Jarman’s pick of the week
This week the clash to watch was undoubtedly the game between the Sharks and the Lions at Emirates Airline Park. Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira won his 157th cap for the Sharks thus becoming the most capped South African player in the history of the tournament.
The Sharks dominated the opening exchanges and looked the better side, the Lions maybe taking a while to get going after their bye week. 10 minutes in the Lions would get a yellow card for persistent fouling near the goal line. The Sharks however would only make them pay in the 19th minute of the game with their opening try of the game from Jacques Vermeulen. A well worked counter attack from the Sharks backline saw them go into the 22 of the Lions and from then on the writing was on the wall as they shoveled the ball wide to Vermeulen who showed strength carrying 2 players over the line with him 5-0 Sharks. 3 minutes later and they were in again, this time it was again on the counter attack as Curwin Bosch found a whole in the Lions kick defense and sliced straight through. He then passed the ball to the electric Makazola Mapimpi out wide and the winger went over in the corner. 10-0 Sharks.
The Sharks not done yet as in the 27th minute some brilliant handling saw Lukhanyo Am put into a gap 25 meters out from the lions try line and with his pace it was a forgone conclusion that he would score near the posts. Robert Du Preez duly provided the conversion to take the Sharks lead out to 17 points. Robert Du Preez would add another 3 points in the 31st minute before the Sharks would go in for their 4th try of the half, Makazola Mapimpi benefiting from some great play by both forwards and back to set up a dive for the line in the corner.
Halftime and the Sharks with a 25-0 advantage over their hosts.
7 minutes into the second half and the Sharks would look to add to their advantage through the boot of Curwin Bosch, the fullback having an immense game looking to add long range kicking to his game cv and he absolutely nailed the kick. The Sharks lead now out to a worrying 28-0 for the Lions. The game then saw a bit of a lull in the action with the Sharks comfortable in their lead and the Lions unable to muster any sort of comeback. The Sharks added another try to their tally in the 71st minute through substitute prop Thomas Du Toit , who crashed over after some great work from his fellow forwards, driving a rolling mall close to the line and 2 phases later the pressure told as Du Toit crossed the white wash, Curwin Bosch now with kicking duties added the extra 2 to take the Sharks out to a surely unassailable 35-0 lead.
The Lions would get a consolation try in the 79th minute through Sylvian Mahuza, who benefited from a great pass from scrumie Nic Groom 35-5 now and maybe some respectability to the scoreline. The Sharks however were not done yet, Curwin Bosch in the thick of it again as he showed some dancing feet to draw two players on him before passing to Aphelele Fassi to score in the corner. Bosch then added the 2 point conversion which meant the Sharks would run out comfortable 42-5 victors.
Stormers vs Reds
The Stormers kicked off the weekend for the South African teams in Australia. The Stormers have struggled on the road this season not winning a single game away from home and it was unfortunately to be much of the same. Missed opportunities have been the scourge of the Stormers performances thus far in the tournament and it would be their undoing against the Reds as the missed two opportunities to cross the try line, the TMO ruling both tries out for the away team. Their problems compounded by the captain Siya Kolisi just before halftime as he was shown a yellow card for a cynical offence stopping the ball from coming out quickly when the Reds were on attack, the Reds didn’t offer much more attacking threat in the 1st half and at half time it was 0-0.
The second half and the home team capitalized on their man advantage scoring two tries from Samu Kerevi and Brandon Paenga-Amosa while Siya was off the field the Stormers would reply with a try either side of a try from Tate McDermott . Stormers try scorers were Kobus Van Wyk and Damian De Allende. Bryce Hegarty would add 3 more points to make it 24-12 to the Reds. The away team made to rue missed opportunities in the end.
Bulls vs Jaguares
The Bulls keen to get one over the Jaguares after a victory the week before over the Sharks headed into this one confident. They took an early lead through the boot of Manie Libbok who kicked 3 penalties before the Jaguares replied with a converted try, Pablo Matera going over 9-7 to the Bulls at Loftus.
The Bulls would score next after the break as Jade Stighling went over for an unconverted try before the Jaguares added 3 points to their tally through the boot of Santiago Gonzalez. The Jaguares would take control of the later stages of the game and ran in 2 more tries from Domingo Miotti with Miotti converting one of them foe the win over the Bulls away from home 22-20.
The season has not been a great one for South African team with not one team showing any sort of consistency throughout the 8 weeks thus far. The Lions would have been favorites going into the season but have shown that they can be got at and that their defense is not up to super rugby standards. The Bulls have shown glimpses of some great rugby but have also struggled to get momentum losing twice to the Jaguares home and away. The Stormers have been strong at home but their away form has been nothing short of woeful. The Sharks have probably been the best South African team so far but they too have not shown the consistency needed to make a meaningful play-off push. There is one saving grace for South African teams however and that is that it is still very early on in the tournament and they still have a chance to show they are capable of making a run at the super rugby crown this season. My team to watch is the Sharks they look extremely dangerous with ball in hand and can go toe to toe with some of their New Zealand counterparts but I see little hope for the other South African teams as in the later stages of the tournament the books will be rested this will affect all of the teams but I think the Sharks are best placed to handle this change.