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Super Rugby learnings from Round 10

18 June 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


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

A frenetic start and thrilling finish couldn’t save what was a dreary derby at Newlands. The do-or-die affair promised so much, yet delivered so little. The Sharks came out like a house on fire – a promising sign from a side whose season has been defined by attitude, or lack thereof.

It was clear from the kick-off that the Sharks showed up, unlike the previous weekend when they were dead on arrival in Buenos Aires. The focus, physicality and skills were there…in the first 10 minutes. The Durban side probed like predators and strung together 20-plus phases with clinical interplay between forwards and backs.

The Stormers were stoic on defence, holding their shape and structure superbly to keep out the visitors…in the first 10minutes. The intensity was striking and saw Jaco Coetzee, Cobus Wiese and Makazole Mapimpi momentarily leave the collective crash scene during this rough-and-tumble opening period.

And then the wheels came off. As if the electric start had sucked all of the skills out of both sides, spectators had to endure a coastal clash that seemingly dragged on for hours, with basic mistakes making for an ugly, stop-start affair. It was anything but Super Rugby.

Both captains also made shocking decisions, with the Sharks turning down three points while trying 6-5 in the 61st minute before the Stormers, inside the red zone with minutes left, kicked at goal instead of setting up the lineout, holding on to possession and closing out the contest.

These perplexing decisions only weighed down the dud of a derby even more. Lukhanyo Am rewrote the headlines in a more positive light with his match-winning try at the death, but the fact remains it was another major all-South African letdown.

The Trans-Jukskei derby that followed was a much better advert for South African rugby. It was fast and furious, skilful and innovative. The Bulls were brilliant in victory, the Lions valiant in defeat. Both teams played positive rugby and did so with accuracy, which made it the free-flowing try-fest that it was. Nothing highlights the skills that were on display more than the fact that it took 49 minutes for the first scrum of the game

Neither side showed the fear of failure that crippled the coastal teams, which was truly refreshing from a South African perspective. While earning a win to clinch a place in the quarter-finals was the primary objective, the crunch clash had added significance for the Bulls as it doubled as the final home game for a host of overseas-bound stars.

The 48-27 win and the marvellous manner in which it was achieved – with the hosts outscoring their neighbours by seven tries to two – was the perfect Loftus send-off for captain Handre Pollard (Montpellier), RG Snyman (Japan), Duane Vermeulen (Japan), Hanro Liebenberg (Leicester Tigers) and Eli Snyman (Treviso). The likes of Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks), Jason Jenkins (Japan) and Jesse Kriel (Japan) will also continue their careers abroad next year but missed Saturday’s game through injury.

The departing stars made the most of their last outing at Loftus while their teammates played with extra passion to provide them with a fitting farewell. It couldn’t have played out any better for the Bulls as they qualified for the play-offs for the first time since 2013 and finished as the top-placed South African side (fifth).

History is against travelling teams in the play-offs and the Pretoria side’s reward for their stellar win is a daunting date with the Hurricanes on Saturday. Irrespective of what happens in Wellington, Pollard and company will always be able to treasure that one last golden night at Loftus.

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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