragged the Reds’ player over the line.

Over the Indian Ocean in Cape Town we saw referee Nic Berry hand Matt Faddes 10 minutes in the sinbin for a tip-tackle on Damian de Allende. The question is asked whether that tackle could, or should have been worthy of a red card rather than the yellow produced by Berry?

Law 9 does not make any suggestion with regard to the various degrees of severity of sanction based on the actual moment of the breach of Law 9.18.

The Law simply says: 9.18 A player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground.

I am not convinced that the yellow card was appropriate, De Allende’s head made contact with the ground and precedent set by previous referee decisions suggest that a red card was the correct call.

However, I will not go so far as to say that Nic Berry was wholly wrong with his decision. On the field of play he had to make a decision, and he did – we have the benefit of multiple replays, ultra-slow motion, and time to make up our minds.

More controversial, from my perspective, were the two TMO decisions that denied Seabelo Senatla two tries. Perhaps I am being a little biased, but I did not think that he was ahead of Damian de Allende’s kick in the first instance and in the second instance, I am equally unsure whether the knock-on called by the TMO was correct. I thought the ball went backwards, and then off a Highlander before going on to Senatla for a free run to score.

I have replayed both incidents a number of times and still cannot agree with the TMO’s decisions. (I admit, however, to pro-Stormers bias!)

Down in Natal we watched a refereeing horror show as Marius van der Westhuizen completely ignored the Laws with regard to offsides in both open play and at the ruck. He needs to take a refresher course on Law 10 and Law 15. Especially Law 15,4 and the line that runs through the hindmost point of the hindmost player…..

Rugby is already suffering from severe strangulation as the rush defence and a plethora of rucks have slowed the game to a stagnant clattering of behemoth bodies smashing into one another in endless confusion. Space has already been limited to a little less than 2m at each ruck, and time has been taken out of the game by the rush defence. If the referee allows the defender the extra half a meter at the ruck, the game itself simply comes to a stop.

There were no less than 145 rucks in this game, in the 32 minutes that the ball was in play. Add 16 penalties, 14 scrums, and 29 lineouts, and you begin to see the strangulation hold the ruck has on the game. The offside line at the ruck already diminishes attacking opportunities if the Law is strictly applied. When it is not applied at all the game simply grinds to a halt. This is simply not good enough!

Referee van der Westhuizen has been criticised for his slack application of the offside line in previous rounds of Super Rugby, yet the problem persists.

I really do not know where we are going with the referees of rugby. They are protected by some version of Omertà,that legendary Mafia code of silence that finds its roots in Southern Italy. Any question about their performance of competence is met with deafening silence, non-cooperation, wilfull ignorance, and general avoidance by those in positions of authority within the rugby referees’ community.

How long will this lack of accountability be allowed to continue?

The Conferences

Another weekend of Super Rugby has ticked by, and there has been some more shuffling and shaking down in the various conferences that Sanzaar have imposed on the competition. 

With just three round of rugby remaining, we can begin to make some fairly accurate predictions about which teams will make the playoffs, and which will not.

The New Zealand Conference:

Perhaps the easiest of predictions is that the Crusaders are looking like the overall winners in both New Zealand and on the overall log. They have 53 points in the bank, and just two games left to play. They will play the Chiefs away from home, and then finish against the Rebels back in Christchurch before enjoying a bye in the last weekend of regular competition.

Qualification for the playoffs is already in the bag, and the only contenders for the New Zealand top spot, the Hurricanes, are 13 points adrift with 40 log points. They have three to play, the Sharks and then the Lions in South Africa, and then the Blues back at home.

For the Hurricanes to overhaul the Crusaders would require the ‘Saders to lose both their final games, without so much as a losing bonus point, while the ‘Canes need to win all three their games, with a try scoring bonus point in two of those games. That would give them the 14 they need to pass the Crusaders on the log.

Not likely.

The Crusaders and the Hurricanes do look like the two New Zealand sides that will qualify for playoff spots. The Hurricanes, despite their 40 log points, do still need a couple of wins to ensure their qualification. The chasing outfits from South Africa and Australia are just between 4 and 10 points behind them, and a couple of untimely losses coupled to wins elsewhere would see the ‘Canes in the ignominious position of missing out on qualification!

