Super Rugby 2017

Post Mortem : Week Nine

Match Reviews: Week Nine

Friday, 21st April

Hurricanes vs Brumbies

McLean Park, Napier.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
Television match official: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)

Eight converted tries from the Hurricanes ensured a comprehensive 56-21 win over the Brumbies in Napier on Friday.

For a while it looked like the Brumbies might have learned something from the previous week’s loss to the Rebels. They fought back from a 14 to nil deficit to actually lead at the half time break 21 -14. But then the wheels fell off, again.

The Hurricanes simply stepped up a gear, and ran riot, with Beauden Barrett in top form once again to secure the bonus-point win.

The Hurricanes scored 42 unanswered points in the second-half to completely shatter the Brumbies winning 56-21.

The stats tell us that the ‘Canes won by 8 tries to three, having had 56% of the ball but 67% of the territorial advantage. They carried the ball 114 times for a total of 878 meters. The Brumbies managed 98 carries and 567 meters.

The Hurricanes passed the ball 148 times, with 14 passes going astray, while the Brumbies passed it 116 times with 19 passes missing a target. The ‘Canes won 96 rucks, the Brumbies 73.

Handling was good by both sides, the Brumbies making just 19 errors while the ‘Canes made 28.

Man Of The Match: Once again I give it to Beauden Barrett, his running with the ball, his sublime tactical kicks, and his exceptional passing and offloading are a treat to watch. The British Lions will need to find a way to keep him under control if they want to win a test.

The scorers:
For Hurricanes:
Tries: Aso 3, Jane, Gibbins 2, Abbott, Laumape
Cons: J Barrett 6, Black

For Brumbies:
Tries: Kuridrani, Carter, Powell
Cons: Hawera 3
Yellow Card: Hawera

NSW Waratahs vs Kings

Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Ian Smith (Australia)

A great day for the Kings, and a bad day for the Waratahs. The look of Michael Hooper’s face as he stepped up to the microphone for the compulsory post-match interview said it all. (He was not even wearing the ubiquitous sponsor’s baseball cap for the interview, perhaps the sponsor had taken his cap and gone home before the game was over?)

This was not a great game of rugby, in fact it was a horrible game of rugby. But the Kings will not mind that, they have won a game in Australia, against one of Australia’s more fancied franchises, the mighty Waratahs!

Immediately after the game I posted some of the statistics from the game on social media. I titled it: A Comedy of Errors, for that is what it really was!

Here they are again.

34 Handling errors by the Waratahs, and 33 by the Kings.
10 penalties conceded by the Waratahs, and 6 by the Kings.
27 tackles missed by the ‘Tahs, 15 by the Kings.
47 Rucks on by the Waratahs, 78 by the Kings.
12 turnovers conceded by the ‘Tahs, 13 by the Kings.
Just 84 ball carries by the Waratahs, making 679 meters.
98 carries by the Kings, making 653 meters.
The Kings broke through a ‘Tah tackle 7 times, the ‘Tahs managed just 4 tackle breaks
The Kings made 8 linebreaks, the Waratahs just 2.
20 of the 130 Waratah passes went astray. The Kings threw 150 passes of which 14 went astray.
The Kings won 7 mauls, the Waratahs just the one.
The Kings had 61% of the possession and 56% territorial advantage.

The ‘Tahs did manage to score 4 tries to the Kings 3, but the Kings were awarded that crucial penalty try!

And there is really not much more to say about it!

Man Of The Match: I might be a little controversial here, especially as he also earned a yellow card on the day, but I am going with Chris Cloete for his ball stealing ability and for matching the much fancied Michael Hooper in almost every aspect of the game.

The scorers:
For Waratahs:
Tries: Naiyaravoro 2, Horne, Clark
Cons: Foley 2
Yellow Card: Hanigan

For Kings:
Tries: Forwood, Banda, Willemse
Cons: Cronje 2
Yellow Card: Chris Cloete

Lions vs Jaguares

Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Vos (South Africa)

This was an interesting game of rugby. The Lions were made to work very hard before securing a 24-21 victory over the Jaguares. To me this win illustrates how much this Lions team has grown and matured in the last three years. They have learned how to absorb pressure, and that special thing, they have learned how to win.

It was a tightly contested affair, as momentum between the two sides ebbed and flowed throughout the game. Both sides scored three tries, and the Jaguares had the opportunity to win at Ellis Park before the Lions’ nous and experience brought them the win.

The moment of the game came when Lionel Mapoe ran onto a pass from Ross Cronjé close to the Jaguares’ ten-meter line and beat three defenders before selling Ramiro Moyano a copybook dummy and going over under the posts. It was beautiful to watch.

