A weekend of upsets … well if you go according to the percentage of people making predictions each weekend on Superbru, then both the Hurricanes and Force wins have to be considered upsets, with close on 95% of the “Brus” getting those predictions wrong! Count me among the 95% I am afraid …
But the other prediction I got wrong will be the one hurting us South Africans the most – that being the one caused by a fairly inept performance from the Stormers. Will they now fall off the bus completely, or will they recover to join the Bulls and Sharks as title contenders?
To the weekend’s rugby, then …
Crusaders (24) v Hurricanes (30) - My prediction: Crusaders by less than 5 points
Off to a flyer, I was ... NOT! Great game to watch, though, and I was obviously punished for “betting” against the side I most enjoy watching. They have let me down so many times before, just not managing to pull off the big ones, and the one time I lose a little faith, they rise from the ashes. Ma’a Nonu is just awesome to watch when in full flight. And now that he has learnt to pass the ball, together with Conrad Smith, they make a pretty awesome centre pairing. The Canes are also the masters of winning games despite losing the scrum battle – I can promise you. Could this be the year for the Canes?
Hurricanes 30 (Zac Guilford, Albie Mathewson, Ma'a Nonu tries; Piri Weepu 3 conversions, 3 penalties), Canterbury 24 (Casey Laulala, Brad Thorn, Jarrod Payne, Thomas Waldrom tries; Colin Slade conversion; Stephen Brett conversion). HT, 16-7.
Waratahs (34) v Highlanders (16) - My prediction: Tahs by 10 or more points
Only kept half an eye on this game while actually doing some work rather than pretending to do so … Tahs now, as per prediction, potential title contenders, and not clip on’s like a lot of people thought would be the case prior to the tournament …
Waratahs 34 (Lote Tuqiri, Ben Mowen, Wycliff Palu, Brett Sheehan tries; Kurtley Beale 2 penalties, 3 conversions, Daniel Halangahu conversion), Otago 16 (Jason Shoemark try, Daniel Bowden 3 penalties, conversion). HT, 17-9.
Chiefs (15) v Sharks (22) - My prediction: Sharks by around 5 points.
If the Sharks do not win the tournament this year, they never will! My oath, but the rugby Gods were with them this time round, and if it stays this way, they really will struggle to lose a game! Yes it was one of the finest defensive efforts ever seen (not sure you get better than that final Stefan Terblanche tackle!), and their kicking game was straight out of the top draw, but the Chiefs looked the more dangerous of the two sides with ball in hand. And to be denied tries on three occasions by the TMO would have been heart breaking for the home side. The two JP Pietersen tries were soothing on the optics, but it did take precision kicks from Francois Steyn (with his left foot nogal, yet still no smile from the inside centre) and Ruan Pienaar to produce balls for the pacy winger to run onto, such was the defence on display. The Chiefs were unlucky to share the spoils, but the kicking game, defence and structure shown by the Sharks won them the game. John Plumtree, take a bow.
Sharks 22 (J.P. Pietersen 2, Francois Steyn tries; Rory Kockott 2 conversions, penalty), Chiefs 15 (Aled de Malmanche, Brendon Leonard tries; Stephen Donald conversion, penalty). HT, 7-3.
Brumbies (16) v Force (25) - My prediction: Brumbies by less than 10 points.
Well, knock me down with a feather why don’t you? Along with the other 95.64% of the “Bru’s” on SuperBru, I did not see this coming. And this with a scrum that was being demolished by the Brumbies – properly! Take nothing away from the Force, but apart from the set pieces, the home side looked they were not that keen to be on the park. That said, the Force put some pretty special rugby together on the day. Matt Giteau sparked the Force’s march to victory as he drew the Brumbies centres before sending a long flat pass out to Ryan Cross who had drifted wide, who then made the scoring pass to Cameron Shepherd, who got in for his first of three tries. Throw the name Mark Gerrard into the hat, and you have a backline that should be winning more matches than they lose. An entertaining 80 minutes it has to be said, even if my prediction was from Mars. And a good result for South Africa as it reigns in those wild horses a little on the log …
Western Force 25 (Cameron Shepherd 3, Richard Brown tries; Matt Giteau penalty, conversion), Brumbies 16 (penalty try; Stirling Mortlock conversion, Mark Gerrard 3 penalties). HT, 8-9.
Lions (9) v Bulls (16) - My prediction: Bulls by 14
I have to admit to keeping an eye on this game via the bottom of a beer bottle as we braaied and “kuired” outside Newlands in preparation for the Stormers game. And after seeing the human cyborg, Pierre Spies, going over for yet another opposition scattering try, and seeing that the Bulls were up by 16 at half time, I kind of switched off. Sport24 Chief Writer, Rob Houwing, reckons he saw some hope for the Lions as they clawed their way back into the game via the Andre Pretorius and Earl Rose boots in the second half though, but I am not so sure. This game was ruined as a spectacle by the rain, and the fact that the Bulls thought they had it in the bag at half time. The Bryan Habana hand injury is a worry, but these Bulls are going to be a factor in this year’s Super14 and long may that continue!
Bulls 16 (Pierre Spies try; Morne Steyn conversion, 3 penalties), Lions 9 (Andre Pretorius 2 penalties; Earl Rose penalty). HT, 16-0.
Stormers (8) v Blues (14) - My prediction: Stormers by 4 points.
Oi, and I went on Cape Talk to say this would be a high scoring match that the Stormers would win at the death. Could I have been more wrong? It was an error ridden arm wrestle of a match that proved the theory of the sum of the parts being greater than the individual parts. A lot of players had good games … Schalk Brits, Andries Bekker, Jean de Villiers, and Peter Grant come to mind, but this Stormers side has not gelled as a team. They are playing as a bunch of individuals and for that the coaching staff need to take a good hard look at themselves. The scrum was in all sorts of trouble from the get go, and I would not be surprised to hear that the uncontested scrums was a Rassie Erasmus “trick”. Brits and Bekker may have had good games, because they are good with ball in hand, but in actual fact, the Stormers need to see less of them in open play! More donkey work please, and leave the peacocks out back to do the fancy stuff. And the two chip kicks from Luke Watson to give the Blues the ball in their own 22? Very selfish play. In fact, squandering hard earned possession was another big issue for the Cape side. They have a lot of work to do if they want to live up to their pre-tournament hype … Although I wonder what we would be thinking if Grant had got over for that try in the final seconds?
Blues 14 (Paul Williams try; Williams 3 penalties), Stormers 8 (Ricky Januarie try; Peter Grant penalty). HT, 8-8.
Reds (22) v Cheetahs (3) - My prediction: Reds by 8 points.
This game was meant to help with the hangover, but instead it made mine worse! I had “earned” some time in front of the TV through some stellar family time earlier in the weekend, but I think I would rather have been changing nappies and playing in the sandpit with my little man than watching this! Poor Juan Smith. This guy is world class, but every week he has to go in front of the cameras with some excuse for yet another loss. Bottom line, though, is that for a side known for playing running rugby the Cheetahs should hang their heads in shame. They were outscrummed, they lacked imagination, they lacked fitness and most of all they lacked spirit. This game was an advert for the Super12!
Reds 22 (Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Mark McLinden tries; Berrick Barnes, Ben Lucas conversions, Lucas penalty), Cheetahs 3 (Jacques-Louis Potgieter penalty). HT, 7-3.