S15: Yo-yo effect may continue for SA sides
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – A general tendency of “win one, lose one” has engulfed the SA conference in Super Rugby … and a shift toward better consistency levels doesn’t seem around the corner, either.
What’s more, there is every chance that the only non-South African team in the local conference, the Jaguares, will once again this season be the one able to boast the longest sequence of victories in ordinary season.
In that regard, they lead the five-strong pack so far by being able to show a run of four wins on the trot fairly recently: away triumphs over the Bulls and Sharks, followed by the home scalps of the Brumbies and Stormers before the run-ending Dunedin setback against the Highlanders on Saturday.
That puts them ahead of any SA-specific team for length of purple patch
and helps explain why they currently have as good a chance as any rival
of topping the conference for the playoffs phase and earning best
seeding from the group as a result.
The Argentinean side lie joint-second with the Bulls on points (28) to the log-leading Sharks, who have 29 but also the drawback of having played one extra game.
In a reflection of the way the SA quartet have been giving their supporters grey hairs this year, the Lions and Stormers have
managed one reasonable spell each of three wins in a row, but the Bulls
and Sharks not yet able to show more than two victories in succession
at any point up to and including now quite advanced round 13.
So the Jaguares lead the way again, bearing in mind that last season they had a conference-best golden spell in fairly late campaign, winning as many as seven in a row – including an astonishingly praiseworthy Australasian tour where they beat two Aussie and two New Zealand outfits for a 100 percent tour record.
That string of excellent form played a pivotal role in powering them into a 2018 playoffs berth.
In the current season, near-runaway overall leaders and defending champions the Crusaders, who have suffered only one reverse from 12 games, can
already show TWO spells of four wins in succession, while compatriots
the Hurricanes are on a hot streak of five on the trot that has not come
to an end yet (they entertain the Jaguares on Friday).
So what price any South African conference team – and more especially an SA-based one -- suddenly getting their act together and embarking on a meaningful winning stretch?
Don’t get your hopes up too high, because what is left on the roster in this incredibly congested group
does little to suggest the rollercoaster ride will come to an end and a
timely period of smooth riding lie ahead for any one of them.
Sharks, for example, have now completed their moderately successful
Australasian tour, but also have no striking easy-beats left on paper,
as they must play the Lions and Hurricanes at home and Jaguares and Stormers away to wrap up ordinary season.
The Bulls have four perilous matches across the Indian Ocean to contemplate immediately – historically they tour uncomfortably -- followed by a miserly one game back on SA soil, against neighbours the Lions at Loftus.
While the Stormers also have some relative stinkers (albeit largely at Newlands) to negotiate, they do at least have one relative “banker” when the bottom-placed Sunwolves visit them in the second-last round -- for a match Robbie Fleck’s charges really ought to win with a bonus point, especially if that seems essential.
On very chequered current
form the Lions, losing finalists for the last three years in a row,
can’t be considered clear favourites for any of their remaining
assignments, while an appealing aspect for the Jaguares – and something that could just put them in a position to strike for the conference honours in the final straight? – is that once they are done in Australasia they round off their roster with successive home dates against the Sharks and Sunwolves.
I expect that SA conference “yo-yo” phenomenon to linger for a fair bit longer.
Didn’t someone say consistency is the only currency that matters?
If that’s true, many of the group’s members probably need to get their acts together fast … if they can, against lengthening odds.
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