Sydney - Australia and New Zealand have discovered that where SANZAR is
concerned, South Africa are ever persistent, endlessly pushing their
cause on and off the field.
Where rugby politics are concerned, South Africa never give in, as shown
by their relentless pursuit of the Super Rugby tournament being
expanded to a 16-team competition to avert the threat of relegation
among their home provinces through the introduction of the Southern
Kings next season.
Although their SANZAR partners keep telling them they have no hope of
winning their argument, due to the current broadcasting agreement that
stipulates a 15-team competition, South African officials keep gnawing
away. Their latest ploy is for officials from several provinces,
including the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Kings, to accompany South African
Rugby Union delegates to Australia and New Zealand next month to lobby
for another team.
South Africa believe that strength in numbers could ultimately force a
rethink from Australia and New Zealand, but it remains highly unlikely.
On the field, the usual South African football powers have begun their
Super Rugby campaign in an aggressive fashion, with the Stormers
overhauling the Hurricanes 39-26 in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Stormers were immediately in stride, going to a 23-9 lead after 35
minutes, taking advantage of their New Zealand visitors being down to 13
men after props Tristan Moran and Ben May both received yellow cards.
They were also able to overcome the early departure of their Springbok
breakaway Schalk Burger, who twisted his knee in a tackle in the 14th
minute, forcing him to leave the field on a stretcher. He is expected to
be sidelined for at least six weeks.
The Stormers were also able to rally after the Hurricanes drew level
early in the second half. They were helped by the Hurricanes losing
their composure late in the game, while referee Marius Jonker sent a
third visiting prop, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, to the sin bin for collapsing a
Stormers driving maul that led to a penalty try.
The Bulls, who have lost many of their experienced players, showed they
could rebound when they overwhelmed the Sharks 18-13 in Pretoria, while
Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies booted a record nine penalty goals in
their 27-25 win over the Cheetahs in Johannesburg.
Jantjies was successful with nine of his 11 attempts at goal, beating
the previous Super Rugby record of eight penalties by Jannie Kruger
(Bulls), Willie Walker (Highlanders), Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs) and Derick
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have lost four players for extensive periods
following their loss to the Highlanders in Hamilton. Prop Ben Afeaki
broke his right forearm and will be out for at least three months.
Brendon Leonard is sidelined for 10 weeks with a hamstring injury and
prop Toby Smith for six weeks with a calf strain, while winger Lelia
Masaga will miss at least the next three rounds with a knee complaint.