CAPE TOWN - Mark Keohane has looked at the positives and negatives from round eight of Super Rugby this past weekend.
1: The Stormers have no chance of winning Super Rugby. They’re not good enough and they’re a team that wouldn’t be able to buy a win on the road, let alone earn one. Stormers captain Siya Kolisi said his performance wasn’t good enough. He said other senior players were also not good enough. One wants to applaud the honesty and frankness of the captain’s comments, but with the ownership of performance comes ownership about the lack of preparation. How can a team so readily and easily admit they were not mentally or physically up for the challenge? It asks serious questions of the coach, captain and team leadership. It also tells us they never believed they could go to Johannesburg and win.
2: I am among those who have been motivating for Kolisi to be the Springbok starting loose forward and captain. I have also been a huge disciple of Nizaam Carr’s performances over the years. But it is difficult to promote the national virtues of either player after the limpness of their effort against the Lions. It was also impossible to counter Nick Mallett’s view that Carr, in particular, goes missing too often in big games and that Kolisi this season is showing a similar softness too often in big moments.
3: The Sharks were described as magnificent and extraordinary in losing to the Hurricanes 38-37. How the hell can a team be magnificent when they lose? What word would you then use for the Hurricanes? There were players in the Sharks set-up that were magnificent, but there was nothing magnificent about a team leading 37-28 with three minutes to play and then losing 38-37. There should never be euphoria when a team loses. Saluting losers entrenches mediocrity.
1: You want to know what magnificent is, then look at the Crusaders. They arrived in Johannesburg from New Zealand missing five very influential players. They fronted the Lions immense physical challenge and won 14-8 at Ellis Park. They travelled to Buenos Aires and hammered the hosts 40-14. They scored six tries, including a brace in the opening quarter. There’s a reason why the Crusaders have won Super Rugby eight times, and the Sharks and Stormers have never won the title. The Crusaders are never described as magnificent when losing a tight one on the road. At least they wouldn’t describe any losing effort as magnificent.
2: Elton Jantjies isn’t giving up his claim to the Boks’ No 10 jersey and while the anti-Jantjies faction will always argue that he doesn’t transfer his Super Rugby form to Tests, the rave comes about his Super Rugby form. Jantjies is a joy to watch at No 10 when he takes control of a game the way he did against the Stormers. The chip kick, the delayed soft offload and the bulleted drift pass were all significant in creating tries. He is a class act.
3: For the second successive weekend Sharks flank Jean-Luc du Preez was monumental against a New Zealand team. The Hurricanes were a bigger examination than the Blues and Du Preez produced an even more imposing performance. He made 12 carries and 14 tackles and was equally influential on attack and in defence. He is currently the form loose forward in the competition and comfortably the best in South Africa.
Mark Keohane is an award-winning rugby journalist, former Springbok Communications Manager, founder of Keo.co.za and the author of five best-selling rugby books.