The SA Rugby magazine team identify what they would love to see come out of this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby matches.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) hopes to see the Sharks scoring another big win for South African rugby in New Zealand.
The Sharks are well placed to pick up their second straight win in New Zealand. A victory against the Hurricanes in Wellington would boost their playoff chances. It would also mark another step forward for South African rugby.
New Zealand franchises have dominated their South African counterparts for the better part of a decade, while the All Blacks have won all but four Tests against the Boks in a 10-year period. The South African collective has started to push back in recent years, though, with the franchises winning more matches abroad and the Boks going unbeaten in New Zealand in 2018 and 2019.
Hopefully the Sharks will claim another big win on Saturday and to further weaken New Zealand’s mental grip on South African rugby.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) wants the Saffas in the non-South African teams to perform.
Several South Africans will represent foreign teams in the third round of the competition and it would be wonderful to see them do well.
The most notable selections are that of Garth April and JJ Engelbrecht for the Sunwolves, No 8 Dylan Nel for the Chiefs and Cabous Eloff, Gideon Koegelenberg and Ruan Smith for the Rebels.
After a rocky patch in South Africa, April has found a home at Sunwolves in Japan and has been doing well so far. His 16-point haul steered them to victory in their first (and only) match this season. They had a bye in round two, but are up against the Chiefs this week and the Sunwolves will need him and forgotten Springbok Engelbrecht, along with all their other imports, to repeat their individual displays of brilliance from round one.
In the same match, Durban-born Nel will make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut after being named as the Chiefs’ starting eighthman. The rookie will be up against a former Wallaby Jake Schatz and will hope he can get the better of his more accomplished opponent.
There are a few locals in the Rebels’ forward arsenal, which will boost their scrums and lineouts against the more-fancied Waratahs.
European and Japanese clubs are laden with South Africans, but having local imports flood Super Rugby teams as well is indicative of the unrivalled depth in South Africa’s player pool.
Dylan Jack (staff writer) hopes for a better quality South African derby in Johannesburg.
This weekend’s clash between the Lions and Stormers is the third time South African rivals will meet in as many weeks. However, the less said about the quality of the previous two games, the better.
The first-round, weather-affected match between the Sharks and Vodacom Bulls in Durban featured far too many handling errors and only really came alive in the second half. Meanwhile, last weekend’s match at Newlands had the Stormers and Bulls take each other on physically, but struggle to produce anything of quality among the backline.
Saturday’s game at Ellis Park will hopefully provide a much-better spectacle on what should be a dry pitch.
Stormers coach John Dobson has already hinted that this would be a game where his charges could be a bit more loose in terms of their approach, so it will be interesting to see if they follow up on that. If the South African teams want to see the fans start filling the stadiums, they simply cannot keep replicating what we have seen in the first two rounds.
Craig Lewis (editor) is hoping the Sharks continue to embrace an exciting brand of rugby.
It’s quite remarkable just how quickly a once-gaping divide between New Zealand and South African rugby has been closed. With the Boks having claimed both the Rugby Championship and World Cup titles last year, some of that confidence does seem to have spilled over into Vodacom Super Rugby.
In the opening round of this season, the Stormers hammered former champions the Hurricanes 27-0, while the Sharks pulled off a memorable 42-20 victory over the Highlanders last weekend. The in-form Durban-based side will now turn their attention to facing the travel-weary Canes on Saturday, and it speaks volumes that they will be widely regarded as favourites in Wellington.
With a mobile pack and lethal backline, it’s clear that the Sharks are looking to embrace a fearless approach that plays to the strengths of a new-look side that is packed with pace and skill.
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