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24 June 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The biggest takeaways from the Super Rugby quarter-finals from a South African perspective, according to Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The quarter-final clash in Wellington had the hallmarks of a classic heavyweight boxing bout. The visiting Bulls were given only a puncher’s chance of pulling off an upset. In the Hurricanes, you had a Muhammad Ali – a lean, fast, fleet-footed, technically and tactically sound pugilist. The Bulls, in turn, played the role of the gargantuan – a heavy set hard hitter with fewer strings to his bow but knockout power that can topple any opponent.

It was the heart of a champion that the Bulls displayed that made it a thrilling contest. They landed the first significant strike through an excellent Warrick Gelant try. Thereafter the Bulls suffered three knockdowns in quick succession and looked down and out at 24-7 down after 28 minutes.

The ‘Çanes floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee during this period. However, the brave Bulls shook it off and got back up every time. They simply refused to go away, rolled with the punches and chipped away to put themselves in a position to win, trailing just 32-28 on the hour mark. Even with the travel factor and the ‘Canes clicking into extra gear in the final quarter, the Bulls were right there with them and stayed in the fight until the last second.

In one of his many meaningful quotes, MMA superstar Conor McGregor remarked “Precision beats power” and that essentially sums up why the ‘Canes came away with their 35-28 win. The heart-breaking result will haunt the Bulls in the days to come. It signalled the end of an era with many of their biggest stars heading abroad, but the band of bravehearts can keep their heads up after such a valiant effort.

For a team who’ve been inconsistent all season, the Sharks were equally awful on attack and defence in their crushing 38- 13 defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra. Despite having 61% of the possession and 69% of the territory, the visitors scored just a solitary try. Burly centre Andre Esterhuizen bashed over from close quarters.

On the flip side, they conceded five tries to a team with just 39% of the ball. They were caught out on three of those occasions by inside balls. It was a bizarre, tactically inept performance in which the Sharks persisted with predictable, ponderous carries despite the inefficiency of the approach. They also failed to identify and plug the main hole in their defence.

It was a sad and sorry end to the Sharks’ season in which they once again flattered to deceive. They were gutsy, but fortunate, to sneak into the playoffs with THAT late try at Newlands. That highlight was overshadowed in the bigger scheme of things by coach Robert du Preez’s attack on the Durban media, who he considers overcritical and branded “cockroaches” (not for the first time) immediately after the 12-9 win over the Stormers.

It always behoves a coach to work with, rather than against the media. With his attacks and refusal to field questions on the “cockroach” issue, Du Preez got himself into a corner and put the Sharks’ name in a bad light. Heavy losses like’s Saturday’s 25-point pummelling only adds further credence to the criticism he’s faced and doubts over his aptitude to coach at Super Rugby level.

Pressed by Rapport, a Sharks spokesperson said the franchise condemned the coach’s comments, with the Afrikaans newspaper adding the issue has further soured Du Preez’s relationship with some directors. Du Preez, it must be noted, has remained unapologetic.

It remains unclear whether Du Preez will be sacked or backed to see out his contract, which expires at the end of the 2020 Super Rugby season. Should he escape the axe, he will ironically be the only member of the current coaching team to stay on. His assistants Ricardo Laubscher and Braam van Straaten have quit – reportedly due to discord between them and Du Preez – while skills coach AB Zondagh will also part ways with the franchise.

The Sharks top brass will know, though, that if they do stick with Du Preez, they’ll likely have to fight fires on and off of the field again next year.


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.

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