The rest of the New Zealand log has a stiff challenge ahead if they think they will make the playoffs. The Highlanders on 29, the Chiefs on 27, and the Blues on 26 are all lumped together, down towards the bottom end of the log. The Highlanders are in 10th, the Chiefs 11th, and the Blues 13th, with the Blues having a game in hand over the other two. 

The Blues have to play the Bulls at home, and then are away to the Reds and the Hurricanes. A full complement of 3 wins with 15 points would boost them to a maximum of 42 points. Based on their current form, three wins with maximum points is beyond their wildest dreams. 

The Chiefs have to play the Crusaders at home, sit out a bye week, and then finish with an away game to the Rebels. A maximum of 10 points will only boost them to 37 points, which suggests that they will not qualify for a playoff in 2019.

The Highlanders, winless from their tour in South Africa, now have to play the Bulls and the Waratahs at home, again with a maximum of 10 points available. The maximum they could finish the season on is thus 39. They might just make the cut, if a whole lot of other results go their way across the competition.

The Australian Conference:

Turning to the Aussie conference. With just three rounds remaining, the Waratahs trail the Brumbies by eight points and Rebels by seven in the race for conference honours and a guaranteed finals berth.

Even if the ’Tahs can beat the Rebels this coming Friday night in Melbourne, and then go on to beat the Brumbies in Sydney in the penultimate round, the ‘Tahs would still need an unlikely slip-up from the Brumbies against the bottom-placed Sunwolves to have a faint hope of making the play-offs. 

They finish their season away from home to the Highlanders in Dunedin. 

Bonus point wins in all three their final games would give them a maximum of 41 points. In the real world that is unlikely.

The Brumbies have 34 points, and the default home quarterfinal in their sights. They play the Sunwolves away from home, then the Waratahs in Sydney, and then finish at home to the Reds. A bonus point win over the Sunwolves is very likely, giving them 39 points, and a win over either the ‘Tahs or the Reds would see them home as conference winners.

The Rebels sit on 33 points. They have to play the Waratahs at home, travel to New Zealand to play the Crusaders, and then come home for the final regular season game, hosting the Chiefs. They need at least 12 points from these three games to overtake the Brumbies. 

They are likely to lose to the Crusaders in Christchurch, and would need a losing bonus point to keep their hopes alive. 

The Reds and the Sunwolves are on 24 and 12 points. Their seasons can be considered to be over. Even a full 15 points from their last games would still consign the Sunwolves to the last spot on the overall log. They have to play the Brumbies at home, and then visit the Stormers and the Jaguares, so a full-house of 15 is as unlikely as snow in the Sahara. 

South African Conference:

All the fun and tension will be found in the South African conference. 

This conference remains wide open with just six points separating all five teams. 

The Jaguares do seem to have the inside track to the top spot, especially after beating the Hurricanes and then the Waratahs away from home. They still have to play the Reds in Brisbane, but then finish the season with the Sharks and the Sunwolves at home. With 36 points in the bank, and the likelihood of another 5 when the Sunwolves arrive in Buenos Aires, a win over either the Reds or the Sharks would put them at 45 points, and very difficult to overhaul at the top of the conference.

The Sharks, second on 33 points, have to host the Hurricanes in Durban next weekend, then go off to Buenos Aires to face the Jaguares, and travel back across the Atlantic Ocean to end off at Newlands against the Stormers.

In order to overhaul the Jaguares, they would require a whole lot of results to go their way – most especially a couple of unexpected losses by the Jaguares.

Currently in third place on 32 points, just one point behind the Sharks, the Bulls have two difficult tour games left before they can come home, and both those games are in New Zealand, against the Blues and the Highlanders. Nick Mallett has suggested that they have shot their bolt and that the remainder of the season is simply too challenging, especially as they will be without the services of Duane Vermeulen and Handré Pollard.  

Their last game against the season is a niggling one against their rivals from Johannesburg, the Lions.

The Lions have some problems – not only poor form, but they have some difficult fixtures ahead, they face the Stormers and the Hurricanes on consecutive weekends, in Johannesburg, and then travel to Pretoria for their final outing against the Bulls.

The Stormers do seem to have a good chance of making the quarterfinals, but only as a wild card entry. 

