The Blitszbokke finally came right. What is more, they did it against New Zealand, a side that seem to have a mental stranglehold on them. Hopefully this will pump them up to improve their record against Fiji in the future, as well.
Tony Johnson wrote last week:
Injuries are mounting, and already include some significant performers. Pressure is amping up in some quarters. The effects of travel, and week in week out rugby of high intensity and physicality, are starting to tell. Some who started poorly are beginning to find their old groove, and others who began well are being pulled back to the chasing pack.
This, as we are often told, is a marathon, not a sprint, and while some are enjoying a run along the flat, there are hills to climb and potholes in the road ahead.
Having taken part in the Two Oceans from the comfort of my sofa, I agree whole-heartedly with his last comment.
The Kings continue to surprise, even if just that they are not being thumped to the extent that most expected. At half time they were still very much in the game, albeit on the scoreboard only. Still, they scored four tries for a bonus point, and continue to impress with their never-say-die attitude.
The Bulls learnt yet another rugby lesson, despite their statement before the game that they should stop learning, and apply the lessons learnt. The call to run that last ball, after time was up, was a 50/50 one. Had it paid off, and they scored, it would have been heroic. The opposite happened, and now the hindsight brigade is baying with delight. I do not think they deserved to win, but a draw would have been imminently more satisfying. As for the referee: when even the one-eyed Aussie commentators say that the Bulls were hard done by when that last penalty was awarded against them, you know that it was a foul decision.
The Cheetahs grow in stature, and on the log, week after week. True, their opponents were not the log leaders, but there were a number of pitfalls, as we pointed out last week, which could have made their road a rocky one, but they missed all the potholes and delivered yet another convincing display, including their defensive skills, where James O’Connor proved more than a handful. I was particularly impressed with Burton Francis, who came on as a last minute replacement at flyhalf. He is actually third or fourth in line for this pivotal position, yet played as if he was the number one choice. Given that the pundits consider the Cheetahs to be a bit thin in the reserves division, Francis certainly showed them up.
The saying goes that never is a long time – let me say then that the Stormers will seldom have a better chance of beating the Crusaders than they did on Saturday. What really rankles is that we were outplayed in the brains department. Tod Blackadder took the Stormers on in the one department where they thought they were invincible – the lineouts. When that faltered, there was no plan B, and the result inevitable. Much is being said about wrong options taken on the defence. This side is still adapting to a more aggressive style of attack, and mistakes under pressure will happen, despite the abundance of talent available.
The Super 15 Marathon is only nearing the halfway mark. In the words of Churchill: there will be ups, and there will be downs, but there will be no withdrawals.
I wonder if he was Catholic?