The SA Rugby magazine team identifies what they would love to see come out of round 17 of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Craig Lewis (senior writer) hopes to see the SA conference battle remain alive.
A South American team winning the South African conference? That may sound a bit odd, but then again, there are plenty of quirks about the Super Rugby format that tend to defy logic. Take nothing away from the Jaguares, though. The Argentine side has surged through the second half of the season, and now hold a six-point lead at the top of the SA standings.
It’s almost impossible to see the Jaguares being displaced from this position of ascendancy as we head into the penultimate round of the pool stages, but they do face a challenge against the unpredictable Sharks this weekend.
The Durban-based side has almost bizarrely performed best when away from home, while the Jaguares have only recently returned from an arduous tour to Australasia. It could provide an opportunity for the Sharks to snatch an upset win, and possibly keep the SA conference fight alive for at least one more week.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that the Jaguares will finish the round-robin stage with a home game against the Sunwolves, and they will almost surely bank a full haul of log points from that fixture.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants Embrose Papier to make an impression against the Highlanders.
Herschel Jantjies outplayed All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith in the recent battle between the Stormers and Highlanders. It remains to be seen if Papier, the Springboks’ second-choice scrumhalf in 2018, can do the same.
Jantjies has been backed consistently this season, and has often had the opportunity to play behind a dominant pack. The same cannot be said of Papier, who has had to share the No 9 berth with Ivan van Zyl and Andre Warner.
It probably isn’t fair to judge Papier on one performance. But given that there are two games left in the regular season, he is running out of chances to remind Rassie Erasmus about his attacking and tactical-kicking prowess.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) hopes the Sharks give a better account of themselves against the Jaguares this time around.
When these two conference rivals met in Durban on 13 April, the Sharks were diabolical in every sense of the word as they fell to a humiliating 51-17 defeat.
Centre Matías Orlando – rightly – hogged the headlines for his hat-trick heroics, but the South Americans were superior in every facet of the game. One telling statistic from the match that stood out was that the Sharks had conceded 18 – EIGHTEEN – turnovers against the team boasting one of the best attacks in the competition.
I hope the Sharks learned a few valuable lessons from that encounter and that they produce a better performance against the high-flying Jaguares in this return fixture. Not just for the sake of preventing them becoming the first-ever South African side to lose back-to-back games against coach Gonzalo Quesada’s men, but also to keep their topsy-turvy season alive.
If that is not motivation enough for the Sharks to show up and do the business in Buenos Aires, we could witness more than just the end of the Durban-based franchise’s title race.
Dylan Jack (junior staff writer) wants Elton Jantjies to make a statement.
It would be a bit of an understatement to say it hasn’t been the best week in Jantjies’ career. A tough game against the Sharks, where he struggled with his goal-kicking and threw two intercept passes, was followed by the news that he would be dropped for last weekend’s game against the Stormers for a ‘breach of team protocol’.
Shaun Reynolds proved a more than capable stand-in for the Springbok, looking comfortable as he commanded the backline that overran the Cape side in one of the more memorable Lions’ victories this season.
Lions hooker Malcolm Marx spoke after the game how the Lions have rallied around Jantjies and said that he feels the matter has been dealt with. Equally, young flank Vincent Tshituka told the media this week how important Jantjies is to the team.
One therefore expects Jantjies to regain his starting role against the Hurricanes this weekend, where he will come up against an in-form Beauden Barrett. With two matches to go, and the Lions still very much in the playoff mix, Jantjies has a massive opportunity to remind everyone of his quality.
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