They have an away game against the Lions followed by two home games against the Sunwolves and the Sharks. Whilst the trip to Johannesburg will not frighten them, the two home games look promising, with the Sunwolves a likely bonus point and the Sharks likely to be just a little tired after their long-haul flights to and from the Argentine.  

Recent form suggests that the Stormers will be putting in a serious challenge for one of those wildcard spots.

All things being equal, and form continuing to hold, the quarterfinalists look to be as follows:

Home Quarterfinalists:Crusaders, Jaguares, Brumbies, and Hurricanes.

Wildcards:Anyone except for the Sunwolves, the Reds, the Waratahs, and probably the Chiefs. All the other 7 are still in with a shout!

On The Up

Herschel Jantjies

A short year ago South Africans were worried about the shortage of quality scrumhalves, with only Faf de Klerk a stand-out performer in the No.9 jersey. Where were the back-ups to Faf?

Rassie Erasmus found Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl in the cupboard, on a shelf marked “Pretoria,” but the rest of the cupboard seemed bare. Ross Cronje from the Lions and Louis Schreuder of the Sharks are journeymen that do not inspire whole heaps of confidence at the top level of the game. They are steady, but there is little sparkle, little of that “X” factor that so many of our TV commentators rant on about.

Embrose Papier has some sparkle to his game, while Van Zyl sometimes seems as slow as a cart-horse distracted by a bale of juicy fresh lucerne.

Who else?

Without a doubt, in 2019 Herschel Jantjies of the Stormers has put his hand up and yelled “Me!”

Based on what we have seen all season, and especially during the last couple of weeks, Jantjies deserves to be called up to the Springbok squad. He has delivered consistent performances in a team that has stuttered and stumbled all season. 

Up in Pretoria Papier, Van Zyl and Warner have rotated in and out of the starting XV with none of the three producing anything stellar to suggest that they should be the first choice back-up to Faf de Klerk. 

Jantjies certainly has! He has outplayed all other contenders for a Springbok call-up, including both Van Zyl and Papier, as well as Schreuder and Cronje.

Tevita Kuridrani

I have often thought of Kuridrani as a one dimensional midfielder, but his game has shown an added dimension in 2019. Scoring a hattrick against the Bulls, he has laid down a marker for the Wallaby selectors. He is showing form, and is playing with a direct physicality that is in stark contrast to some of his Australian contemporaries. The injury to Karmichael Hunt might not be all bad news for the Wallabies, Kuridrani is there! Ignore him at your peril. 

Damian de Allende

For some inexplicable reason De Allende is not everyone’s favourite inside centre in South Africa. 

There are still those that suggest that Damian de Allende is somehow less of a player than the likes of Andre Esterhuizen, Harold Vorster, or Jan Serfontein. 

A sterling performance this past weekend serves as a reminder that De Allende is undoubtedly the best 12 that South Africa has got at the moment. 

Against the Highlanders he produced a superb game of rugby, carrying the ball 166 meters in 18 carries, with two line breaks, a tackle burst, 4 offloads and 10 passes. He made 13 tackles, of which no less than 4 were rated as dominant tackles, although he did miss two tackles. He made no handling errors, and kicked the ball 4 times.

In all of Super Rugby he is ranked 3rdfor dominant tackles, 7thfor tackle bursts, 13thfor the number of carries he has made in the season, and 18thfor the number of meters made.

These stats look even better when you compare them to those who are rated with him in the various categories.

In the Dominant Tackle category, just looseforwards Luke Whitelock and Marcos Kremer are ahead of De Allende in the stats, and De Allende is the only backline player in the top 17 dominant tacklers. (Andre Esterhuizen ranks 18th.)

De Allende ranks 7thin the Tackle Breaks category, behind David Havili, Samu Kerevi, Ben Lam, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Akira Ioane. The next best South African is Lionel Mapoe down in 13th. (Andre Esterhuizen ranks 81st.)

In the category measuring Ball Carries, De Allende ranks 13th. He is behind Malcolm Marx (9th) and Damian Willemse (10th) – the only other South Africans in the top 20. (Andre Esterhuizen ranks 31st)

For the number of Meters Carried, Damian de Allende ranks 18th, behind fellow South Africans Damian Willemse (6th), Dillyn Leyds (16th), and Curwin Bosch (17th). (Andre Esterhuizen ranks at 42nd.)

