The SA Rugby magazine team identifies what they would love to see come out of round 12 of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Craig Lewis (senior writer) hopes the Sharks give the Crusaders a run for their money
It’s all becoming a little boring to see the Crusaders dominate week in and week out. The defending champs are looking unstoppable once again this season, and find themselves seven log points ahead of the next best side (the Hurricanes). The Saders’ only defeat this season was against the Waratahs, but that match was played in the aftermath of the devastating Christchurch terrorist attack.
The competition’s status quo desperately needs a shake-up. The Sharks have endured yet another inconsistent season, but have become renowned as a team that enjoys touring, with two of their most memorable performances last year coming against the Hurricanes and Blues in New Zealand. Meanwhile, last weekend, they claimed their first win in Sydney since 2000 when they overcame the Waratahs.
As it is, the Saders will be without a handful of leading players for this Friday’s match, including Ryan Crotty, Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo’unga and David Havili. It may be far-fetched to expect the Sharks to pull off a miracle win in Christchurch (as they did in 2014), but one can only hope that this encounter is at least a competitive affair.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) is calling for a more accurate performance by the officials
How about one round of Super Rugby that doesn’t see a referee ignoring a blatantly forward pass?
The Crusaders are serial offenders at the offside line. I’d like to see the ref penalising both teams in this area and sending serial spoilers to the bin. That should in turn allow for a more free-flowing game.
We used to think of these as basic laws that require no subjective translation, and yet top refs are letting a lot go these days for the sake of the spectacle.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) hopes local scrumhalves step up their game
It doesn’t say a lot, or perhaps it does, about South Africa’s depth at scrumhalf when the country’s two top performing No 9s are based in England.
Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) and Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints) have been standout performers in the English Premiership, and their excellent form has been rewarded with nominations to the Rugby Players Association’s Player of the Year award.
On the local front it’s been quite the opposite. In a World Cup year when players should be giving their best to stick up the hand for national selection, Bulls trio André Warner, Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier have yet to hit top form; the Sharks’ Louis Schreuder and Cameron Wright haven’t done much to send out a warning; while Lions duo Nic Groom and Ross Cronjé also seem to be simply going through the motions.
Herschel Jantjies has been the best South African scrumhalf in Super Rugby, producing performances of such high quality that he is now being talked up as a Springbok bolter.
Starting in this round, we need the likes of Papier, Van Zyl, Schreuder and Cronjé – all capped internationals – to live up to expectations and begin delivering throughout the second half of the campaign.
Dylan Jack (junior writer) hopes South African teams show some consistency
The Sharks and Stormers need to follow up last weekend’s victories with good performances against admittedly tough opposition away from home. The Vodacom Bulls, meanwhile, desperately need to get their season back on track after a disappointing performance at Newlands that has underscored their loss of form after an impressive start to the year.
As it stands, the South African conference is currently a lottery. Even the fifth-placed Lions, who have struggled to live up to their raised standards this year, are only four points away from the conference-leading Sharks.
While it is entertaining to see all five teams duke it out, South Africa does need at least one of their four franchises to step it up and take control of the conference, especially as the tournament quickly reaches its business end.
Photo: Iain McGregor/www.photosport.nz