The title of an article on Supersport reads: “Looks like Sharks will stand alone”, and possibly reflects the views of most South African fans at this stage of the Super 15 Competition.
The Bulls have taken massive strides in regaining their mojo by selecting Jaques-Louis Potgieter, who was able to take command in the way that Morné Steyn did in the past. Suddenly, their game plan clicked into gear, and despite the Lions lamenting the wet pitch, the fact of the matter is that the Bulls appear to be back on track. Their mixture of experience (read Matfield) and raw talent (read Jaques du Plessis) may just work for them as the competition progresses.
The Lions were not humiliated, just squeezed dry of possession and territory by a team who are masters in this art. No-one expects the Lions to win the competition, but progress in building a team for the future will rely on being competitive, and retaining their spirited approach as a team working for each other.
The same can sadly not be said of the Cheetahs. Consistency, week in and week out, is an essential building block if you want to succeed. The Free Staters managed to get this right last season, their best ever. In 2012, they narrowly lost many games – in 2013, their close wins became a feature of a side who believed in itself. This year, it seems, they underestimated their opposition, and did not approach the matches against the Rebels and the Lions in the right frame of mind, losing both in shocking fashion.
Gavin Rich has an interesting perspective on this:
For the Cheetahs it looks like what they should have feared at the start of the season has come to pass – they are no longer being viewed as an unknown quantity.
Making the play-offs changes the landscape for a franchise, and one of the big differences between the Cheetahs this year and the Cheetahs of last season is that now they are being respected and teams are putting in a lot of preparation when they play them.
The Stormers can take little heart from their win against the Hurricanes on Friday before departing on their “tour from hell”. The apparent lack of a game plan results in what we call in Afrikaans a “getjommel” with very little positive outcomes. In their frenzy to play a more expansive game, they appear to have sacrificed the cornerstone of their success in the past, good defence and smothering of the opposition’s possession. I suspect their next four matches will, at the end of the season, be recalled as the tour TO hell.
The Sharks appear to be head and shoulders above the other local franchises at the moment. Their match against the Bulls at Fort Loftus in three weeks will reveal their true character, and also whether the upsurge of the Bulls is of a more permanent nature.
For the moment, it appears that our only hope for success in the competition lies with the Sharks. But, as the Crusaders have proven so often, the Cup is not won in February, and often not even in March.
At the time of writing, South Africa is on 124 for four, having just lost the Rock, who was key to them at least averting the follow-on.
Bobby remarked that this is the second match in the series where we are a bowler short, and losing Dale Steyn no doubt contributed a lot to the success of the visitors in their first innings.
All credit to the Aussies, and particularly the two centurions. Michael Clarke has certainly risen in my esteem with the way he overcame hostile bowling and his slump in batting form to score 150 plus.
David Warner is the kind of player who will be motivated by the fine for his comments regarding AB, rather than sulk and say “Why me?” Coupled with his renewed focus which resulted in his excellent conditioning, he did much to deflate the best bowling attack in the world.
Perhaps he joined Peter Siddle, who took to a vegan diet to regain his optimum fitness? I am not too sure what this diet consists of, but the fact that meat appears to be excluded from the diet convinced me that I am actually in good shape.
Round is a shape.
SA is Under 19 World Champions
From all accounts, the stunning display by the side was not the result of one or two stars, but a consistent team effort, backed by a coaching and management staff equipped for the roles they were required to fulfil.
I am particularly pleased for Ray Jennings, whose fiery and competitive nature probably led to ructions with senior players in teams he coached before. If some of this competitiveness rubbed off on his charges at this tournament, they will contribute in this regard as well in a year or two when they join the big boys.
Sports Polls on Moonstone
Next to the blog we run a poll to test readers’ opinions on sports-related issues. On Thursday we asked your view on the outcome of the Bulls/Lions match, and it was a dead draw. Does this mean that half the readers of our blog are Bulls supporters, or that the two of them voted until the result was more favourable? Ek grap net, manne!
This week we ask for your view on the outcome of the test at Newlands.
Just look to the right to cast your vote.