The bottom line? Statistics do not lie.

We should not be doubting Damian de Allende’s credentials as South Africa’s premier 12 – what we should be worried about is who should be the back-up if De Allende is injured!

Richie Mo’unga 

After being in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in the week prior to the game against the Blues, Richie Mo’unga simply carried on as if he had heard none of the noise going on around him. Once again, he produced a sublime tactical performance. It was another of his perfectly weighted kicks which set up Bryn Hall’s try and he almost scored a spectacular one himself in the left corner. He also kicked well tactically and off the tee. 

Siya Kolisi

The Stormers captain has always been a tough man to handle in the tight stuff and now he is adding a new dimension to his game with his runs in the midfield. He scored a long-range try off a set piece against the Crusaders a week ago and did the same thing against the Highlanders. His work rate was as good as it gets, and his presence around the field was important to the Stormers cause as Pieter-Steph du Toit was somewhat restrained by having to break out of the locking position. 

Seabelo Senatla

The flyer is starting to understand the requirements of the 15-man game. He is no longer trying to do the 7s-style stand-up tackle onto the ball, now he is focussing on stopping his opponent rather than trying to rip and run. He is also looking for work across the field, eschewing his natural instinct to play the lines that are so critical in the 7s game. His pace remains a wonderful thing to behold, and his is steadily developing into a real rugby player.

Not a Springbok contender at the moment, but he is fun to watch.

Bad Day At The Office

Elton Jantjies

Allister Coetzee favoured Elton Jantjies as his first choice for Springbok flyhalf. Rassie Erasmus retained him as a back-up to Handré Pollard. 

One has to wonder whether his career as a Springbok has come to an end?

2019 has not been a good year for the man with the increasingly weird hairstyles and the most entertaining dance routine in all of rugby’s goal kicking history.

Saturday’s game against the Sharks was, quite simply, lost by Elton Jantjies. Two ill-advised passes, two intercepts, two tries. End of story.

If that were all that Jantjies did wrong, then he could perhaps be forgiven, but there are plenty more issues and problems. 

Elton Jantjies already heads the statistics as the worst defender in all of Super Rugby. In 2019 he has made 102 tackles, but has missed a whopping 42! TJ Faiane of the Blues is second on the list, having missed 25, 17 less than Jantjies!

At flyhalf, Elton Jantjies has made the 5thmost handling errors in the competition, 19 of them. 

A flyhalf’s job is to pass the ball, he has passed it a total of 336 times, with just 300 going to hand. 36 passes have gone astray including the two that were intercepted on Saturday. 

Amongst fellow flyhalves, he does, however, rank above Bernard Foley, Bryce Hegarty, Hayden Parker and Quade Cooper for the number of passes he has made. Unfortunately only Quade Cooper ranks ahead of him for passes that have gone astray.

One of the things Elton Jantjies used to be really good at was breaking the line. This was a particular strength in previous years, and added a dimension to the Lions’ attack that caused pain to defenders across the competition. 

In 2019 Jantjies has broken the line just twice, ranking him 114thin the competition. Curwin Bosch, Richie Mo’unga, Christian Lealiifano, Bryce Hegarty, Beauden Barrett, Marty McKenzie, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Hayden Parker, Handré Pollard, Manie Libbok, all rank ahead of Jantjies. Only Robert du Preez has broken the line less than Jantjies.

All of this is indicating a flyhalf that as lost his mojo.

When Elton Jantjies was playing well, and had the ball on the front foot, he was close to the best attacking flyhalf in the world. (We shall not speak of his back-foot play, which is simply horrendous.)

In 2019 he has been nowhere near as influential, nowhere near as positive, and nowhere near as focussed as we have seen in the past.

In the race for a Springbok call-up there are others who have put up their hands. Curwin Bosch first and foremost, secondly Damian Willemse, while Manie Libbok and Josh Stander have both had their moments.

It seems to me that Elton Jantjies’ race is run.

Karmichael Hunt 

Again, not everyone’s favourite, Hunt’s brushes with the law and disciplinary issues haveoften overshadowed his rugby playing abilities.

In 2019 he has been the Waratah’s go-to man at inside centre, for his steadiness under pressure and his obvious defensive powers more than his electric game-changing plays. 

