This is the first Super season after a World Cup year, and it is exciting to see so much new talent coming to the fore, both here and overseas. The Bulls will testify to this, given 20-year old Gareth Anscombe’s sterling performance against them. The Lions, too, have some very promising youngsters who are not household names – yet.
The Stormers, who were heavily criticised for the apparent lack of muscle up front, have so far proved a couple of detractors wrong. With back-up in the form of Deon Carstens, they are not too shabby, thank you very much. Their match against the physical Blues on Friday will be the strongest test for their forwards to date, and a highlight this coming weekend.
Brumbies 24 – Cheetahs 23
The loss by the Cheetahs against the Brumbies was possibly the saddest of the SA defeats this weekend. The wishy-washy, difficult to prove or disprove reason for that last penalty which sealed the fate of the Cheetahs, as well as the one before which gave the Brumbies the territorial advantage, were not entirely clear cut, in my book. on the other hand (the left I think), one has to remember that the Free Staters have been continuously punished for scrum infringements over the last season, and this one.
Without resorting to the clichéd expression regarding the jaws of victory, I got the impression that the Cheetahs, once they were ahead by 23 – 8, changed their attacking approach to a defensive one, and then executed it poorly. The one-eyed Jack with the whistle did not help, but in the end, it was yet another example of the Free State team ending up on the wrong side of a close result. As the old saying goes: you cannot keep doing the same things, and expect a different result.
Sharks 32 – Lions 20
Sweet revenge for the Sharks, although I think this sentiment was more prominent in the minds of the media than that of the players. The victory for the Sharks comes at the right time, in terms of their confidence before facing the Reds on Saturday. The Lions can take heart from their performance, compared to a year ago, when they were regarded as the team to milk for full points.
Bulls 23 – Blues 29
Towards the end of the first half, the statistics showed that the Bulls had about 70% of both possession and territorial advantage, yet were behind 8 – 20 at halftime. It must eat into a player’s confidence if you have all this possession, yet fail to convert it into points. Perhaps a little more patience on the attack would have seen a different result. The bye this weekend is welcome, but I suspect those teams who have a breather later in the tournament will benefit more from it, given the tough schedule.
Pitched Online – by Bobby
The much anticipated fifth and final day of the first test ended in disappointment as the game was abandoned due to rain and the match ended in a draw. With all possible results possible by the end of day four, I was confident that the Proteas were in the best position to win.
It was however not to be. On reflection, Jacques Rudolph was at his sublime best to score his first ton since his come-back. Graeme Smith was deservedly awarded the man of the match for his fifty in the first innings and ton in the second innings. I must admit, though, that I had a bit of a laugh this morning when I read some sport columns – one in particular described Graeme as one of the best openers in world cricket at the moment, yet a week or so ago they were all screaming for his blood! In my view, he is still the deserving skipper. The combination of him, AB and Kirsten taking the team forward is, for the moment, is the correct balance of experience, innovation and stability.
For the next test my money is on Kallis to score another ton to make it number 43 and I am eagerly awaiting Vernon Philander’s fifth five wicket hall. My wild card prediction for a ton is Alviro Peterson.
In other news:
• England is to retain top spot in ICC test rankings due to rain. Although by a long shot, the Proteas needed to win the series three-nil to move to the number one test side by the 1st of April.
• As many of you would have noticed in the press, Cricket South Africa has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It seems that Gerald Majola’s reign as CEO of CSA might come to an end soon due to the bonus scandal that has been going on for months. Full credit to the team for performing despite the board rooms antics.
• Richard Levi put the Knights to the sword yesterday with a powerful display of power hitting when he scored 61 of 32 balls for the Cobras in Paarl.
• Sledger – Tim Southee – has been dropped from the Black caps squad for the second test.
• Congratulations and well done to all who took part in the Cape Town/Pick ‘n Pay/Argus cycle race yesterday. Whether you you completed the race or not, you are a winner for braving the heat.