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    Super failure for SA teams

    2014-07-30 13:00
    Herman Mostert - Sport24
    Cape Town - The Sharks' semi-final loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch last week signalled the end of the road for South Africa in this year's Super Rugby competition.

    Apart from the Durbanites reaching the knockout phases, it was a bleak year for South African teams, who made up four of the bottom seven spots on the overall log.

    Sport24 reviewed the performance of all five South African contingents in this year's event:

    Sharks:

    Position: 3rd (beaten semi-finalists)

    Review: Jake White's first season in charge will be seen as a success at Sharks HQ. Third spot on the log is marked improvement from the eighth position John Plumtree's class of 2013 achieved. However, the Sharks should kick themselves for not finishing atop the standings after leading for large parts in the regular season. Home losses to the Highlanders and Stormers and the away loss to the under-performing Cheetahs cost the Sharks top spot on the log - and ultimately a chance at winning the title.

    Standout player: Lock Stephan Lewies stepped up in the absence of the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit. Lewies was the most prolific lineout catcher in this year's competition. His 81 takes was eight more than compatriot Victor Matfield in second spot. The 22-year-old was duly rewarded for his form by making his Test debut in the Springboks' 55-6 annihilation of Scotland in Port Elizabeth last month.

    Rating: 7/10: It's hard not to give the Sharks a decent tally here. They did, after all, reach the semi-finals. But this is a team that's lost four Super Rugby finals (1996, 2001, 2007, 2012) over the years and their fans should be growing tired of so many near misses...

    Bulls:

    Position: 9th

    Review: Anything less than a playoff spot is considered a disappointment for the three-time champions. Despite being unbeaten at home for the entire season, the Bulls failed to win a single game on the road, which ultimately proved their undoing. They also faded badly towards the end of season, and away losses to the Lions (32-21) and Stormers (16-0) would not have gone down well with die-hard Bulls fans. Last year was considered a disappointment after losing at home to the Brumbies in the semi-finals, so 2014 must be a disaster for a team with high standards.

    Standout player: Lock Victor Matfield's return to the playing field was without doubt the success story of the entire South African Super Rugby season. He made the Bulls the best lineout team in the competition and fully deserved being named Springbok captain in the absence of Jean de Villiers.

    Rating: 5/10: Being unbeaten at home at least gives the Bulls a pass mark. A 34-all draw to the Chiefs was their only 'negative' at home.

    Stormers:

    Position: 11th

    Review: After a disappointing 7th spot in 2013, 2014 took a turn for the worse for Allister Coetzee's charges. They were ravaged by injuries but then this seems to be a trend repeating itself every year now. A change in game plan was badly needed and the arrival of Gert Smal as Director of Rugby in mid-season did bring about a change in fortunes. The team started to show more attacking intent and notched impressive victories over the Sharks (away 21-19), Highlanders (home, 29-28) Force (home, 24-9), Cheetahs (home, 33-0) and Bulls (home, 16-0) to "save some face" after a disastrous start to the year.

    Standout player: Centre/wing Damian de Allende was a shining light in a struggling Stormers team. De Allende is a big (1.93m, 103kg) and physical player who attacks the gainline with sheer ferocity. His ability to bust tackles sets him apart from the rest of his team-mates and he would have made his Springbok debut last month had it not been for an untimely knee injury. He should make his Bok debut in the Rugby Championship later this year.

    Rating: 4/10: Finishing 11th overall is simply not good enough for a franchise with an abundance of talent. The arrival of Smal would have made supporters more optimistic for the future, but an elusive Super Rugby title remains a mere "dream" for Cape rugby fans...

    Lions:

    Position: 12th

    Review: After missing out at the expense of the Kings in 2013, Johan Ackermann's team surprised friend and foe with their performances this year. Without an abundance of big stars in their squad the Lions managed to win seven games - the most in the franchise's history. Crushing home victories over the Stormers (34-10), Bulls (32-21) and Cheetahs (60-25) proved the Lions at the very least deserved to be back in the top flight.

    Standout player: Captain Warren Whiteley edges new Springbok Marnitz Boshoff. Whiteley led the team with aplomb and was omnipresent throughout the season. Statistics on SANZAR's website indicate Whitely made the fifth most tackles in the competition (181) and he also features in the Top 10 category for lineout catches (49) - a testimony to his all-round abilities.

    Rating: 6/10: The Lions have a lot to build on and will be very dangerous in the upcoming Currie Cup with many of the other top teams certain to lose more players to Springbok duty.

    Cheetahs:


    Position: 14th

    Review:
    After reaching the playoffs last year, 2014 was a disastrous season for Naka Drotské's charges. The Cheetahs play an attractive brand, but were the competition's worst defenders, conceding a whopping 527 points - 34 more than the equally unimpressive Reds.

    Standout player: Springbok playmaker Willie le Roux just pips Lood de Jager and Cornal Hendricks as the best performer for the Cheetahs in 2014. Le Roux gained the third-most metres (1 077) in the competition this year and also features in the Top 10 for offloads (22). He is simply sublime with ball in hand.

    Rating: 2/10: Finishing 14th is not acceptable for a team with so many Springboks among its ranks. No fewer than seven Cheetahs players featured in the 23-man Springbok squad for the Test against Scotland last month - a team that demolished the Scots 55-6. The Cheetahs coaching staff have a lot of explaining to do...

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