What we learned from the 12th round of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Kings provide much-needed good news story
When the Kings started this season with just one win from seven, it appeared as if the Port Elizabeth-based side was doomed for failure, despite the fact that they repeatedly displayed plenty of fighting spirit in a losing cause. However, the unheralded team from the Eastern Cape has been the surprise package of Super Rugby in recent weeks. After first securing a famous win over the Waratahs in Sydney, the Kings went on to thrash the Rebels 44-3. Yet this past Saturday’s thrilling 35-32 victory over the Sharks was the best of the lot. The Kings shocked the Sharks with the intensity, accuracy and pace of their play, while ultimately outscoring the Durbanites four tries to two. Against all odds, the courageous Kings have provided a much-needed good news story on an otherwise rather bleak South African rugby landscape.
Cronjé edging closer to Bok selection
Former Sharks flyhalf Lionel Cronjé could hardly stop smiling at the post-match TV interview on Saturday night, and who could blame him? Having just contributed 20 points in a starring performance, Cronjé once again sent out a timely reminder about his supreme form at present. At a time when Handré Pollard is out injured, and Pat Lambie continues to struggle with injury misfortune (he suffered another concussion on Saturday), Cronjé looks increasingly as a very good option for inclusion in the Bok squad for the June series against France. Indeed, it could well become a battle between Cronjé and Elton Jantjies for that all-important No 10 jersey.
Bulls’ horror season goes from bad to worse
Last weekend, the Bulls were humbled at the hands of the Crusaders, but on Saturday they found a whole new way to lose against the Highlanders. Rather unexpectedly, the scores remained deadlocked at 10-10 midway through the second half. Matters then swung firmly in favour of the Bulls when Waisake Naholo was shown a red card for a dangerous shoulder charge. Soon after, though, the Bulls bizarrely opted to turn down a kickable penalty in front of the posts, the home side instead choosing to call for a scrum and failing to score thereafter. Even so, a few minutes later the Bulls looked to have sewn up a match-winning try, but the officials correctly adjudicated that RG Snyman had committed a cynical shoulder charge at a preceding ruck, and he was duly red-carded, while the try was ruled out. From there, Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa scored a superb match-winning solo try to pile on the punishment for a Bulls side that lacked composure and sound temperament when they needed it most.
Lions have added defensive resolve to attacking intent
The Lions’ hard-fought 13-6 win over the Brumbies on Friday was about as unattractive as it was uncharacteristic. So often over the past two seasons, it’s been the Lions’ irrepressible attack that has paved the way to victory, but this time it was gutsy defence that saw them stave off defeat against a highly motivated Brumbies team. In the opening quarter the visitors were forced to make 55 tackles compared to nine, as they had just 19% of possession, while in total they had to make 50 more tackles (136 to 79). Yet the Lions simply refused to allow their defence to be breached, with Warren Whiteley completing a whopping 16 tackles (missing none), while Franco Mostert and Ruan Ackermann completed 14 and 12 respectively. Despite the ugly win, the Lions’ defensive resolve said a lot about how far this team has come.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images