A lot of talk before the past weekend’s Super 15 matches concerned how those teams who are relatively assured of a place in the final would do their best to maintain their winning momentum, going into the playoffs.
Sadly, it did not work that way for the Brumbies or the Bulls. The Chiefs, too, looked like they were on their way to a hiding until Chris Pollock, in the view of some, unfairly red-carded the Blues flanker, Kane Barrett.
While the Bulls and Chiefs have two weeks in which to get their walking wounded up and running, the other four teams will battle it out this weekend.
Hats off to the Stormers – they won their last five games and beat all the teams at the top of the log at least once. They finally got things right in the scrums, and suddenly looked a different team altogether.
The Sharks looked a better side too, playing against a very willing Kings side. The Eastern Cape team will approach the play-offs against the Lions with far more confidence than one would have expected at the start of the season. Having rested their top players, they will want to make full use of the experience gained in their first Super Rugby season to make sure it is not also their last.
The Reds will rue having to play the Crusaders in New Zealand where the NZ team is at its formidable best. Neither team won convincingly this weekend, but the home advantage should make the Crusaders favourites in this play-off.
The Western Province Craven week side beat a willing Lions side 45 – 29 in an attractive match in Polekwane. I was particularly impressed with young Daniel du Plessis, who looks like yet another superstar in the making. The current crop of future Springboks is the best I have seen in many years. If you add to this the success of the WP under-13 and under-16 sides, things look rosy for those who see the Cape as the best shopping place for promising players.
The Cheetahs would have taken heart from the fact that the Brumbies were outclassed by the team who finished thirteenth on the log. Possibly the biggest factor in favour of the Free Staters is that they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by retaining their cavalier style of play. There are two possible concerns:
- They must not abandon the game plan that got them here and fits their style of play. They adopted a high kick and charge approach in their game against the Stormers and nearly came third, never mind second.
- Hopefully they will be out of the starting blocks from the kick-off, and not try to catch up in the second half, as they have done in the past. They faltered after their previous bye, and not having played this past weekend, should be wary of this danger.
There is, of course, the Jake White factor to contend with. I do not agree with Tony Calitz that he is the best coach we ever had – that honour belongs to Kitch Kristie, in my view. The fact that White was not appointed as the Aussie coach is likely to inspire him to show the authorities that they made a mistake.
Ashes to Ashes
What a see-saw ride this test was. I would never have imagined (not even in my worst nightmare) that I would be rooting for an Australian win, yet there I was, doing exactly that. This may not be the strongest Aussie side, but their never-say-die attitude certainly gained them a lot of respect in the eyes of those who love the game.
This test also showed just how gripping the long version of the game can be. First, England were bundled out for 215, then the Aussies looked like not making 120, only to score a world record 10th wicket partnership, then England fought back magnificently, only to be sorely tested before taking the final wicket with the faintest of edges. This led the Aussies Gripping stuff.
Donderdag begin die Britse ope, wat beteken dat ek min tyd het vir alles wat hierdie week gedoen moet word. Ja, ek weet julle kry my jammer, maar ek sal maar deurdruk.
Vasbyt, ou Grote.