JOHANNESBURG – Adriaan Strauss marked a South African rugby landmark in amazing style and New Zealand sides continued their iron grip over their Australian counterparts at the weekend.
Here are five talking points from round seven of Super Rugby…
Strauss waltzes to rare hat trick
Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss waited an average of 840 minutes to score each of his previous 14 tries during his 12 years in Super Rugby – then got three in just 40 minutes.
The former Springbok skipper celebrated a South African record 149th appearance in the competition at the weekend by helping his side snap a four-match losing streak with a 33-23 home win over the Stormers.
Rolling mauls gave Strauss his first two scores and the third came gift-wrapped from the Stormers, who overthrew a lineout and the hooker snatched the ball and dotted down.
“Congratulations to Adriaan on his hat trick and for being a true servant of Bulls and South African rugby,” said Bulls coach and former All Black handler John Mitchell.
Canes extend trans-Tasman streak to 33
The Hurricanes’ comprehensive win over the Melbourne Rebels stretched New Zealand’s winning run over Australian opposition to 33 Super Rugby games since 2016.
Records tumbled in the Hurricanes’ 50-19 blitz of the Australian Conference leaders.
It was the most points the Wellington team have amassed in Australia, and came after they trailed 19-8 late in the first half and then rushed on an unanswered 42 points.
“The Hurricanes are the most dominant team of Super Rugby in the last couple of years, and I thought in that first half we played some really good rugby,” Rebels coach David Wessels said.
“But ultimately we lost the game because they controlled the field better.”
Embarrassed Umaga tries to keep the faith
Coach Tana Umaga put on a brave face as he searched for something positive to say about his underperforming Blues following their 63-40 thrashing by the Sharks.
“You can say the effort was there,” he offered as the Blues slumped to their fourth loss in five matches.
“Scoring 40 is good,” said the former All Black skipper, before letting his true feelings known. “But leaking 60 is not. It’s not just a system thing, it’s an individual thing.
“Errors, discipline, letting them off when we’ve put pressure on them, and letting them get into spots that make it difficult for us,” he said.
“Obviously it’s an embarrassing one for us... We’ve got to get it right, but it’s within us. I have total faith in that.”
The Blues travel to neighbouring Hamilton on Saturday to face the Chiefs for the second time in six weeks, having lost the first encounter 27-21.
Folau blow for Tahs
Wallaby ace Israel Folau will miss at least three games after injuring his hamstring in the opening minutes of the Waratahs’ 24-17 Australian derby win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
Folau, one of international rugby’s most potent attackers, came off in just the fourth minute of the game and Tahs coach Daryl Gibson later confirmed the star wing will be sidelined for up to a month.
“It looks like three or four weeks at this stage,” Gibson said.
Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper added: “Izzy’s a huge weapon at all times, so I’m hoping he’s not too bad for us and for him. He’s been playing some really good rugby.”
It means Folau will miss next weekend’s clash against the Sunwolves in Tokyo, followed by the back-to-back home games against the Reds and South African conference leaders the Lions.
No Bull as fans flock back
Adriaan Strauss was not the only smiling Bulls as the South African derby drew a 20 000 crowd to Loftus Versfeld stadium on a public holiday weekend.
While the stadium was only half-full, it was a pleasing change from last year when a struggling home team were battling to draw even 10 000 supporters to some fixtures.
It was a far cry from a decade ago as the Bulls won three Super Rugby titles in four seasons and “house full” signs went up regularly at Loftus.
“With many people heading for the coast because of the Easter holiday, we were naturally nervous,” admitted a Bulls spokesman.
“The attendance was a nice surprise.”