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Super Rugby learnings from Round 5.

Super Rugby Vincent Tshituka

18 March 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


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

While the Bulls have been making the biggest noise in the South African Conference, a stealthy Stormers side have now strung together three consecutive wins.

It hasn’t been pretty, and they haven’t come close to playing to their full potential yet, but that only makes their turnaround from the 40-3 first-round thumping at Loftus all the more impressive.

There’s still much to be critical of, but the results – and 13 log points accrued – speak volumes of the Cape side’s character. They’ve stuck to their guns and have come out better for it…commendable indeed.

Friday night’s 35-8 bonus-point win over the Jaguares was an emergence from the shadows. It was scrappy for the most part, but the Stormers finally found attacking synergy in the final quarter.

The four tries they scored against the Argentinians doubled that of their total haul from the first three fixtures, so Robbie Fleck and his charges will be chuffed that their offence supplemented their stoic defence this time around.

Expect to see Damian Willemse back in the No. 10 jersey to further improve the team’s attack after Jean-Luc du Plessis’ rough night out. His decision-making and execution were poor (see cringe-worthy kick from a good attacking position in the opening 10 minutes and poor chip that led to a fortuitous try thanks to a collision between Matias Moroni and Bautista Delguy as prime examples), and as importantly, he couldn’t get his backline going.

Defence has been the Stormers’ saving grace in recent weeks and they all but shut out the visitors. An individual error by SP Marais gifted the Jaguares an early try, and while they crossed the chalk on two other occasions, the hunger of the hosts resulted in the ball being lost mid-grounding and a driving maul being held up.

With three wins on the trot, the Stormers are no longer flying under the radar. They’re also flying into a storm as they kick-off their Australasian tour against the Hurricanes.

The ‘Canes won’t allow the Capetonians to skate by as the Lions and Sharks did to a degree. Nothing but a complete, 80-minute performance will give the Stormers a shout.

It’s set to be a tough tour for Siya Kolisi and company – with consecutive clashes with the Blues, Reds and Rebels following this Friday’s showdown in Wellington – but for the moment, the Stormers can be proud of the progress they’ve made.

The Lions have many questionable qualities, but heart is not one of them.

Saturday’s 36-33 comeback win over the previously unbeaten Rebels is up there with the best in Super Rugby history, as a young Lions side – boosted by a number of senior super subs – overturned a 33-5 deficit and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a clutch, last-gasp penalty from rookie replacement flyhalf Gianni Lombard.

They cashed in on the two yellow cards the visitors conceded like no other, scoring 21 points in the first 10-minute window alone. It was a special, special occasion for the young Lions, the positives of which will stay with the rookies in particular long after the memories of the mistakes made had faded. Such showings form the backbone of a side and breed belief, in one another and the process.

The rookies rose to the occasion – exciting flank Vincent Tshituka, centre Wandisile Simelane, fullback Tyrone Green and match winner Lombard were all in the thick of things – and regular starting stalwarts Lionel Mapoe and Andries Coetzee were hugely influential off the bench, the former snatching a try from right under a far too casual Quade Cooper’s nose and the latter ripping the Rebels to shreds in a Man of the Match cameo.

Much like the match being one of two distinctly different halves, that’s one half (the romantic side) of the Lions’ performance assessment. The other (emotionless reality) is that the Johannesburg franchise, like so many times in the past, were once again their own worst enemy.

Right until the final whistle, they made it extremely difficult for themselves when there were clear and obvious easier paths to victory. No other team, with the scores level, would’ve turned down three easy kickable penalties in the final 10 minutes before finally going for goal from a fourth.

They were once again tactically naïve when it came to exit plays, where an unnecessary number of phases succeeded only in conceding an intercept try and a five-metre scrum following a knock-on at the start of the second half.

Had Baby Bok Lombard missed the injury-time penalty, the gloss of a stunning comeback would instead have been egg on the faces of coach Swys de Bruyn and captain Malcolm Marx.

Fortunately for the hosts, fortune favoured the brave on the day.

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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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