What we learned from the 15th round of Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Crusaders have quality depth and are wet-weather masters
The Super Rugby champions went into Friday’s top-of-the-conference clash against the Hurricanes in Christchurch without several All Blacks, including Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Jordan Taufua, Ryan Crotty and Israel Dagg, yet were still good enough to claim a 24-13 win. The Crusaders’ kicking game in wet conditions was key to their success – they gained 759m from 25 kicks out of hand to secure 67% of the territory – and their defence was excellent (they had a 95% tackle completion rate).
A captain must always keep his cool
What was Ruan Botha thinking when, in the 74th minute of the Sharks’ match in Buenos Aires, he took out a Jaguares forward with a savage shoulder charge to the head? It was a moment of madness from the captain, who is supposed to lead by example, and he deserved the red card that was shown to him. He also deserves a big ban and to miss the rest of the Super Rugby season.
An opposition red card doesn’t guarantee victory
The Brumbies led the Lions 24-21 at Ellis Park in round 14 before lock Rory Arnold was red-carded. Sam Carter received a yellow soon after and the Lions took full advantage to win 42-24. History looked set to repeat itself at Loftus on Saturday when, with the Bulls leading 25-24 with 20 minutes to go, Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga’a was sent off for a head-butt. However, instead of punishing their indisciplined opponents, the Bulls conceded two late tries to slump to a 38-28 defeat. It was a hugely disappointing result for a Bulls team that now looks unlikely to reach the quarter-finals.
Rugby is becoming over-sanitised
The Stormers were on track to beat the Lions for the first time in three years when they led 17-7 at Newlands after 51 minutes. But the game changed when wing Raymond Rhule was red-carded for ‘reckless play’ (in the words of referee Nick Briant). Rhule had leapt into the air as Ruan Combrinck chipped ahead, with the Lions wing then running into his airborne opponent, who had nowhere to go. Rhule’s elbow made contact with Combrinck’s head but it was clearly unintentional. A red card was harsh, and it would prove costly for the hosts, who went on to lose 26-23. World Rugby deserves credit for trying to protect players by taking a hard-line approach to foul play, but over-sanitising what is, after all, a contact sport, is simply going make the game less appealing to fans.
The Stormers need to look after the ball
While Rhule didn’t deserve to be sent off at Newlands, the Stormers also had themselves to blame for the defeat. The hosts led 23-19 with six minutes to go, despite playing with 14 men, and were spending a lot of time in the Lions’ half. But several handling errors gave possession back to the Lions, including one from Dillyn Leyds that allowed the visitors to counter-attack. The Lions were awarded a penalty after that passage of play, kicked for the corner and set up a lineout driving maul from which wing Madosh Tambwe scored the match-winning try.
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