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Super Rugby learnings from a dark weekend for SA teams.

25 February 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


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

A team can’t ask for more than the full five log points, especially against New Zealand opposition. In this instance, though, the Sharks wouldn’t be entirely pleased with their performance.

Having recorded a 26-7 win, one could argue criticism – especially on such a bleak week for South African rugby – could come across as nit-picking, but teams always pursue perfection and it’s with this in mind, that the men from Durban will meet on Monday with a willingness to build on the solid foundation laid by back-to-back bonus-point victories.

It was a typical match of two halves; a dominant first half followed up by a stuttering second stanza. The hosts looked lethal on attack in a hot and humid Durban, exhibited excellent interplay between forwards and backs, and their defence held up, particularly when they found themselves trapped inside their 22 by a relentless yet different Blues team to the one that ought to have beaten the Crusaders in Round One.

Cracks did emerge, however, most of which can be fixed in the week. What’s concerning, however, is how the Blues bossed the breakdown. This was the only facet in which the visitors had a decisive edge over the Sharks, their quickness and efficiency on the floor enabling them to string together phases on attack and secure turnovers on defence.

It wasn’t from for a lack of effort from the Sharks’ loosies, who piled up the numbers in carries and hits but were found wanting in the breakdown battle. Nevertheless, a good start to the season and at home, where they’ve now won six straight.

As a showcase of South African rugby, this was a train wreck. The Stormers and their supporters will happily take the win after the lashing at Loftus, but the truth is there were no real winners in the Newlands nightmare.

First, there was a head-scratching yellow card to Alistair Vermaak, who had earlier conceded a cynical penalty for a side entry charge but was binned for what looked a regulation cleanout.

Referee Egon Seconds and company then missed a clear turnover by Malcolm Marx in the dying moments that would’ve led to a Lions win, and those were just the two most significant officiating errors that were made.

Back to the teams…both sides were dreadful! The Stormers’ desperation showed; it was ugly as ugly gets by the Cape side, whose ill-discipline resembled that of an amateur club team, such was the nature of their indiscretions (including continually tacking players in the air). Their knock-on count also continued to mount, with the hosts ultimately ending the evening having conceded 16 turnovers.

The Lions will be wondering how they ended up on the losing side. Their fans will be gutted, but even for general rugby lovers, it was a sad way for the Johannesburg franchise’s 22-match unbeaten streak against South African opposition to come to an end.

They were their own worst enemy and like the Stormers, made far too many basic mistakes. Losing Warren Whiteley, such a key figure as inspirational and composed captain, in the first half was a big blow, and while it was a collective flop (aside from the superb Kwagga Smith), it has to be said Elton Jantjies had a shocker (aside from his accurate goal-kicking).

One can only hope it was a one-off ‘Super Hero’ stinker and not a sign of things to come from these two teams.

Brought back down to earth and still without a win in Buenos Aires, the Bulls looked nothing like the side who trounced the Stormers in the opening round.

It was a mightily disappointing performance, with the side sinking in the wet weather and never looking like scoring. They couldn’t get to grips with the slippery ball and surface, and much reflection would’ve been done during the flight home.

The old guard of the Victor Matfield/Fourie du Preez era would’ve had a difficult time watching the Bulls class of 2019’s tactical ineptness on the night, as the accurate Argentinians taught them a lesson in wet-weather rugby. Constant handling errors robbed the visitors of continuity, but that pales in comparison to their poor collective tactical showing.

There were a number of overcooked kicks that sailed directly into touch, including two by scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who had a rare off day. His replacement and fellow Bok Ivan van Zyl was largely anonymous after coming on in the 50th minute, which further hurt the visitors’ cause.

Handre Pollard and Warrick Gelant were also guilty of kicking aimlessly, as was Jesse Kriel, who tried too many grubbers into the Jaguares’ 22, the latter showing a lack of patience in the face of resolute defence and succeeding only in giving possession away.

Still, the Bulls led 12-10 on the hour mark before the hosts shifted into a higher gear and left the men from Pretoria in their dust. A disappointing game all-round, but one the Bulls can take lessons out of.

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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