JOHANNESBURG - Jacques van der Westhuyzen has selected five flashpoints from the weekend’s Super Rugby action.
1 Ai Bulls
There was so much hype at the start of the season around the Bulls doing well in 2017, but they have been the major disappointment so far. There was also much expectation of a good showing against the Blues - the first time this year that a South African team would face New Zealand opposition. And, let’s face it, many thought a win could be on the cards as the Blues are, after all, not the strongest and most consistent team around. But no, Nollis Marais’s team flopped badly. They looked clueless on attack and lost in defence and in the end were hammered 38-14. It leaves them with one win from four matches. Deary-deary me.
2 Oh my word, Stormers
What is it with the men from the Cape and playing against the Sunwolves in Singapore? Last year the teams shared the spoils, 17-17 after 80 minutes and it was, oh, so close this year and the Stormers might have lost. The Wolves led 24-20 at the break and only late tries by Bongi Mbonambi (77th) and Bjorn Basson (80th) sealed the result, 44-31. It was another scratchy effort by the Stormers in Singapore, but hats off to flyhalf Robert du Preez who enjoyed a good outing, as did No 9 Dewald Duvenhage, who was excellent throughout. A Bok call-up perhaps?
3 Curwin Bosch
Okay, let’s say it like it is ... this kid can play. He’s not a big man and many will feel he’s too small to play Test rugby - and his defensive work may need plenty of attention - but he’s shown maturity and skill so far this season to help the Sharks win four out of five games. He’s comfortable at 10 and 15 and in the absence of Pat Lambie has stepped up and played with real authority. Bosch kicked 18 points against the Cheetahs on Saturday in a tight 38-30 win, he kicked three penalties in the hard-fought 19-17 win against the Kings, and against the Waratahs in round three he kicked two conversions, six penalties and he scored a try. Sensational.
They promised a lot in 2016, but it looks like the men from South America are finally finding their place in Super Rugby. Like so many teams Agustin Creevy and Co have made the Velez Sarsfield Stadium in Buenos Aires a difficult place for the opposition to visit; and the Jaguares having won all three of their home games - against the Lions, Cheetahs and Reds. Add their win against the Kings first-up and they are right up there with the Lions and Sharks in their conference. They’ll be confident facing anyone who visits BA in the coming months, but their big test, always, will be on the road.
5 Aussie ugly
When will the Aussies start playing proper rugby? It’s something discussed year in and year out, but heck, they know how to dish up a load of rubbish - and bring teams down to their level. If any country is going to lose two teams to a competition cull next year it’s surely got to be Australia. The Force went down 45-17 to the Crusaders this weekend, the Reds were useless in going down 8-22 to the Jaguares, the Brumbies lost 13-18 in a shocker of a match to the Highlanders, and the Waratahs scored late to snatch a 32-25 win against fellow Aussie side, the Rebels. The five Aussie teams have celebrated only six wins so far, in total; a poor effort.