5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 17

    2019-06-10 07:46
    Sunwolves wing Gerhard van den Heever on the charg
    Sunwolves wing Gerhard van den Heever on the charge against the Stormers... (Gallo Images)

    Herman Mostert - Sport24

    Cape Town - Sport24's Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Week 17 of the 2019 Super Rugby competition:  

    1. Satisfying tour for Bulls

    The Bulls' fighting spirit was again on display when they came from behind to draw 24-all with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.

    The result saw the Bulls, who also drew 22-all against the Blues in Auckland the previous week, finish their Australasian tour with a win, a loss and two draws.

    The tour can be described as a success, especially when one takes into consideration that the Bulls had left South Africa with no overseas win since 2016.

    They now go into this weekend's final round-robin match against the Lions in Pretoria knowing a victory will secure second spot in the SA conference and a date in the playoffs.

    2. Lions hopes fade with Kwagga injury

    Lions flank Kwagga Smith again started like a house on fire in their clash against the Hurricanes, before being forced off with what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury.

    With it, the Lions' hopes faded as the Hurricanes gradually took control before running out comfortable 37-17 victors at Ellis Park.

    They outscored the Lions by five tries to two, with the late injury withdrawal of All Blacks superstar Beauden Barrett seemingly proving no disruption.

    James Marshall stepped in at pivot and marshalled his troops with aplomb.

    The Lions now travel to Pretoria for a derby clash against the Bulls and defeat at Loftus Versfeld could see them miss out on a spot in the playoffs.

    3. Stormers flatter to deceive

    Yes, the Stormers were hampered by injuries (they called on three debutants) but the manner in which they stumbled past the Sunwolves at Newlands left much to be desired.

    Twice the Capetonians were in try-scoring bonus point territory but let the Sunwolves back in with some sloppy defending.

    In the end the hosts had to settle for four points in a 31-18 win, and while it kept alive their playoffs hopes, it likely means that they will finish eighth on the overall standings and face the daunting task of travelling to Christchurch to face the Crusaders.

    Nick Mallett was right when he noted that the game was "littered with Stormers mistakes".

    "The accuracy just wasn't there for the Stormers. At times even the Sunwolves showed they were able to win quick ball as was evident in their last try when they turned the ball over quickly. The Stormers were laboured. There were just too many passes that didn't go to hand and too many knock-ons."

    4. Another Sharks horror-show

    Apart from a few impressive displays, like the 42-5 annihilation of the Lions at Ellis Park and a 21-all draw with the Crusaders in Christchurch, the Sharks have been well below par this season.

    They've suffered five losses at home, including the ugly 51-17 defeat to the Jaguares, and this past weekend's 34-7 reverse to the Argentines was therefore no surprise.

    The Sharks deserve to be rooted to the bottom of the South African conference.

    They have some superstar names but don't look a happy bunch under Robert du Preez, who again raised eyebrows when he played his son Robert Jnr at flyhalf and moved Curwin Bosch to fullback.

    The coach's son has struggled to assert himself since joining from the Stormers and perhaps the move to English club Sale will do him the world of good.

    5. Jaguares deserve their Super-status

    A few weeks ago former Wallabies and Waratahs hooker Phil Kearns said the Jaguares should be kicked out of Super Rugby, claiming they have an unfair advantage as their line-up is similar to Argentina's national team.

    It was no surprise that Kearns' comments came after the Jaguares had beaten his former team the Waratahs in Sydney.

    The Jaguares, after their annihilation of the Sharks, clinched the SA conference with a game to spare and have shown steady progress since their introduction into the event in 2016 when they finished 13th.

    The Jaguares finished 10th in 2018 and seventh last year and now look set to clinch second spot - and a possible home semi-final - as they host the lowly Sunwolves in their last round-robin match.

    Unlike the Sunwolves, who have struggled to be competitive and will exit the event after the 2020 season, the Jaguares have proven their worth.

    Kearns is also wrong to state that it is the complete Argentina national side, as a few experienced campaigners do ply their trade at overseas clubs.

    He should instead shift his focus on his own country's struggles... they're a tad lucky to still feature four teams in a watered-down competition...

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    Friday, 10 April 2020
    • Highlanders v Chiefs, 07:00
    Saturday, 11 April 2020
    • Blues v Hurricanes, 06:45
    • Reds v Rebels, 11:15
    • Sharks v Waratahs, 15:05
    • Bulls v Lions, 17:15
    Sunday, 12 April 2020
    • Brumbies v Jaguares, 08:05


    Rank Team P W Pts
    • Sharks (Q)
    • Stormers (wc)
    • Jaguares (wc)
    • Bulls
    • Lions

    Opinion Poll

    After 6 weeks of Super Rugby action, which South African team appears most likely to challenge for overall honours?

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