SA backline play: There’s hope!

    2015-04-12 09:00

    Cape Town - After weeks of slop, suddenly bucket-loads of champagne.

    A weekend of hugely welcome, unusual enterprise and expression by predominantly young backline players made it a weekend of both good memories and results for South African teams in Super Rugby.

    The lone exception to the rule, of course, was the Sharks as they surrendered the only SA derby of the round 23-21 to the Lions in Johannesburg to slip further off the playoffs pace – although even they raised their game several notches after the Crusaders fiasco and contributed fairly fulsomely to an up-tempo, gripping contest.

    But all of the Stormers, Cheetahs and Bulls would have boasted extremely happy dressing rooms after a clean sweep of victories over respective Australian opponents the Waratahs, Force and Reds.

    Let’s not kid ourselves: this productive Saturday in the local conference was in no small way, you have to suspect, influenced by a merciful break from any New Zealand opposition.

     As if to rub in the way sides from that particular conference are dominating the competition around the midway mark of ordinary season, compatriots the Highlanders upset the ‘Saders, fresh off their 52-10 achievement in Durban, 25-20 in their own backyard this time around.

    It does remind you of the extent to which the Sharks, a supposed juggernaut in our own landscape, are under-performing and have lost touch with the better outfits.

    Also not to be forgotten is that in Test-team terms, the Springboks are presently much higher ranked, in second, than the sixth-placed Wallabies so you would expect at least some reflection of that in Super Rugby.

    But a ninth-round results scoreboard reading “SA 3 Australia 0” will still be deemed grounds for seriously good cheer in these parts.

    The standout one has to be the Stormers earning a widely unexpected, full-house 32-18 win against the defending champions in Sydney: if you throw in the second half comeback against the log-leading ‘Canes, they have now produced three halves of near championship-quality rugby in a row.

    Successive tour losses registered prior to it and with the threat of some demoralisation and fatigue setting in as a consequence, producing such a fire-and-brimstone showing in game three of the Antipodean trek takes some doing, and it may prove a turning point in the Stormers’ hunt for a finals series spot.

    But almost as commendable, then, was the Cheetahs – after as many as three overseas reverses on the trot – bouncing back in Perth to topple the Force 24-15, a match that featured as dynamic a display as you will see from tenacious open-sider Heinrich Brussow.

    So seldom flavour of the month with Heyneke Meyer, the diminutive loose forward may yet require the Bok coach to reconsider his no-go attitude towards him some time down the line.

    Meanwhile the Bulls, even if they had some flaky moments against the now-basement Reds, did what was necessary for them after last week’s late surrender in the Big Smoke by earning a 43-22 triumph at Loftus and crossing the try-line six times.

    Right across the SA spectrum in this round, a hallmark was renewed vibrancy with ball in hand and far more of a 15-man approach to attacking play.

    Could it have been that a great many outside backs in the country were geed up by the uncomplimentary comments in midweek of Bok midfield legend of yesteryear Danie Gerber?

    The 56-year-old had lamented: “Our rugby is messed up by an obsession to mostly attack with the forwards.”

    This 12-year Bok (1980-92) might have been tempted to moderate his pessimistic thoughts – which nevertheless earned a widespread public nod – had he witnessed some of Saturday’s lucrative SA charge in Super Rugby.

    It included an array of thrilling, often long-range onslaughts, many of them leading to tries, and with a youthful brigade strongly to the fore.

    In Sydney, all four Stormers dot-downs were registered by players falling into that category: the fast-rising 23-year-old Damian de Allende, who got two and showed a combination of trickery and intelligence on the front foot and muscularity on defence, plus Kobus van Wyk (23) and the pocket rocket Cheslin Kolbe (21).

    The latest Lions win included bright, influential flashes from right wing Ruan Combrinck (24) and inside centre Harold Vorster (21), while at Loftus the crowd got their money’s worth regularly from such greenhorns as fullback Jesse Kriel and assertive midfield find Burger Odendaal.

    Would it be too much to generally plead for more of the same spirit of adventure in round 10?

    Next weekend’s fixtures (home teams first, all kick-offs SA time):

    Friday, April 17

    Crusaders v Chiefs - 09:35

    Saturday, April 18

    Hurricanes v Waratahs - 06:30

    Highlanders v Blues - 09:35

    Brumbies v Rebels - 11:40

    Force v Stormers - 13:45

    Sharks v Bulls - 17:05

    Cheetahs v Reds - 19:10

    Bye: Lions

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    Read More On:  super 15 rugby

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