Super Rugby 2018

Post Match Review : Week Two


Waratahs 34 vs Stormers 27

Venue: Allianz Park, Sydney.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), William Houston (Australia)

TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

This was one of those games that reminded me of the few boxing matches I have attended in my life. There were two pugilists trading punches all through the afternoon. If one landed a heavy blow, the other soon responded with a similar blow a couple of minutes later. Yet, the fight never really exploded into the blood, sweat, and fury one might have expected.

It was an entertaining game, played at pace, and with some super moments of skill and some thumping tackles, yet it seemed to be just a little less than one expected. Just a couple of sparklers short of a real fireworks display. The main feature of the game was silly mistakes and moments. In the end, it was a lineout error by a hugely inexperienced substitute hooker that gave the ‘Tahs the ball, and the try in injury time.

Once again, I will not do a play-by-play review of the match, there are enough highlights packages being rebroadcast on television until the subscriber starts wondering whether anything else might have happened on the weekend. I will just discuss some of the issues or interesting moments that I noted during the game.

First and foremost, has to be the issue of Australian teams that mob the referee every time a close call is made. Michael Hooper might be the captain of the Waratahs, but Kurtley
Beale, Jake Gordon, and Bernard Foley did most of the “referee engagement” on the field. Most usually all three of them “engaged” the referee at the same time, loudly and somewhat aggressively. Beale, in particular, is starting to resemble a scrumhalf with his arm waving, gurning, expressions of disbelief, and open chested appeals.

The assistant referees are not immune to this “engagement” either.

Vociferous, emotional, and overtly aggressive appeals to officialdom are a blight on sport. Soccer has suffered from this malaise for some time, and it has crept into cricket too. Now we are seeing it creep into rugby.

Somewhere, somehow this has to stop. Trying to influence a referee’s decision by getting in his face and staying there is wrong, distasteful, and often cheating. This is not the way of rugby and flies in the face of rugby’s Playing Charter.

As the score-line suggests this was a tight game. The ‘Tahs eventually outscored the Stormers four tries to three but it could easily have gone the other way.

My view is that the Stormers, despite a depleted side, should have won this game quite comfortably. They lost the game due to their own errors, some very wrong decision making, and sub-par performances by one or two individuals.

The first of their problems has to be the lineout, and their two hookers on this tour. Ramone Samuels and Dean Muir are the 3rd and 4th choice hookers in the Stormers squad. Muir, in particular, is an inexperienced rookie despite his 29 years of age. He previously played for the Border Bulldogs and the Falcons, and has 70 provincial caps, all earned down in the 2nd division of South African rugby. The step up to Super Rugby is huge, and the pressure was visible as he threw some really wonky lineout ball, including the one clear over the top that gave the ball to the ‘Tahs from which they engineered the winning try.

Consider that the Stormers had the ball in 12 lineouts, but managed to waste the throw on four occasions, and then lost one of their good throws too. A 60% lineout success rate is simply very poor. The Waratahs had 13 lineouts and lost just 1.

The problem is easily identifiable. The two hookers were inaccurate. Period.

Ramone Samuels is a youngster of just 23 and is similarly an inexperienced rookie. Born in the Western Province and schooled at Paul Roos in Stellenbosch, he played for the SA Schools team back in 2012, and then spent a year with his home province’s U/20 squad. In 2013 the was recruited by the University of Johannesburg and headed north to join the Young Lions and then the Golden Lions. He represented the Golden Lions on 3 occasions in the Currie Cup before heading home to the Western Province and the Stormers.

Both his lineout work and his scrummaging are not quite of the standard required at the top level, and it showed again on Saturday.

Samuels is very much a work in progress and is a great prospect for the future. He has been thrown into the deep end after injuries to Scara Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi.

(Incidentally, he is Damien Willemse’s brother.)

The Stormers’ scrum was dominant on Saturday, but they struggled to turn that dominance into scoring opportunities. Their loose-forwards were good at the breakdown and in support plays, but again the presence was squandered. There were too many silly errors and moments that lifted the pressure off the home-side every time the Stormers seemed to be getting the upper hand in general play.

At the end of the game they had two lineouts and a scrum to use as foundations to get themselves out of their own 22m area and on into the Waratah side of the field, and they failed on all three occasions due to simple mistakes.

The clearances from the 22m area also seemed to be an issue.

One area that has improved visibly in the week since the Jaguares game was the defensive systems. The line-speed on defence was markedly better, and the open spaces that invited Jaguare counter attacks the previous week were reduced in number. Tackle success rate for both the two teams was 90%.

Discipline was also much better, conceding just 7 penalties, while the hosts conceded 10.

Playing in their own half did restrict the Stormers running opportunities while giving the Waratahs the opportunity to attack.  The ‘Tahs carried the ball 126 times for a total of 808 meters, while the Stormers were restricted to just 98 carries and 457 meters. The Waratahs made 34 handling errors in the process, while the Stormers made 30.

I remain utterly unconvinced of JJ Engelbrecht’s value as an outside centre. I said so before he left the Stormers to go north to the Bulls. I said so when he was playing for the Bulls, I said so when Heyneke Meyer gave him a Springbok call-up, and I still say so. He is a re-treaded wing, and would be of more value out wide. He does not pass the ball comfortably and tends to try and crash his way ahead every time he gets his hands on the ball. EW Viljoen is a better option and it was evident when he came on in the second half.

From my perspective, the Stormers contrived to lose this game due to inaccuracy and silly mistakes. The Waratahs, although much improved in the performances of 2017, were not a better side than the visitors.

The scorers:

For Waratahs:
Folau, Hooper, Fitzpatrick, Hanigan
Cons: Foley 4
Pens: Foley 2
Yellow Card: Simmons

For Stormers:
 Kitshoff, Van Dyk, Marais
Cons: Marais 3
Pens: Marais 2