The SA Rugby magazine team identify what they would love to see come out of the quarter-final round of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Craig Lewis (senior writer) hopes to see a South African side progress to the semi-finals.
Just as the Proteas have endured another Cricket World Cup disappointment (sorry, yes, I went there), it does seem as if it’s certain that another Super Rugby season will pass without a South African winner.
And just as supporters have become accustomed to Cricket World Cup disaster, so rugby fans have almost forgotten what Super Rugby success looks like (the Vodacom Bulls last achieved this feat in 2010).
But, not to send us all into a spiral of depression, my wish is to see either the Bulls or Sharks pull off an unexpected victory against the Hurricanes or Brumbies this weekend. Away from home, the odds are not in the favour of the two SA sides who have managed to progress to the knockout stage.
However, the Bulls and Sharks did enjoy productive overseas tours earlier this season, and there is cause to have a semblance of hope that at least one of those teams – who both play rugby suited to the playoffs – could manage to pull off an upset.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants to see the Bulls hammering the Hurricanes at collisions and shutting down Beauden Barrett’s space.
How do you beat the Kiwis? It’s no secret.
The British & Irish Lions outmuscled the All Blacks in the 2017 series staged in New Zealand. The Boks and Ireland did the same in their wins over Steve Hansen’s side in 2018.
I’d like to see the Bulls getting stuck into the Hurricanes this Saturday. Compete at the breakdown and deny the hosts a steady supply of front-foot ball. Hammer the opposition at the gainline and shut down Barrett, before he has a chance to run or execute one of those superbly weighted kick-passes.
My worry is the travel factor. The Bulls have traversed the Indian Ocean twice in the space of 10 days. They won’t match the Hurricanes for tempo. They will have to slow the game down as much as possible.
Mentally, they have to turn up. We saw what transpired when the Bulls failed to pay the Chiefs due respect in the game staged at Loftus Versfeld earlier this season. If the Bulls don’t front up at the breakdowns and collisions, they may well suffer another hiding.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) hopes the Jaguares continue on their merry way.
Their unrivalled dominance in the South African conference has seen the Jaguares emerge as the surprise package, and indeed quarter-finalists, this season.
With six out of eight wins in Buenos Aires, their performance on home soil has been particularly impressive. However, one of their two home defeats came against, you guessed it, the Chiefs.
Now, the Chiefs’ campaign appeared to be in tatters at one stage but they peaked at just the right time to sneak into the playoffs and set up an enticing rematch with the South Americans.
When these teams last met on 31 March, the Jaguares’ defence capitulated when the Chiefs injected pace into the game. But this time around, the visitors will be without the injured Damian McKenzie, who was their biggest attacking weapon and scored 20 points on that day.
Much has been made of the Jaguares’ free-flowing, running rugby in recent weeks, but their defensive structure has also improved immensely since that agonising defeat by the Chiefs.
With the star power in their ranks, I’d like for this Test-laden Jaguares side to continue their upward trajectory by shutting out the Chiefs and securing a historic first-ever semi-final.
Dylan Jack (junior staff writer) wants the Sharks pack stands up strong in Canberra.
The Brumbies have been a different side when they are at home, losing just once at the GIO Stadium this season, while seeing off the likes of the Chiefs, Bulls and Lions.
It, therefore, stands to reason that the Sharks are going to need a mammoth effort if they are to progress to the semi-finals.
One way they can cause the Brumbies some discomfort is by matching them in the pack, which they have been reliant on this season. The Brumbies will be sporting an all-Wallabies tight five this Saturday, while they will also have strong ball-carriers in their loose trio with both Rob Valentini and Pete Samu starting.
The Sharks, meanwhile, are without the injured trio of Jean-Luc du Preez, Tendai Mtawarira and Phillip van der Walt. Regardless, if they are to stand a hope of winning on Saturday, they will have to put those issues aside and front up to deny the hosts the momentum they will so desperately crave.
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