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Super Rugby learnings from Round 8

8 April 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


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

A missed opportunity due to missed opportunities. That sums up the Stormers’ outing at Suncorp Stadium. What could’ve been a morale-boosting win was, instead, a third tour loss (24-12) on the trot due to the Cape side’s inability to finish off try-scoring opportunities.

Three disallowed tries, two in the first 20 minutes of the match, cut the Stormers’ offensive intent off at the knees. They dominated the opening quarter, yet had nothing to show for it.

Captain Siya Kolisi’s somewhat harsh yellow card just before half-time resulted in two quick-fire converted tries after the break, which coupled with the visitors’ poor finishing, handed the hosts a comfortable 24-12 win in the end.

A scoreless first half, the first since 2013 when the Stormers faced the Sharks, saw the Capetonians once again commit a cluster of basic mistakes, including a number of behind-the-chest passes that stifled their momentum and/or led to knock-ons.

Forwards camping out in the backline was a big issue, and the new-look front row misfired and was blown up on three occasions, twice after they’d been scrummed into submission.

The hard-working Kobus van Dyk finally gave the Stormers their first try in the 50th minute, and when an equally determined Damian de Allende dotted down to make it 21-12 with the conversion and five minutes to come, there was a chance for the Stormers to possibly salvage a draw. Instead, it led to one last blown opportunity as SP Marais missed a sitter and the Reds rubbed it in by running in another try.

It took eight rounds, but the Sharks finally played to their full potential and boy. The Durban franchise fired on all cylinders, scoring four tries in the first 40 alone to lead 25-0 at half-time and ultimately thumped the Lions 42-5.

It was clear from the onset that the Sharks, winless against South African sides and coming off a home loss against the Bulls, wanted it more than the Lions. Their hunger (and perhaps a hint of desperation) was apparent, their physical pressure relentless and their pace ferocious.

Individually and as a team, the Sharks stood up after the previous week’s disappointment and looked every bit of the title contenders they were earmarked as at the start of the season. The grossly-underused Curwin Bosch was the spark that ignited the flame in his first start of the campaign, slicing through the Lions at will from the back in a brilliant Man of the Match performance.

Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Lwazi Mvovo and Tendai Mtawarira – in his record 157th Super Rugby match – all starred, however, it was the synergy and fluency of the visitors as a well-oiled machine that blew the hosts away.

Having been so erratic and with a 3-3 record heading into Friday’s fixture, the big question is why has it taken the talent-rich Durban team so long to come good? It’ll be interesting to see if the Sharks will be able to replicate the stellar performance, but they couldn’t have hoped for a better way to bounce back.

Like the Bulls against the Chiefs a few weeks ago, the Lions looked as though they were still on a bye. They were completely dominated from start to finish. The only positive for the Johannesburg franchise was the way in which their defence held up in the face of a relentless onslaught before the dam wall broke in the 19th minute.

The half-time whistle was accompanied by torrential rain, snuffing out any hope of another comeback like the one against the Melbourne Rebels. It was one of those horror shows where nothing went the Lions’ way. They went nowhere slowly and will want to wipe the long 80 minutes from their memory as they embark on their Australasian tour.

Their spectacular implosion in the final 10 minutes highlighted the danger and pitfalls of fielding an understrength side. Springbok protocol, like that being implemented in Australasia with a view on the World Cup, dictated that star duo Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel were rested for this clash. It’s a necessary evil, but one that ultimately did the Bulls in (22-20).

Stand-ins failed to make the desired step-up, which led to panic down the stretch. That boiled over into not one but two yellow cards and saw the Bulls lose a match they controlled for the most part. It was a collapsing of a team stripped of its core leadership group, with Lood de Jager and Schalk Brits also unavailable due to injury and suspension respectively.

With RG Snyman also still nursing an injury, the loss of Eli Snyman in the 30th minute left the Bulls pack unbalanced with the lack of a second rower on the bench. The man tasked with filling the void, Tim Agaba, turned out to be one of the villains. Both his and Conraad van Vuuren’s offences were criminally cynical, unnecessary and ultimately cost the Bulls top spot in the South African Conference.

In defence of a player like Manie Libbok, who blew hot and cold rather than live up to the lofty expectations his prodigious talents demand, he entered the clash with less than 20 minutes of game time this season. He would’ve been disappointed with his performance, but he also would’ve benefitted from better match time management.

It was a B-rated battle overall, with the Jaguares employing rather spiteful tactics. Divan Rossouw was the Bulls’ best tactical weapon, pinning the Argentinians inside their own 22 with well-weighted kicks out of hands, while Libbok and Springbok scrumhalf Embrose Papier didn’t execute as well as anticipated.

Similar to the Stormers, the Bulls dominated territory but had little reward and coughed up a couple of try-scoring chances. Their sin bin management was also poor, resulting in the teams trading penalties while the visitors were down a man, and was just another example of a tweaked team lacking direction and conviction.

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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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