The Lions had 53% of the possession to the Jaguares 47% and territory was shared equally, 49% to 51%.

Both teams carried the ball a similar number of times, the Lions 117 and the Jaguares 116. The Lions managed 820 meters with the ball, while the Jaguares made 713.

For the first time in 2017 the Jaguares completed a game with 15 men on the field for the full 80. They somehow avoided a yellow card, despite conceding 10 penalties. This was their most disciplined effort of the season. The Lions did concede a yellow card, but only four penalties all game.

Both teams made their tackles, 144 by the Lions and 132 by the Jaguares. The Lions should be a little worried by the 34 tackles they missed, a tackle completion rate of 82% is not great. The Jaguares made 132 tackles and missed 29, which is also not great.

Man Of the Match: It was a cat-fight all the way. Plenty of players did good things and plenty played the game with full focus and commitment. But it was Lionel Mapoe who scored the try of the game and who looked like he was getting back to top form at last. He is my man.

The scorers:
For Lions:
Tries: Vorster, Mapoe, Ackermann
Cons: Jantjies 3
Pen: Jantjies
Yellow Card: Vorster

For Jaguares:
Tries: Orlando, Baez, Petti
Cons: Sánchez 3


Saturday, 22nd April

Highlanders vs Sunwolves

Rugby Park, Invercargill
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

My eldest daughter has a way of expressing her disdain for something. She says “Meh!”

This was a “Meh!” game for me.

We all knew the Highlanders would win, we all knew it would be a big score, and we all know that the Sunwolves will have a couple of moments, but that the Highlanders have too many guns, too much class, and way too much experience.

Yet they made a real meal of it. Throughout the first half, the home side were guilty of sending the ball out wide too early, not taking it up through the forwards enough, and really should have scored more tries.

They looked a bit rusty, a bit lazy and a lot disinterested in the first 40 minutes and were flattered by their 21-3 lead at half-time.

They stepped up their performance in the second-half, however, showing better build-up in their attacks and will be happy they achieved their aim of getting a bonus point win.

Despite the Highlanders looking somewhat lackadaisical the gulf in class between the two sides was visible.

The Sunwolves went behind as early as the third minute and it was due to their own mistake. They made a hash of their own lineout and after the Highlanders had turned over the ball, Malakai Fekitoa went through a gap to score.

The Japanese team did manage to get under the skins of the Highlanders. They harassed Aaron Smith into making uncharacteristic mistakes, even missing out on scoring opportunities as he knocked the ball on twice when the Highlanders were close to the Sunwolves’ try-line.

There is not really much to say about this game. It was a forgone conclusion when the fixture list was announced. Perhaps the only slightly contentious moment was when the TMO decided to allow a Highlanders’ try that seemed a forward pass to everyone, except Mr Newman up in the TMO box.

Man Of the Match: Matt Faddes gets my vote in a game that was mostly just “Ho Hum!”

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Tries: Fekitoa, Squire, Faddes 2, Smith
Cons: Banks 5

For Sunwolves:
Tries: Britz, Warren-Vosayaco
Con: Tamura
Pen: Tamura

Crusaders vs Stormers

AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kickoff: 19h35 Local Time, 07h35 GMT, 09h35 SA Time.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
Television match official: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

I suggested that this would be the game of the weekend, and it probably was.

The Stormers were well beaten by a Crusaders outfit that came onto the field with the intention of making a huge statement, and they did, in a sublime first 40.

There were a couple of very interesting aspects to their game. The first was the pressure they put on the Stormers backs from the very first moment of the game. The Crusaders’ defensive line speed was so fast it was almost scary.
At times I thought they were offside, especially in the first 20 minutes, but they had a plan, and it was a simple one. Do not allow the Stormers to settle and get into the game. They thought that they could rattle the youngsters in that Stormers backline, and they did. It was a clear tactic, and it worked.

The Crusaders have played a fairly conservative style in 2017. They have relied on their monster pack to subdue their opponents, and then they unleash their runners. On Saturday, they played it differently. They gave the ball plenty of air, throwing 186 passes and making 13 offloads as they carried the ball 124 times for 1021 meters. They rocked the Stormers onto their heels in a sublime first half. When the second half came around and the Stormers started coming back into the game, they joined in with 110 carries of their own and made 656 meters, but it was all too late.

The Crusaders were also quick to admit that they benefitted from a couple of dodgy calls by referee Paul Williams. Forward passes and the like were somehow missed.

