Connect with us



Super Rugby learnings from Round 10

27 May 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The biggest takeaways from Round 15 of Super Rugby from a South African perspective, according to Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Handre Pollard’s importance to the Bulls was highlighted in his absence on Friday. Without their MVP, the Bulls rolled over in Canberra, losing 22-10 after a solid-enough first half but long and scoreless second stanza.

After the high of the previous week’s win over the Rebels in Melbourne, in which Pollard played a starring role, came the bitterest of blows for the Bulls with their skipper sustaining a calf injury during training that would sideline him for the remainder of their tour.

Pollard has in recent seasons established himself as South Africa’s pre-eminent pivot, and as such, filling his boots is a tough task for the most talented and experienced of flyhalves. Manie Libbok is certainly a top talent. He represented South Africa in two World Under-20 Championships – in 2016 and 2017 – and has all the makings of a future star.

The 21-year-old is a Super Rugby greenhorn, however, who has mostly done duty off the bench as Pollard’s understudy. In his only previous starting opportunity this season, the Bulls went down 22-20 to the Jaguares at Loftus. Consequently, he came into Friday’s fixture undercooked, making it all the more difficult for the youngster, and he duly struggled to steer the ship.

The Bulls did their best to shield the No.10, with Andre Warner, and particularly Warrick Gelant, taking the pressure off him by handling the bulk of the kicking duties. An easy second-minute penalty would’ve given Libbok an early confidence boost, and he slotted his only other kick at goal when he converted Hanro Liebenberg’s try.

Because he was so protected, the Bulls didn’t have a general who dictated play and he, unfortunately, struggled to front up in his channel on defence. Libbok’s shortcomings shouldn’t be viewed as criticism, but rather as examples of how pivotal Pollard is to the Bulls’ cause, and indeed the Springboks’ World Cup hopes.

Aside from Pollard’s tactical and play-making prowess, the Bulls missed his physicality on defence, which meant Burger Odendaal had to drift into the flyhalf channel, which opened up space for the host’s hat-trick hero Tevita Kuridrani. These situations are unavoidable and in retrospect are looked back on as a necessary evil more often than not, as they forge the young players thrust into the fire into the stars they ultimately become.

The timing, though, could not be worse for the Bulls. The upcoming battles against the Blues and Highlanders have now escalated to Everest-esque proportions and the loss of Pollard could end up costing the Bulls a place in the play-offs.

Since the lacklustre loss to the Brumbies at Newlands back in Round 10, the Stormers have been a different team. That 19-17 defeat was followed by a shock 24-23 win over the Bulls, who had hammered them 40-3 in the sides’ season-opener, and they secured a losing bonus point against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires the following week.

Over the past fortnight, in particular, the Stormers have shown immense improvement against the true measuring stick of the tournament, New Zealand teams. They fired on all cylinders and cut down on mistakes in the 19-all draw with the Crusaders, who were expected to run rampant after their big win over the Bulls, and Saturday’s 34-22 triumph over the Highlanders saw them shift into yet another gear.

Entering the round last in the local conference and 13th overall, Saturday’s showdown was a must-win for the Capetonians. That they were able to clinch arguably their most comprehensive victory of the season in such a high-stakes affair was a powerful statement.

Key Springboks such as captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Damian de Allende were outstanding and are hitting top form at the perfect time, while Herschel Jantjies and the back three unlocked the ‘Landers defence sublimely. Their collective offloading game was really good as well and played an important part in the Stormers scoring four tries.

With the Lions (who they beat at home) up next, followed by back-to-back home games against the Sunwolves and Sharks (who they beat in Durban) to close out the regular season, the Stormers have done a splendid job to stay in the play-off picture. Although they finished the round still stuck at the foot of the South African Conference, they climbed four places on the overall log, one shy of the elite eight.

Of great concern for the Cape side is the injury issues that saw Kolisi leave the park before half-time and Du Toit stay down and receive attention on a number of occasions. If these stars stay fit and the Stormers keep up their form, they may well be rewarded with a spot in the knockouts, which seemed highly unlikely after that loss to the Brumbies.

Much of the pre-match talk was about the battle of the Springbok flyhalves. The Durban derby served as a golden opportunity for both No.10s to make a World Cup statement. Since Round 11, when he was finally handed the reins at pivot, Curwin Bosch has turned his team’s fortunes around and has been staking a claim for Elton Jantjies’ berth as back-up Bok flyhalf.

In the end, Bosch won the head-to-head battle comfortably, but it didn’t live up to the hype. It wasn’t the world-class contest it promised to be as neither took control of the game and both were guilty of making unforced errors. Both missed easy penalties, Bosch early on and Jantjies in the 66th minute. Jantjies’ wayward kick was especially costly, as the Lions trailed 24-14 at that stage.

He nailed the next one from point-blank range, but valuable time had passed by then. Bosch was on target when it mattered most, breaking the deadlock in the 54th minute and slotting a kick at the death to restore the Sharks’ 10-point buffer and seal a vital 27-17 victory.

Bosch’s biggest highlight was his intercept try, while Jantjies’ best play was the brilliant offload to Lionel Mapoe for the Lions’ opening try. Both took the ball to the line; Bosch is credited with six carries, one clean break and 116 metres (largely due to the long-range intercept score) and Jantjies with eight runs, beating one defender and making 25 metres, while both missed two tackles.

Bosch finished with a 17-point haul, Jantjies with seven. What really did the Lions and Jantjies in was the two intercept passes he threw – the abovementioned ball that Bosch pounced on in the 17th minute and the second when speedster Makazole Mapimpi snatched a floating pass and ran all of 95 metres after the Sharks had held out 15-plus attacking phases on their line.

Eventually, the contest fizzled out as neither finished the game at flyhalf, with Bosch shifting to fullback to accommodate Robert du Preez and Jantjies moving one channel wider to accommodate Shaun Reynolds.

BET: Super Rugby 2019

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.

More in Rugby