Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

For the second weekend running, South African sides threw away their chances of winning towards the end of the game.

The Bulls and the Cheetahs had the beating of the opposition, only to fade after being outplayed by tactically superior teams willing to play for 82 minutes, not 60.

Highlanders 27 – Bulls 20

Ons bespiegel Vrydagoggend oor ons eerste koppie koffie hoe dit kan gebeur dat spanne twee sulke heeltemaal verskillende helftes in een wedstryd kan speel. Daar gaan doen die Bulle dit toe wragtag weer.

As jy 60% balbesit, en 67% gebiedsvoordeel het, behoort jy nie te verloor nie.

As ek nou wil lelik wees, kan ek sê dat ons een-dimensioneel speel, en die opponente nie. Hulle ontleed die verloop van die wedstryd, en kry teenvoeters vir ons sterkpunte, terwyl ons hou by wat ons het.

So het die Highlanders byvoorbeeld opgemerk dat daar nie werklik ‘n baljagter in die Bulle se geledere is nie, of dalk was hy so goed gekamoefleer dat hy nie eers van homself geweet nie. Deur die Bulle se besit te vertraag, is hulle algaande onder meer druk geplaas, en het die foute gevolg waarop die Highlanders kon teer.

Dit het aanvanklik gelyk of die insluiting van Piet van Zyl die nodige vonk aan die talentvolle Bulls agterlyn verskaf het, maar 11 hanteerfoute, dikwels op die aanval, het dit ook ongedaan gemaak.

Cheetahs 31 – Crusaders 52

The Crusaders scored 4 tries in the last 17 minutes to remind the Cheetahs, again, that a match, these days, last 82 minutes or more. The home side proved my prediction on Thursday right – for ten minutes they managed to starve the Crusaders of possession to score three tries before succumbing to the blitzkrieg by the New Zealanders. For the rest, they were quite happy to have one or two players contesting the rucks while rest spread out across the field like a rash. The energy sapped through constant tackling is possibly why they faded in the last 20 minutes.

The rugby authorities should make the daily screening of a condensed video of this game compulsory viewing for all coaches in South Africa. It was awesome to see how the Crusaders kept the ball alive by passing the ball to a man on his feet when they were about to brought down. They appear to understand that you are more likely to make progress on your feet than on the ground.

The condition of the pitch had me fuming – how could the ground staff at the Free State Stadium present a water-logged pitch which suited the men from the land of the long white cloud like a glove? There were numerous instances where fleet-footed players like Willie le Roux lost their footing on the treacherous pitch. It made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Lions 12 – Sharks 25

There was no reaction to my tongue-in-cheek comment last week that the Sharks play Bulls rugby better than the men from Loftus. Does this mean that the people in Durban agree with me?

To rub more salt in this sensitive wound, the Sharks even employ a Steyn to keep them on the winning track. Nogal also at flyhalf, né?

Frans Steyn’s new, mature role in the side warms every Springbok supporter’s heart as this is one area where the national side appears to be a little thin.

Gamely as they tried, Warren Whiteley’s gallant troops never gave me the impression that they could cause yet another upset. They were never totally out of the game, but crucial errors at the end robbed them of the opportunity to pull off a surprise victory against their Springbok-studded visitors.

The Sharks must have rued the missed opportunities in the first half. I suspect that Jake White’s halftime talk may have been slightly agitated, because they suddenly regained their mojo and with Bismarck and Marcel Coetzee plundering the home team’s rucks, they looked a different side. The final score confirms this.

Sadly, only one try was scored, and that more of an opportunistic nature than a structured one.

The Bulls would have been happy with this when Morné Steyn was still winning matches for them, but I wonder how Sharks supporters feel about this.

Remember, Stormers’ supporters were also happy when their team won despite not scoring tries, but when they started losing, there was hell to pay.

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