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Super Rugby learnings from Round 10

Super Rugby Betting

22 April 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The biggest takeaways from the tenth round of Super Rugby from a South African perspective, according to Quintin van Jaarsveld.

There’s no one player as important and inspirational to a team than Lions captain Warren Whiteley. The talismanic No. 8 has long been the “Lion King” – having led the Johannesburg side to three consecutive Super Rugby finals – but his worth to the team was perhaps never more evident than in Friday’s shock 23-17 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The calming influence of their captain fantastic, coupled with his exceptional workrate – made all the more impressive with it being his first game back after a lengthy injury-enforced spell on the sideline – galvanised the Lions to defy the odds in the immediate aftermath of some serious off-field issues. Whiteley was the catalyst for the famous win with his leadership, tireless defence and key plays, most memorable of which was the rather awkward-looking grubber that somehow stayed infield and saw Aphiwe Dyantyi pick up and score.

The Lions looked like a distinctly different team to the one who were lashed 42-5 by the Sharks and soundly beaten (31-20) by the Brumbies last weekend. More than anything, Whiteley’s return gave the team their confidence back and they played like their old selves as a result. The visitors showcased superb fluidity and continuity on attack, dominated the set pieces and was brilliant on defence (in stark contrast to last weekend), keeping the hosts out for 59 minutes.

When the Chiefs went on the charge and threatened to snatch the win in the final quarter, there were some individual acts of nervousness, however, the presence of the calm, cool and collected Whiteley helped the tired Lions hang on. His back row partners Kwagga Smith and Cyle Brink were also brilliant, while fellow key players Malcolm Marx and Elton Jantjies also played pivotal roles after being recalled to the starting line-up at the last minute.

After Friday’s second successive home defeat, it can no longer be pushed back…it’s time to push the panic button. There had been talk of accountability from Robert du Preez in the week, with the Sharks coach acknowledging the buck stops with him. However, come selection time and game day, it was the same sorry story.

After the humiliating 51-17 loss to the Jaguares, much was expected from the Sharks. They’ve continued to be inconsistent this season, yet with a slew of Springboks in their ranks, Sharks supporters – while growing increasingly frustrated – remained hopeful that happier days were on the horizon. Much of that hope died in Durban on Friday.

As the final home game ahead of their Australasian tour, this was a sink or swim game for the Sharks and despite the previous week’s shocker, the hosts were expected to bounce back against the Reds. The young visitors were not only easily dispatched (32-17) by the Bulls last weekend but also languished in lowly 13th position with just three wins in eight games going into the Easter encounter.

What the Sharks produced was another pitiful performance, the 21-14 loss the first to the Reds in Durban in 15 years. That added significance speaks to the dire straits the Sharks find themselves in. Mentally soft all year, the Sharks were equally soft physically, slipping and ever bumping off tackles with regularity. Moreover, they were bashed off the ball at the breakdown and continually lost possession in contact…all signs of a side being bullied.

Outmuscled and outplayed tactically, the Sharks were never in the contest. It was just more of the same; more handling errors, more poor execution and more missed opportunities from a collection of individuals as opposed to a true team. Accountability without action is no accountability at all. Something has to change.

Surely, Robert du Preez Jnr’s time in the No.10 jersey is up after yet another mediocre outing. His missed tackle on Samu Kerevi, which led to Chris Feauai-Sautia’s try, must’ve felt like a recurring nightmare to fans and the flyhalf himself following his similar slip-ups against the Bulls and Jaguares and has to be the final nail in the coffin for the talented but out-of-sorts pivot, whose attention already seems to be on the Sale Sharks.

His father’s time at the helm, one has to believe, is now under serious threat and this tour is probably his last.

In today’s age in which every moment of a match is analysed and every statistic studied, teams sometimes overcomplicate things. The Stormers were guilty of this on Saturday and consequently crashed to a 19-17 loss to the Brumbies. The Cape team, who looked nothing like the passionate posse who prevailed in Melbourne the previous week, turned down no less than seven kickable penalties, five in the first half and two in the final quarter whilst trailing by two.

To make matters worse, there were several ‘brain fart’ moments, including Damian Willemse conceding a penalty for booting the ball away after a good initial kick into touch in the attacking 22 and, more costly and unacceptable, Johan du Toit giving the Brumbies great field position, momentum and time in possession with one of the worst offside infringements of the season with just six minutes to go.

It was clear from the onset that the Stormers weren’t switched on mentally. It looked as though they were doing everything half-paced, summed up perfectly by Herschel Jantjies’ slow and telegraphed box kick that gave the towering Rory Arnold ample time to charge it down and score.

It was a forgettable first 40 for the Stormers, the only highlight being the penalty try for Toni Pulu’s high tackle on a surging Jantjies. It was a controversial call, not only because of it only being picked up after the half-time whistle had been blown, but also due to New Zealand referee Nick Briant turning down the Brumbies’ request to review a knock-on during the build-up to the eventual seven-pointer.

It was a lifeline that kept the Stormers in the game and saw them hit the front when Wilco Louw forced his way over five minutes after the break when the visitors were still a man short. Ultimately, though, their own option-taking and numerous squandered opportunities made for a damned homecoming.

Check out our Super Rugby Team of the Week – Round 10

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