JOHANNESBURG - Independent Media rugby writer, Jacques van der Westhuyzen, has looked the five biggest talking points from round 11 of Super Rugby this past weekend.
Are the Lions underestimating the minnows?
The Lions are currently sitting pretty among the top-placed teams in the Super Rugby standings, but their loss on Saturday to the Reds was unexpected and most unfortunate and may come back to bite them later in the competition. It is interesting to note the Lions have now lost to the Reds and Blues - both teams outside the top 10 and actually struggling this season - while they also lost to the Jaguares and struggled to edge the Sunwolves. Is it that the Lions are underestimating certain teams and being caught out for being complacent?
Auckland and Umaga feeling the Blues
It is hugely disappointing to see how far behind the Blues from Auckland have fallen. The once champion side that produced some of the best known All Blacks players, are again languishing at the bottom of the points table and not even the inspirational Tana Umaga seems to have the magic to get the Blues fixed. They’ve lost seven of their nine games and a change in the coaching team looks to be on the cards yet again. The good news is they can turn things around quite quickly with the right people in charge; just look at the Lions.
Australia fighting a losing battle
Super Rugby bosses are certainly battling to keep fans interested in a product that has been dying for a few years now, but they won’t be as worried as the Australian rugby bosses. Already the Western Force has been cut from the competition and while the likes of the Waratahs, Reds and Brumbies have all shone in the past, and this season the Rebels have looked a good outfit under Dave Wessels, Aussie rugby is struggling for breath. The Tahs look okay with five wins from eight but the Rebels and Reds are both four from nine, while the Brumbies are three wins from nine.
Jaguares as unpredictable as ever
The Jaguares continue to be one of the competition’s most unpredictable teams, but after a slow start to their 2018 competition, they are now looking like they may even feature in the playoffs later on. After losing four of their first five games, including against the lowly Reds, they have won their last three matches in Australasia, against the Blues, Brumbies and Rebels; and that after copping a 40-14 hiding at home by the Crusaders the week before going on tour. The Jaguares are now five from 10 and eighth in the standings.
Will the Newlands fans stay faithful?
At just after 3pm on Saturday at Newlands in Cape Town, the Stormers will host the Bulls in what should be a crackerjack of a Super Rugby match. Several quality players will be on show, many of them aiming to impress national coach, Rassie Erasmus, who’s very likely to be in attendance. But, how many fans will actually rock up to watch the match? It’s going to be interesting to see how full Newlands Stadium is because so far this year spectator numbers have been so low rugby bosses must be wondering how they’re going to win back the public.