This does not detract from their highest ever score over the Stormers, winning 57-24. It was not the referee’s fault that they won!

At half-time the Crusaders were ahead 36-3 and the game was over. The Stormers did fight back in the second half, scoring 21 points to match the Crusaders in the second 40, but it was indicative of their game when, first, Dillon Lleyds made a great break down field but then a loose pass was intercepted by Pete Samu who ran all the way to dot down under the posts for seven points.

Then Manasa Mataele intercepted in the 77th minute, to race 60 meters and score, stretching the Crusaders win by a further 7 points. It was against the run of play, and had the pass gone out to the wing, the ‘Saders seemed to have no-one there! Fourteen gift points to add the ‘Saders tally.

A lesson for the Stormers? Yes! Play loose-forwards at loose-forward and locks in the second row. Pieter-Steph du Toit is a superb lock forward, but he is not a flanker! The Crusaders won far too many turnovers on Stormers’ ball for comfort. Five ball turnovers, five tackle turnovers, and 8 ruck turnovers tell us that the Stormers lost the game on the ground.

Bjorn Basson barely touched the ball the whole game and was caught off his wing a couple of times but he did manage a great pick-up of a loose pass and then a hand-off to score.

A good sign was that the Stormers refused to give up. Some elusive stepping by Kolbe, the ball got to Frans Malherbe in the 67th minute, the prop showing good awareness by making contact with the base of the post.

Man Of the Match: So many candidates that it is almost unfair to single one out. I thought Kieran Read was immense in the 40 minutes he spent on the field.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Tries: Bridge 3, Read 2, Alaalatoa, Samu, Mataele
Cons: Mo’unga 6, Hunt
Pen: Mo’unga

For Stormers:
Tries: Kolbe, Basson, Malherbe
Cons: Du Preez 3
Pen: Du Preez

Western Force vs Chiefs

nib Stadium, Perth
Referee: Nicholas Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: William Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
Television match official: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)

The sheer stupidity of Super 18 rugby and the insanity of the travel and fixture list was emphasized by this game. The Chiefs might have ended their tour on a high with a 16-7 victory over the Force in Perth but the fatigue of intercontinental travel and three games on consecutive weekends was more than evident.

There was a plethora of unforced errors which meant there was little continuity and little to enthuse about, unless you are a Force supporter and can take some relief from only losing by 9 points.

The Force played their hearts out but just could not make any impression on a tired Chiefs. The visitors made numerous uncharacteristic handling errors which prevented them from extending their lead despite dominating territory and possession.

The Force defence showed their resilience in the face of some probing attacks from the Chiefs. The Force, predictably, used the boot to try and relieve the pressure, but their kicking was not always accurate and this allowed the Chiefs to launch several counter-attacks.

The Force were lucky to go into the half-time break with the game all-square at 7-7. Chiefs prop Siegfried Fisi’ihoi somehow contrived to knock the ball on when attempting to dot down after some persistent pressure.

The second half was a repeat of the first, the Chiefs continued to make too many unforced errors which hampered their game. The Chiefs, who have the highest percentage of lineouts won in the competition, were even guilty of losing a number of their balls at these set-pieces in this match.

It was not a great game of rugby.

The Chiefs made 37 handling errors, the Force responded with 33 of their own. 62% territorial advantage to the Chiefs, yet they kept fumbling and dropping the ball, throwing passes that went astray (23 passes failing to find a receiver,) and simply looking distracted and fatigued. Just 4 lineouts were won cleanly by the Chiefs, three others were fumbled, and 1 was stolen. They did, however manage to steal one back from the Force, who also had lineout woes, winning just 5 of their 13 cleanly, with 5 throws going astray and 3 lineouts ending with handling errors.

Not much to enthuse about at all.

Man Of the Match: I could not find anybody worthy of an award in this game.

The scorers:
For Force:
Try: Hodgson
Con: Prior

For Chiefs:
Try: Messam
Con: Cruden
Pens: Cruden 3

Bulls vs Cheetahs

Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Vos (South Africa)

In a comment about the Sharks’ game against the Rebels I suggested that watching that game was as boring as watching paint dry. I thought this game was equally boring. Watching this game was like looking at an unpainted wall in the vague hope that someone would splash a coat of paint on it.

The game consisted of the Bulls trundling the ball into no less than 87 rucks, while the Cheetahs did a little better, setting up just 56 rucks. But that is still 143 rucks in a game where the ball was in play for just 33 minutes! Add 17 lineouts, 10 scrums, and 8 driving mauls, and the ball was invisible to the spectators for most of the game.

