LIVE

    S15: SA rugby shows its health

    2012-07-14 22:11
    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
    Cape Town – Whatever happens in the remaining three weekends of knockout fare in Super Rugby, South African rugby has affirmed its well-being by effectively having dominated the lion’s share of the 2012 competition.

    Last year, the first of the new conference system, the ordinary-season programme – let’s face it, really the “marathon” part of the race -- ended with two sides apiece from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia qualifying for the playoffs.

    But this season is the first to be fairly obviously bossed by one nation ... and that honour falls this country’s way as all of the overall log-winning Stormers plus Bulls and Sharks have made it through the six-team funnel.

    They will be joined by the Chiefs and Crusaders from New Zealand and just one qualifier from Australia, defending champions the Reds, after Jake White’s Brumbies cruelly plummeted right out of contention on the last full-programme Saturday by crashing at home to the Blues without even a losing bonus point that would have ensured their onward passage.

    The Stormers and Chiefs now bask in the luxury of a bye weekend ahead of their home semis while they await the outcomes of finals series qualifiers next Saturday between the Crusaders and Bulls (09:35, Christchurch) and Reds and Sharks (11:40, Brisbane).

    It was a nervy old weekend for just about all the sides who started it in the playoffs hunt, with several of them failing to play to potential – the Stormers had some especially unexpected white-knuckle periods at Newlands against the modest Melbourne Rebels – as the various order-of-placing permutations clearly affected mindsets.

    But at the end of it all South Africans were broadly entitled to a degree of smug satisfaction.

    Considering the retirements of so many iconic Springbok figures at the end of last season, this was thought to be something a transitional year for our rugby, with the attached pitfalls that phenomenon can bring.

    And while world champions the All Blacks will undoubtedly and rightly still be installed as favourites for the new-look Rugby Championship, the Super Rugby campaign thus far has shown South African rugby’s heart to be still beating strongly in most respects.

    As Pierre Spies, the Bulls captain, noted in the immediate post-match television interview after his team had seen off the plucky Lions 37-20 at Loftus, some pundits had not tipped the Pretoria-based side to feature in the playoffs at all in 2012, so they have already exceeded expectations.

    Their “punishment”, alas, for ending just above the Sharks is what seems the trickier overseas trek, to play the seven-time champion Crusaders in their own stronghold.

    The Bulls have a pretty good modern home record against these foes ... but quite the opposite applies when it comes to tackling them abroad.

    It was a tribute to the Lions’ resolve, in fact, that the Bulls found themselves not having the liberty of attempting to win without a bonus point, and thereby getting the Reds fixture in Brisbane instead (which goes to the Sharks who may have a more realistic chance of progressing, despite also coming off a debilitating long haul).

    The game at Loftus was fast and fluid and, with the Lions right in it at 20-20 at the break, Spies and company simply had to gratefully bank every point on the scoreboard that came their way, and abandon possible thoughts of some cunning manipulation.

    Although the Bulls rectified many of their first-half gremlins in a much more dominant and physically imposing second, the mediocrity of their scrummaging was exposed once more; it is something that will mightily interest the formidable Crusaders’ front-row arsenal of Messrs Crockett, Flynn and the two Franks brothers.

    As for the Sharks, their comfortable 34-15 victory over the Cheetahs only provided further evidence of what a fickle side they can be: they were lethargic in the first 40 minutes and nine points adrift, but then galloped to a four-try haul in the second period.

    If the quality of that second half can be repeated for the major portion of their game in Queensland, there is no reason why they should not come away with a win – they have already beaten the Reds once this season, 27-22 at Mr Price Kings Park in mid-March.

    It would set them up for a cracking semi-final derby against the Stormers at Newlands, although the dice remains loaded against Keegan Daniel’s outfit, given the travel factor.

    The Reds sweat for the moment on the fate of string-pulling Quade Cooper, who faces citing procedures before they will know whether he can take up arms against the KwaZulu-Natalians.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    Read More On:  super 15 rugby

    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

    Comment on this story
    117 comments
    Add your comment
    Comment 0 characters remaining
    Live Video Streaming
    • Blitz
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @00:00
    • SS1
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @01:00
    • SS2
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @02:00
    • SS3
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @03:00
    Video Highlights
    Sport Talk
    Most Read
    Commented
    /Sport

    Fixtures

    13 February 2015
    • Crusaders v Melbourne Rebels, Christchurch 08:35
    • Brumbies v Reds, Canberra 10:40
    • Lions v Hurricanes, Johannesburg 19:10
    14 February 2015
    • Blues v Chiefs, Albany 08:35
    • Sharks v Cheetahs, Durban 17:05
    • Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria 19:10
    15 February 2015
    • Waratahs v Western Force, Sydney 07:05

    Results

    02 August 2014
    26 July 2014
    19 July 2014
    12 July 2014
    11 July 2014
    06 July 2014
    05 July 2014
    04 July 2014
    28 June 2014
    27 June 2014
    31 May 2014
    30 May 2014
    24 May 2014
    23 May 2014
    18 May 2014
    17 May 2014
    16 May 2014
    11 May 2014
    10 May 2014
    09 May 2014
    03 May 2014
    02 May 2014
    26 April 2014
    25 April 2014
    19 April 2014
    18 April 2014
    12 April 2014
    11 April 2014
    05 April 2014
    04 April 2014
    29 March 2014
    28 March 2014
    22 March 2014
    21 March 2014
    15 March 2014
    14 March 2014
    08 March 2014
    07 March 2014
    01 March 2014
    28 February 2014
    23 February 2014
    22 February 2014
    21 February 2014
    15 February 2014

    Logs

    Rank Team P W Pts

    Opinion Poll

    Does the Waratahs' Super Rugby victory give the Wallabies an edge heading into the Rugby Championship?

    Monday Quiz Madness!

    TAKE THE QUIZ
    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.