CAPE TOWN – Did the Lions’ defeat to the Blues at the weekend signify Super Rugby doom for the South African teams’ chances?
If you think of that loss as SA’s best team losing to New Zealand’s worst, then yes, possibly.
Because that result doesn’t exactly paint a vivid SA landscape signed 2018 with the Super Rugby trophy somewhere in it.
The fact that SA’s most promising franchise lost to the Blues – a team well below the likes of the Crusaders, Chiefs, Highlanders and the Hurricanes in terms of stature – doesn’t give off a good feeling.
The Lions are SA’s best bet to win the competition.
In fact, if you look at the other three sides, they can probably either be placed in the “rebuilding phase” (Bulls), the “not quite there yet” (Stormers) or the “somewhere in between” (Sharks) categories.
And while those categories are debatable, who’s leading the SA pack isn’t. It was the Lions last season and it was the Lions in 2016.
After four rounds, the Lions’ loss can qualify as the most worrying rugby production for SA fans.
Yes, the Stormers didn’t leave us all cheerful with their three outings in Australia and New Zealand – which saw them lose against the Waratahs, Crusaders and Highlanders – while their season-opener against the Jaguares at Newlands wasn’t an impressive performance either.
And Robbie Fleck’s team had to dig deep to get the ‘W’ next to their name on the results list.
The Bulls got their season off to the best possible start with a 21-19 victory over the Hurricanes at Loftus, but they followed that up with defeats to the Lions and the Reds.
The Sharks, on the other hand, kicked off their 2018 proceedings with a loss to the Lions and went on to draw against the Waratahs and get a win over the Sunwolves.
The Lions are the only SA team that have managed more triumphs than trouble – with three wins over the Sharks, Jaguares and Bulls, while the rest of the SA pack have managed only one win each.
So I guess a bit of negativity or concern following what went down at Ellis Park on Saturday is understandable, especially if you keep in mind that the Lions went from being 18 points up at one stage to losing against a team that lost their first two games.
Yet they managed to dominate the stats in terms of territory, possession and metres made, while they forced the Lions to do most of the defending.
And after watching that match, one almost feels obligated to immediately ask a question like this: “If the Blues could beat the Lions, how can any other SA teams (or even the Lions in particular) beat the Crusaders, Chiefs, Highlanders or Hurricanes?”
It’s not that simple, as one result doesn’t determine the outcome of others. There have been much more shocking results in the past.
And does the Lions’ loss now mean that the Bulls, having beat a New Zealand team this year, are now the SA front-runners, and the Hurricanes are doomed to lose every game against the Kiwis and maybe even the Aussies?
And what about the Crusaders… is their season over because they lost to the Canes, who were beaten by the Bulls? No, it doesn’t.
So, I don’t think there’s any need for panic.
Shock results do happen, and I think chucking away any hopes for the Lions or any other SA team to progress to the playoffs, vowing never to watch Super Rugby again and switching off the TV whenever the weekend approaches just because you live in SA, is premature.
Yes, that loss in Johannesburg was something, maybe it was even a blow to the confidence of all South Africans.
But I don’t think it’s that big a deal.
There’s still a long season ahead. And just like Saturday, anything can happen.