S15 ‘recession’ for SA sides
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – If the South African conference in Super Rugby could
be compared to a property – or properties -- you owned, you’d be labouring
right now in a depressing situation of “negative equity”.
To continue with economic parlance, the outlook doesn’t look
too bright, either, for four of the five teams in the group ... although the Sharks
could be described as the redeeming, lucrative mansion on the hill in your
A glance at the latest overall table for 2014 shows the
Durban-based franchise still proudly out in front of the 15-strong pack, but
otherwise there is unusually little to cheer about from a collective South
In recent seasons, there have usually been at least two and
often three SA outfits among the hot tips for playoffs berths: unless the lower
mid-table Bulls and Lions get their acts back together again fairly smartly, the
danger exists this year of the Sharks being the lone domestic representative
when the six-team finals series phase begins.
Sadly the SA challenge is also marked thus far by the
Stormers and Cheetahs conspicuously occupying the bottom two rungs of the
ladder, which isn’t the ideal situation considering the controversial
(especially in Antipodean climes) likelihood that the country earns an extra
spot from 2016 onward when the competition gets its next reshuffle.
Both strugglers were infinitely more competitive last
season, when the Cheetahs cracked the playoffs for the first time – behind
conference-topping compatriots the Bulls –and the Stormers missed the cut by
just one position.
This year the collective SA campaign, if you take away the
hitherto steely and ambitious Sharks, has been infinitely less convincing as we
reach roughly the midway point of ordinary season, with a big gap to eighth
overall to find the next best-performing domestic unit in the shape of the
The last-named team are still in the midst of their tricky
overseas leg, and probably require at least one victory from the
Australian-staged games against the Waratahs and Force if they are to retain
realistic hopes of reaching the playoffs.
Apart from the obvious South African struggle reflected in
the very pecking order overall, closer examination of the table further
confirms the problems most of our teams are having.
The Sharks are the only side among the five who are in
positive territory for points for and against – they are a healthy 93 in
But all of the other quartet are in “minus” status, with the
Bulls five shy of par, the Lions 25, Stormers 66 and Cheetahs 90 (theirs the
worst of any team in the competition).
A little strangely, Naka Drotske’s charges find themselves
the best SA side in “tries for” terms, with 21 – putting them narrowly behind
pace-setters the Chiefs and Brumbies on 22 each in that department – but they
are also the leakiest outfit in try concession by a great distance.
The Cheetahs have conceded 35, at an average of over four a
game from eight completed fixtures, and there is a big gulf to the next worst,
the Highlanders with 21.
South African teams also collectively have the fewest tries
to show at this point: 73, as opposed to 93 by the Australians and 97 by New
The Lions and Stormers have done especially little to aid
that tally, with only 11 and 10 respectively to make them the most try-shy
But apart from labouring to score five- and seven-pointers,
the South African teams are now also the most expensive of the three nations’
outfits in try concession – 93, as opposed to 89 by the New Zealanders and 81
by the Aussies.
It is statistics like these that will almost certainly need
to be improved over the coming weeks if the Sharks aren’t to stand alone with
our national flag, as it were, in the finals series ...
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