On Saturday he suffered a horrendous-looking knee injury which has likely ended his season and put his World Cup selection in doubt.

The manner in which the injury occurred highlights one of rugby’s most serious problems, the ruck. He was cleaned out by a flying Jaguare who may or may not have bordered on an illegal entry. The referee did not think so, and I have not replayed the incident with any serious focus on the legality of the moment. The real issue is that rugby has become one long, boring ruck session, and injuries suffered in these pile-ups are mounting on a daily basis.  

It is time for the ruck to be reinvented, perhaps going back to the old-school on-your-feet ruck.

Whatever happens, it is too late for Karmichael Hunt, at the age of 32 his chance of playing in a Rugby World Cup is probably over.

The Weekend’s Games:

Friday 24thMay

Chiefs 19 – 13 Reds

Desperate defence, unyielding and uncompromising is probably the best way to describe this game. 

The Chiefs made an astounding 242 tackles as they held the line and prevented the Reds from winning a game that truly resembled a battle of attrition similar to trench warfare on the Western Front back in the early 1900’s!

The Reds must head home with some very serious questions that need answering. How on earth can you have 85% of the possession, and 78% of the territorial advantage in the second half, and still not score the points needed to win the game. In the whole game the Reds had 68% of the ball and 68% of the territorial advantage and somehow contrived to lose.

19 – 13 was the way it ended, but it could have been worse of the TMO had not denied Etene Nanai-Seturo what looked a certain try – based on a mystery video clip that no one other than the TMO was privy to! When the Law says “Clear and Obvious” surely the evidence must be Clear and Obvious, not secret?

Sam Cane had a massive game.

Not much more to say about this one.

Brumbies 22 – 10 Bulls

The Bulls without Handré Pollard are not the same outfit that they are when he is on the field organising and managing everything they do.

When Duane Vermeulen went off it all went south, the Bulls seemed to creep back into their shells and surrender, somewhat meekly, to a Brumbies outfit that played some good direct rugby, using Tevita Kuridrani to hammer holes through the Bulls time and again.

When the Bulls did try and fight back they found that they lacked the penetration to make any headway against some good defence by the home side.

Saturday 25thMay

Sunwolves 7 – 52 Rebels

Pretty much as expected.

Crusaders 19 – 11 Blues

A stop-start affair that never quite lived up to the billing of a “New Zealand Derby” – It was a dour affair, with a slippery ball on a chilly, damp evening.

The Crusaders simply outmuscled the Blues as they suffocated the visitors out of the game.

With all the distractions that had swirled around the Crusaders during the week, it was interesting to see the focus and determination of the home side as they went about their business with grim resolve. Richie Mo’unga produced a sublime performance full of tactical nuance and game awareness as he managed the Crusaders’ efforts from the flyhalf position, while the Blues made silly mistakes at key moments.

Not much more to be said.

Waratahs 15 – 23 Jaguares

The Jaguares were simply too good for the floundering home side, despite being reduced to 14 men after Pablo Matera was sin-binned.

Even the penalty try did not help the ‘Tahs cause much as they continue to lack the nous and finish that one expects from a team with so many international caps to brag about.

The Jaguares showed excellent resolve on defence, and mature game management as they extended their record of never having lost a game in Australia!

Ramiro Moyano showed some great skills as he scored two tries for the visitors.

Stormers 34 – 22 Highlanders

Early on the Stormers seemed a little unsure of themselves as they made some poor kicks, seeming to be struggling to settle into the game. Once they had settled and focussed, there was nothing much that the Highlanders could do to take the initiative.

The Highlanders tried, but every attempt was simply snuffed out by a swarming Stormers defence. 

At the final whistle this was a comprehensive and comfortable win for the Stormers, with just the last gasp consolation try giving some respectability to the Highlanders’ score line.

The Highlanders defence struggled to cope with a Stormers team that have found their attacking mojo at last. They breached the Highlanders’ first line rather too frequently for comfort, forcing much scrambling and desperation tackles. A prime example was Luke Whitelock’s miss on wing Seabelo Senatla, that allowed the winger into space, to make meters and then to release Herschel Jantjies for the game’s opening try. That was just one of 26 missed tackles on the day.

