The South African teams’ successes in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament – as well as the success of the Springboks at the World Cup in Japan – may hinge on an improved showing in Australia and New Zealand, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Last year, the Boks defied expectations to beat the All Blacks in Wellington. That result brought an end to a nine-year losing streak in New Zealand. It also showed that South African players have what it takes to succeed away from home.
Perhaps that result has given the South African players a new perspective ahead of any overseas assignment. Earlier this year, the Lions beat the Jaguares to end their drought in Argentina, while the Sharks began their campaign with a bonus-point win in Singapore.
Whether any of the four teams will succeed in Australasia and accumulate enough log points to finish near the top of the overall log, remains to be seen. One would hope that the South African sides deliver improved showings and record positive results Down Under, and that the Boks go to the World Cup later this year with the belief that they can prevail in foreign climes.
In 2018, the South African sides combined for two wins and 14 defeats across the 16 Super Rugby games played in Australasia. The Lions beat the Waratahs in Sydney – a landmark result – while the Sharks hammered the Blues in Auckland.
In all other matches staged in Australia and New Zealand, the South Africa teams were outplayed and outlasted. The Lions battled to compete in the final stages in Christchurch.
Will the trend continue in 2019? The Stormers will provide part of the answer when they play the Hurricanes, Blues, Reds and Rebels over the next four weeks. The Lions will only tour the Antipodes in mid-April, the Sharks in late April, and the Vodacom Bulls in mid-May.
The Stormers haven’t won a match Down Under since 2016. They’ve lost their last six games in Australasia, and their last 10 games in New Zealand. Their most recent victory in New Zealand was the 18-16 win against the Hurricanes in 2013.
The Lions and Sharks have outperformed the other South African teams in this part of the world. Since 2016, the Lions have won five out of 10 matches – and have lost two finals in New Zealand. The Sharks have won three out of 10 matches.
The Bulls have won one out of eight matches since 2016. Like the Stormers, the Bulls haven’t won a game in New Zealand since 2013.
The Stormers have built up some momentum since losing 40-3 to the Bulls in the opening round of this year’s tournament. They may be in a more confident space after winning three consecutive games – and especially after claiming the bonus point in the recent clash against the Jaguares.
The Bulls have been the form South African side in the early rounds. They will be looking to build on their recent successes when they host their first New Zealand side – the Chiefs – at Loftus Versfeld this week.
The Sharks smashed the Blues at Kings Park in round two. Can the Bulls continue South Africa’s good run against the Kiwi collective this weekend?
The Chiefs are coming off four losses and a draw, and may battle to live with the Bulls at altitude. The opportunity is certainly there for the Bulls – who lost three out of four matches against New Zealand teams last year – to make a further statement about their progress.
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