On Monday night, I stopped watching the Springbok under-twenty match about fifteen minutes before the end. It was just too humiliating watching them self-destruct when their plan A failed.
What is even more disconcerting is that this is essentially youngsters being groomed for the senior side in a year or two. I read somewhere that the coach said that the two yellow cards were for “…not really serious offences”, and no disciplinary steps would be taken against the captain and the lock.
If nullifying your team’s strength by spending twenty minutes off the field is not serious, then what is?
The Stormers go into Saturday’s match against the Brumbies with a scrum second to none in the competition. Their game plan is very likely built on dominance in the set pieces, and milking penalties, like they did the last time. Very much like the Baby Boks, and we all know what happened when there was no plan B.
I have two concerns, from a Stormers’ perspective.
Duane Vermeulen’s strength over the ball will be badly missed, as will his general aggressive play.
The presence of David Pocock will count heavily in favour of the Brumbies, in the absence of Vermeulen.
All the media hype is about the Brumbies’ infringements off the ball, and how the referee is likely to penalise them. This is all well and true, but what if the Stormers get pinged, and pick up a yellow card or two? Will we see a similar fate to that of the Baby Boks?
On the positive side, the Stormers do not need to change their game plan. They have been playing the kind of rugby usually reserved for play-offs and finals throughout the season, so it will just be a case of more of the same.
Playing at Newlands is another huge factor in their favour, as is having a very successful goal kicker.
My Superbru pick is for the Stormers to win – the margin is not as important as being able to get through the match and being able to pick their strongest side against the Waratahs in Sydney the following week.
It is sad that one of these teams will not get to the semi-finals, despite the quality of rugby dished up throughout the year.
Recent form provides little guidance as to the possible outcome. The Highlanders lost by 36 to the Hurricanes, then beat the Blues by 37. Before that, they amassed 20-plus point victories, including beating the Chiefs at home by 27 points. This must make them the favourites.
The Chiefs, in turn, started faltering in week 12, losing against the Rebels, and winning only two of their last six games, against the Bulls and the Reds.
My money is on the home team advancing to the semi-finals against the mighty Hurricanes.