5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 9
Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after Round 9's action of Super Rugby.
1. No real outright favourite for title
After nine rounds of Super Rugby action, there appears no real favourite for the title. The Hurricanes remain the only unbeaten team, but the men from Wellington have never won the title, and some of their frailties up front were exposed by the Stormers in their previous encounter.
Despite a good weekend for South African teams, the SA Conference still looks weak and it’s hard to envision a South African side going all the way this year.
Seven-time champions the Crusaders lost at home to the Highlanders this past weekend and again look like the inconsistent team that emerged over the past few seasons.
Following their home loss to the Stormers, defending champions the Waratahs are also languishing in 10th spot.
The race to the title appears wide open this year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a maiden champion is again crowned at season’s end.
2. Willem Alberts v Mark Richards: only one winner
WATCH: Willem Alberts knocks Mark Richards out cold!
There was only ever going to be one man standing up when big Willem Alberts collided with Lions wing Mark Richards.
Richards followed up on a chip from scrumhalf Faf de Klerk before he and Alberts collided.
It was purely accidental as both players had their eyes on the ball, but poor Richards was knocked out cold.
Luckily he was seen sitting next to the sidelines later in the game and appears to have escaped serious injury.
Alberts cannot be blamed, but his failure to express concern for his opponent directly afterwards was noted by this writer...
3. Brussow keeps proving Bok coach wrong
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is not a fan of Heinrich Brussow. Meyer deems Brussow too small for a Test level loose forward.
However, Brussow again proved the Bok mentor wrong at the weekend when he inspired the Cheetahs to victory over the Force in Perth. Brussow scored a try, made 21 tackles, forced a turnover and carried the ball with aplomb, proving he could be a real menace at Test level.
It’s unlikely he’ll get a chance in 2015 though...
4. Jesse Kriel is a potential future Bok
Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel’s star continues to rise after a man-of-the-match performance for the Pretoria side in their 43-22 win over the Reds at Loftus Versfeld. Kriel is decent under the high ball, he has an eye for a gap and his running lines are better than most South African backs.
Coach Frans Ludeke rightly noted afterwards: “Jesse is maturing with every match. He showed how deadly he can be if there is space. It’s nice having someone that can make things happen.”
It’s hard to believe that earlier in the season the Bulls opted playing Jurgen Visser ahead of Kriel at fullback...
5. Resolute Stormers defence
They may have bagged a rare four-try bonus point in their win over the Waratahs in Sydney, but the Stormers were back to their old selves with a gutsy defensive effort.
Defence was the cornerstone of their successes in recent years, but in 2015 the Capetonians were criticised in several quarters for leaking too many tries.
They resurrected matters against the defending champions though, making a staggering 126 tackles compared to a meagre 44 made by the hosts.
The Waratahs also dominated territory (69%) and possession (68%) but ran out of ideas against the resolute Stormers, who pounced on every opportunity afforded to them to claim a 32-18 win.