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Super Rugby learnings from Round 10

06 May 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The biggest takeaways from Round 12 of Super Rugby from a South African perspective, according to Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Leave it to the borderline bipolar Sharks, this season’s most unpredictable team, to almost do the unthinkable. For the first time since the opening two rounds, when they registered wins over the Sunwolves (45-10) and Blues (26-7), the Sharks produced back-to-back performances to be proud of.

Ultimately, it was a heart-breaking end to a memorable evening for the men from Durban, with Mitch Hunt’s last-gasp seven-pointer denying the visitors a famous victory. One can’t help but feel for the Sharks, who probably deserved to win after their impassioned team performance, but one also has to commend the Crusaders for showing championship class to salvage the 21-all draw.

The Sharks of 2019 feed off emotion and that’s exactly what fuelled them in the Christchurch cauldron. The Durbanites’ urgency and desire on defence doubled as their best form of attack. There were plenty of dominant tackles along with cheering and high-fives after a few big scrums. The bluntness of their attack ultimately cost them. There were guts without glory, but still, the stalemate was more sweet than bitter, especially after everything the coastal collective have been through over the past few weeks.

More than anything, the Sharks have finally found the right formula, with Curwin Bosch being the key ingredient at flyhalf. The play-making prodigy was at the heart of everything good and scored all 21 of his team’s points. As a halfback combination, Bosch and captain Louis Schreuder, back in the run-on side after a bench break last week, gelled well and established themselves as the tandem to take the team forward.

With the Beast sidelined and Kerron van Vuuren (who it must be said have done a fantastic job as a starter) limping off early, the front row of Thomas du Toit, Akker van der Merwe and Coenie Oosthuizen looked strong and the loose trio were dynamite.

Ruan Botha had a big game, but Hyron Andrews’ absence left the lineout in shambles. Andrews has been immense, not only in this department but across the park as well, and having him back in the No.5 jersey would complete the recipe.

The Bulls made it harder than it should’ve been with a poor second-half performance, but they’ll be happy with the 28-21 win after the disappointing defeat to the Stormers seven days prior. It was a crucial victory that got the Bulls back on track and back on top of the South African Conference.

The Pretoria side did all the hard work in what was a dominant first-half display and should’ve been further in front at half-time. Still, 18-7 up at the interval, the Bulls were in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately for them, they fell asleep at the wheel in the second stanza and allowed the Waratahs back into the game.

The Bulls responded brilliantly when the ‘Tahs levelled the scores in the 67th minute, regaining the lead just four minutes later and hanging on from there, but they shouldn’t have been in that compromising position. With a clash against the Crusaders coming up on Friday, nothing but an 80-minute effort will be required if they are to topple the defending champions.

That said, the Bulls pack were in vintage form. They absolutely smashed the ‘Tahs at scrum time, winning no less than four penalties, with in-form loosehead Lizo Gqoboka leading the charge. The second-rowers were solid and the loose trio bossed the breakdown and contact situations. The pack are peaking at the perfect time and will give the Bulls a real shot against the ‘Saders.

Of concern, aside from the second-half dip, was the disconnect between the forwards and backs. Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl was a key culprit in this regard; he was slow to the ball and with his distribution, and his box-kicking was also not up to scratch.

Handré Pollard had a brilliant first half, but he did drop off the pace in the second. He missed three kicks at goal, two of which were in the third quarter when momentum swung the way of the Waratahs, and got very little distance with his line drives into touch. The Bulls’ skipper is a class act and proven performer, though. It’s the poor form of not only Van Zyl, but all three of the team’s scrumhalves that the Crusaders will look to exploit.

The Bulls are bound to struggle to contain the Crusaders out wide, especially if they give them the counter-attacking opportunities they gifted the ‘Tahs. Up front, though, the heavyweight collision between the Bok and All Black-laden packs looks set to be Super Rugby’s version of the Battle of Winterfell.

The 30-25 Buenos Aires defeat will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Stormers. The Jaguares are notorious for their niggle off the ball and negative play in key facets of the game like the breakdown, be it hands in the ruck, not rolling away or side entry, and sadly the Argentinian outfit once again employed spiteful tactics on Saturday.

A prime example of their slyness came in the 14th minute. With the Stormers trailing 10-0, they finally had their first attacking opportunity from a lineout inside the hosts’ 22. The set-piece play, however, ended before it even began as the Jaguares took out Cobus Wiese in the air. It was a deliberate, dangerous and dicey move, and one that paid off as it restricted the damage to three points and at the same time, robbed the Stormers of a chance to gain momentum.

More niggles incited a mass shoving contest five minutes before the break. Nothing major, but a ‘win’ for the Jaguares and their mission to frustrate the opposition. It took 14 penalty infringements (to the Stormers’ eight) for referee AJ Jacobs to finally issue the hosts a yellow card in the dying moments of the match, and that they held on from there would’ve left a sour taste in the mouths of many.

The Jaguares, to their credit, scored some great tries, while the Stormers looked nothing like the team who beat the Bulls and didn’t do enough offensively, and at the breakdown, to triumph. Their ball protection was poor, allowing the Argentinians to poach the pill and launch counter-attacks, and for 73 minutes, they never once looked like scoring a try.

JJ Engelbrecht conceding a yellow card and penalty try for a deliberate knockdown can be viewed as the death blow and it certainly was a key moment as it stretched the hosts’ lead from five to 12 with just nine minutes remaining. It did, however, also galvanise the visitors and finally saw them cross the whitewash, which gave them a sniff. Ultimately, the Stormers were as much to blame for the loss as the frowned-upon tactics of the Jaguares.

BET: Super Rugby 2019

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Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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