Bulls supporters will enjoy the recent “resurgence” of their team as they claimed a 20-14 victory over the Cheetahs, but this game could very easily have gone the other way.

In a tight, error ridden encounter, the Cheetahs were in control of proceedings for large periods but poor finishing cost them dearly. The Bulls eventually outscored them by two tries to one with a late Jesse Kriel try sealing their win.

The one bright spark to shine in this game was the form of Jesse Kriel. After an anonymous campaign so far in 2017, suddenly he has found the chutzpah and enterprise that made many of us think he was going to be South Africa’s outside centre for a very long time. (That was back in early 2015 when Heyneke Meyer still encouraged running rugby in his team.) On the form he showed on Saturday, Kriel still has the class to be the Bok 13.

Man Of The Match: Jesse Kriel, head and shoulders above the rest.

The scorers:

For Bulls:
Tries: Potgieter, Kriel
Cons: T Schoeman 2
Pens: T Schoeman 2

For Cheetahs:
Try: Schoeman
Pens: Marais 3

Sharks vs Rebels

Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

This was the game I said was like watching paint dry.

If ever there was a game of rugby that illustrated everything that is wrong with the game, and everything that is wrong with Super Rugby, this was it.

The game was disappointing from start to finish for everyone concerned. The Sharks, who lost winger Kobus van Wyk to injury during the warm-up at Kings Park, then lost Andre Esterhuizen in the 17th minute when he was red carded for a truly stupid tackle on Sefa Naivalu. The late change for Van Wyk, and then Esterhuizen’s stupidity disrupted the Sharks backline completely. Yet, somehow, the Rebels just did not have the ability to exploit the fact that their opponents were in complete disarray at the back.

The Rebels also had their card woes. Captain and scrum-half Nic Stirzaker was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on on four minutes, and then red carded for a repeat of the same offence with the last ten minutes of the game still to play. James Hanson came on as replacement hooker, and then went off for a ten-minute sit in the naughty chair.

The Sharks, a bigger and more fancied team with aspirations towards making the playoffs, could not assert any dominance over the Rebels, a team fighting for their very survival.

Conversely, the Rebels didn’t exactly dominate or even exploit the fact that they had superior numbers for 43 minutes.

Nothing anybody tried seemed to work. Curwin Bosch, the Golden Boy of Sharks’ rugby, had an off day. His attempts at kicking penalties went astray or bounced off the uprights. His hands let him down on several occasions, and his passing seemed to deteriorate as the game went one. His youth and inexperience were starkly evident as he seemed to lose his mojo and confidence.

Indiscretions also played their part. Cobus Reinach scored a good ty, but was then denied when the ref referred the previous maul to the TMO for a possible incident of foul play. More stupidity as Ruan Botha grabbed an opponent around the neck, tugged him backwards in a choke hold, before realizing what he was doing and letting go. Too late, the try was disallowed and the Rebels had a relieving penalty.

Perhaps the biggest indictment of the entire game was the way the Sharks reverted to type and started to play a forward oriented game with the backs simply incidental to proceedings. They started to feed every ball to a pod of forwards inn the midfield, who would trundle into contact, go down and set the ball for another cycle of scrumhalf pops ball to pod of forwards….. Sixty eight times in a game where the ball was in play for 31 minutes. Oh, and add in the 57 rucks the Rebels set up themselves. 54 handling errors between the two teams, with the Sharks on 30, but that was because they had the ball more than did the Rebels. 54% possession and territorial advantage to the Sharks…

Thirty-one lineouts, sixteen scrums, sixteen mauls. It was slow, boring, grinding, brainless rugby, from both sides.

With two minutes left on the clock, Curwin Bosch finally pulled the Sharks into the lead and it looked like they would win it, but yet another very costly infringement barely a minute later saw Hodge step up to level the score at 9-9.

The whistle sounded and a lot of people went home to find a wall to paint and then sit back and watch it dry.

Man Of the Match: Nobody. Rugby was the loser.

The scorers:

For Sharks:
Pens: Bosch 3
Red Card: Esterhuizen

For Rebels:
Pens: Hodge 3
Yellow Card: Hanson
Red Card: Stirzaker


There is no Top Four or Bottom-Feeder Section this week. Nobody did anything to suggest that they belong in the first category, except perhaps the Crusaders, and there were too many bottom-feeding moments to bother, you saw it all.

Player Of The Week: There is one man who is playing sublime rugby, week after week. Beauden Barrett is on a golden streak that has lasted for most of 2016 and on into 2017 so far. Without a doubt the best player on the field this last weekend, and probably the best rugby player in the world at the moment.

Here Ends The Lesson.