The SA Rugby magazine team identifies what they would love to see come out of round 14 of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Craig Lewis (senior writer) hopes to see the South African teams front up against overseas opposition
After 13 rounds of action, it’s pretty remarkable that just five log points separate the Sharks at the top of the SA conference and the Stormers who dwell down in fifth place. It hasn’t been a particularly memorable season to date for the South African sides, who have struggled with inconsistency, and it’s virtually impossible to see this year’s victors coming from these shores.
The Vodacom Bulls have now headed on tour and face the Rebels first up on Friday, while the Lions and Stormers host the Highlanders and Crusaders respectively. It’s perfectly possible that all three SA teams could fall to defeat in these challenging fixtures.
However, it would be so refreshing to see the Bulls, Lions and Stormers all rise to the occasion, and begin to take control of a SA conference that features a Jaguares team firmly eyeing top spot.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants to see some mongrel from the Vodacom Bulls on their tour to Australasia
The Bulls haven’t won an overseas fixture since 2016. They’ve lost every single game staged in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Asia over the past three seasons.
Why do the Bulls fare so badly when they play away from the Highveld? It’s a question that’s been asked regularly over the past few years, and no coach or player has supplied a satisfactory answer.
The Bulls are under pressure to end their horror run outside of South Africa, though. They need to win two or three matches in Australasia in the coming weeks to remain in the hunt for the conference title.
The Rebels have blown hot and cold this season. The Bulls may view the fixture in Melbourne on Friday as an opportunity to bounce back and make a statement.
If not now, then when? It won’t get any easier, as the Bulls will face the Brumbies, Blues and Highlanders in subsequent rounds.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) wants the Lions to get their defence in order
The Lions’ defensive set-up has left much to be desired this season. In 11 games, they’ve conceded 41 tries, the third most in the competition behind tournament minnows the Sunwolves (59) and the horribly out-of-form Chiefs (49), who have both played a game more than the Johannesburg-based side.
In their last five games alone, the Lions have leaked 23 tries and no fewer than three in each of those. Meanwhile, they’ve missed 261 tackles at an average of 23 per match and boast the lowest (negative) points difference in the South African conference.
With them languishing in second-last position in the local conference, it’s a problem coach Swys de Bruin’s men can’t afford, not when they are trying to make up lost ground to the Sharks, Bulls and Jaguares.
Here’s to hoping these Lions front up defensively in this round, make their tackles and shut out a Highlanders team that are missing the dangerous Ben Smith.
Dylan Jack (junior writer) hopes the Stormers show a defensive backbone
The Stormers face a mammoth task of trying to get something out of their match against the Crusaders on Saturday.
While the home side’s record against New Zealand sides does not make for good reading – they have won just three of their last 16 matches – it is telling that all three of those wins have come at Newlands.
The Crusaders are currently the top try-scorers in the competition, with the Stormers sitting at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to five-pointers.
It stands to reason that the only way one can envisage the Stormers coming away with anything is through a well-organised defence, combined with a clever tactical approach.
The Stormers cannot afford to try and play from inside their own half, and have to take the points on offer when they are there. This was precisely the approach that saw the Sharks come within minutes of securing a surprise victory in Christchurch, and could be one that sees Robbie Fleck’s men upset the bookies.
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