There were many positives for the Stormers, especially the way the forwards stepped up to the mark despite the withdrawal of Eben Etzebeth due to a bout of flu. Cobus Wiese showed his all-round ability by slotting in at lock and doing a great job. 

Herschel Jantjies enhanced his growing reputation as a scrumhalf.

For the Highlanders there was one positive note, winger Waisake Naholo finally returned from a lengthy injury layoff and impressed, scoring a try and showing some nice glimpses of his old brilliance. He might still have a chance at another All Black call-up.

An enjoyable game of rugby.

Sharks 27 – 17 Lions

I am still baffled by Robert du Preez (Snr) and his almost pedantic persistence in pulling fullback Aphelele Fassi from the field, shunting starting flyhalf Curwin Bosch into the fullback slot, and then handing his son Robert (Jnr) yet another Sharks cap. This week it was the 53rdminute when the rotational aberration was made.


Curwin Bosch was well in control of the game, and was causing his opponent, Elton Jantjies, all kinds of problems with clever tactical decisions coupled to bringing his back division up on attack quickly. Fassi was playing well, inserting himself into the backs at good moments.

It was going well for the Sharks!

So Robert (Snr) changed it all, and the fizz and pop seemed to go out of the Sharks backs, Again.

Fortunately for all Sharks supporters, Elton Jantjies was in a suicidal mood as he got his passing game all wrong. First he let go a short pass that Curwin Bosch read instantly, intercepted, and raced 50 meters to score. The Sharks had the lead.

The game was marred by plenty of mistakes by both teams, but the Lions had managed to claw their way back into contention when Elton Jantjies made another of his wayward passes. Well on the attack, he floated a speculative high, wide, and looping pass out towards his wing. It was all wrong, and the delighted Makazole Mapimpi accepted the freebie and ran 95 meters to seal the game. It was a game-breaker, the Lions never really got back into the game from that moment onwards.

Both teams had tries denied by TMO decisions, but the overriding memory of this game will be of unnecessary mistakes, strange substitutions, and some really silly passes by Elton Jantjies.


  1. Quality reporting Bill!

    I (also pro-Stormer) agree with all of your sentiments about them. Particularly our live-wire 9 whi is arguably the best 9 in the country in all of the following. speed of pass, accuracy, line-breaks and, particularly, defence. The little guy is a bloody giant on defence.

    A few “awkward” comments on the Jaguars. Firstly, when speaking English we must call them the English name and not some attempt at kitchen-Spanish. When we play the Germans we call them that. Similarly for Spain, Portugal, Italy, Russia, you name it! If we watch a club play, it is Munich ( not Munchen), it is Moscow (not Mockba), etc, etc

    Their style of pay; Whilst they have much talent: oodles of speed, crunching tackles, strong structures and more, every time I watch them I feel that they will be beaten. Even when they are 10 points ahead, it feels like it is just a matter of time……..Very strange (and I know I am wrong!), but I just never see a quality side playing quality rugger in front of me, whatever the stats and the score! Any ideas?

    • The Jaguares are something like the Griqua team of the early 70’s, with some superstars, Mannetjies Roux, Piet Visage, Piet van Deventer, Joggie Vljoen, and some very good youngsters, Buddy Swartz in particular, and then a bunch of really solid journeymen. That Griqua side did exactly what today’s Jaguares do. They hustled the opposition. They taunted and teased, they got a leg in the way, or an arm, they found a way of inserting themselves between opponents to block a pass or prevent a kick, they played right on the edge of offsides. The modern day Jaguares do the same, with the added benefit of an Augustin Creevy who slows the ball down at every ruck, just a hand in the wrong place, an elbow that briefly blocks the ball, a boot or a knee. Holds opponents down over the ball too. Very clever and he watches the referee all the time, with a raised eyebrow to question if what he is doing is okay. All innocence and apologetic shrugs if the referee calls him off. Plays the referee beautifully, shades of Sean Fitzpatrick… A masterclass on how to disrupt the opposition’s flow. They rely on their opponents to rattle, and then play off the mistakes.
      If the opponent keeps a clear head and does not allow the Jaguares to get inside his brain, half the game is won.
      I would be putting a couple of bucks on the Jaguares for a final spot.
      My spellchecker autocorrects any misspelling of Jaguares……..