Can one player make such a difference? It would appear so when you look at some of the results from the first few games of Super Rugby 2014.
Just as it is in cricket when a big batting innings is dependent on one big hundred or a bowling innings is reliant on a devastating spell, so it is in rugby. One or two key individual performances are the difference between winning and losing.
In round one of this year’s Super Rugby competition, Crusaders flyhalf Tyler Blyendaal missed no less than five first-half penalties, a shocking display of place-kicking which would ultimately result in his team losing to the Chiefs 18-10.
In the Brumbies-Reds game 10 days ago, Jesse Mogg missed a 72nd minute penalty that would have levelled the scores at 20-20 and given his team a shout of winning the game. A few minutes later Mogg fumbled a kick and allowed the Reds to score a converted try – game over; a win for the Reds, and defeat for the Brumbies.
One can say that while the Lions have been something of a revelation so far in their return to Super Rugby, their two victories have been largely down to the boot of Marnitz Boshoff. He converted every kick against the Cheetahs and Stormers and it was pretty much down to him that the Lions started the competition so well. Had Boshoff not kicked the penalties and drop-goals, the Lions may not be two from three.
And then this last weekend, the Bulls turned around their poor start with victory against the Lions. Jacques-Louis Potgieter came into the side and kicked better than Louis Fouché and Handré Pollard before him, while Victor Matfield also started for the first time.
Did the Bulls perform better just because they had Matfield and Potgieter in their ranks? I think definitely. They’re both players with vast experience and would have brought calm to the men around them.
One’s got to wonder now whether the Bulls will stick with Matfield to start in future – because he does appear to be a key individual – or will they play him off the bench, as they did in the first two rounds and they lost?
The Cheetahs have started their campaign poorly, surprising considering they would have gone into the competition brimming with confidence after their strong run in 2013. This is because none of their individuals have stood up to be counted.
Teams win or lose because of the individuals in their teams. If the Lions will rely on Boshoff to lead their way and the Bulls now possibly on Matfield and Potgieter’s kicking, the Stormers and Cheetahs need their key men to stand up in the weeks ahead to their lead their charge. - The Star