Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (1/3/12)

The Drawing Board (1/3/12)

The four month wait ended on Saturday as we finally got to see our local teams go at each other – many have been counting the sleeps until the start of this year’s Super Rugby season.

For months we’ve been following the off-season trials and tribulations of our various teams, the comings and goings of players and coaches, the injury lists, the pre-season form. Anticipation was at an all-time high. Finally the day arrived when the 2012 Super Rugby season kicked off.

For the first time since 2007 we had an opening round of Super Rugby that failed to produce a single match in which a bonus point was awarded for a team scoring four tries or more.

For a tournament that prides itself in being the most entertaining in the world of rugby union, it certainly failed to produce the bang we all craved. It was everything but “super”, and if they expect us to watch this until deep into August, something will have to be done to add some sparkle. There were a couple of games filled with the necessary tension, but by in large there was a lot of pre-season rust on show.

 

Super Wrap

As mentioned above, there was plenty of rust on show in the opening round of Super Rugby. That’s not to say there was not any good quality on show during the weekend, but by in large the teams will take a while to get into gear. The disappointment for me has been the fact that we haven’t seen a dominant performance from one team yet, but that will come in time. Here is the Super Wrap for Round 1.

Blues 18 – 19 Crusaders

The Crusaders kicked off their latest campaign with a narrow and tense 19-18 victory over the Blues. A new-look Blues side, featuring high-profile recruit Piri Weepu on the bench, made a blistering start to their campaign with two tries inside the first ten minutes with flanker Chris Lowrey and then winger David Raikuna crossing the whitewash either side of a penalty from Crusaders fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal.

The Crusaders managed to keep in the game though, with another penalty before a converted Robbie Fruean try midway through the half saw the visitors take the lead for the first time in the game. Bleyendaal’s boot cemented their advantage before the break but his opposite number Michael Hobbs swung the game back in his side’s favour with two second half penalties to add to his conversion in the opening period. But Bleyendaal struck what would prove to be the match-winning penalty just past the hour mark to cap his 14-point haul. The Blues had a late opportunity to win the game but made a strange decision to turn down a kickable penalty to set up an ultimately unsuccessful drop goal attempt.

Brumbies 19 – 17 Force

The Brumbies stared the new era under Jake White with a narrow victory over the Force.  The match started with both sides using their boots to do the points scoring. Force fly-half James Stannard’s and Brumbies scrum-half Nicholas White’s battle ended with the visitors claim a 12-9 lead at the break.

After half time the Brumbies took control of the game with a couple of quick tries. First winger Jesse Mogg crossed and he was followed over the line by fullback Robbie Coleman. The Force rallied with a try through Stannard but that would be as close as they would get with a losing bonus point their only reward.

Bulls 18 – 13 Sharks

A late fight back from the Sharks was not enough to stop the Bulls from gaining their first victory of the season. Trailing by 6 – 18 with only 10 minutes left, a try from replacement Jacques Botes, which was converted by Patrick Lambie, inspired the Sharks as they searched for a potentially match-winning try.  They were unable to break the Bulls defence though, as it held firm in the face of enormous pressure from the Sharks

It was a scoreless, but competitive first half, but was only notable for the amount of errors that were on display.  The Bulls’ Morne Steyn and Sharks’ Lambie and Riaan Viljoen missed kicks at goal. The Bulls in particular struggled to secure the solid platform without the likes of Victor Matfield in their pack. It didn’t take long in the second half for both sides to register their first points as both Steyn and Lambie found their range. The Bulls tightened up their forwards play after the break and the pressure they exerted on the Sharks allowed Steyn to build a twelve-point lead with four successful strikes at goal in eight minutes. Another Lambie penalty followed before the late surge almost gave the Sharks an unwarranted victory.

Chiefs 19 – 23 Highlanders

The Highlanders displayed guts and courage to overcome a star studded Chiefs side. The hosts led 19-9 thanks to a 13th minute Lelia Masaga try and 14 points from returning All Black fly-half Aaron Cruden – signed in the off-season from the Hurricanes – but the Highlanders fired the game’s decisive shots just after the hour mark.

Scrum-half Aaron Smith began the comeback after rounding off a patient move, snaffling a good offload to wriggle over close to the posts. Jason Rutledge then made an impact with a well-timed charge-down, the hooker regathering to put centre Phil Burleigh over in the corner.

The Chiefs suffered a number of injuries to key personal during the game, which stalled their momentum and may have cost them the game.  However, credit must go to the men from down south as they hung on to beat their more fancied opponents.

Waratahs 21 – 25 Reds

The Reds grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat as they managed to score a try after the hooter against the Waratahs. Winger Dom Shipperley broke through a couple of tackles to run in form halfway, and in the process snatching a victory for the defending champions. This was despite the fact that the Reds put on a patchy display throughout the game.

New star signing Sarel Pretorius gave the Waratahs the lead in the second half with a well taken try, but this was all undone by Shipperley’s late effort. Wycliff Palu had scored the only try of the first-half for the hosts, to reward their dominance of the scrum, but their discipline was an issue throughout. Reds fly-half Mike Harris – deputising for the injured Quade Cooper – slotted six penalties in an excellent kicking display, upstaging ‘Tahs skipper Dan Halangahu from the tee.

Stormers 39 – 26 Hurricanes

The Stormers managed to kick their season off with a win over a gutsy Hurricanes outfit. Fullback Joe Pietersen kicked 21 points, including three conversions and five penalties, as the hosts ran away with the contest in the final 30 minutes.

The Hurricanes managed to get back on level pegging early in the first half when young fly half Beauden Barrett converted his own try to add to his three earlier penalties and conversion of Tim Bateman’s try. Barrett landed a further penalty in the 61st minute but Pietersen kicked three penalties of his own as well as converting a penalty try to take the win for the Stormers. Gio Aplon and Siya Kolisi had claimed first-half tries for the hosts.

Lions 27 – 25 Cheetahs

Elton Jantjies gave the Lions the perfect start to the new season as he booted them to a narrow victory over the Cheetahs. Scoring all of his teams points, the 21 year old kept his cool and inspired his team to come back after being down 22 – 12 at one point.

The Cheetahs had built up a strong lead thanks to a try from WP Nel and a conversion and four penalties from teenager Johan Goosen. Goosen added another penalty but Jantjies reeled the Cheetahs in with four penalties – to add to four in the first half – before landing the decisive strike with seven minutes remaining. The Cheetahs did not help themselves as they had a couple of players in the sin bin during the match. This was also the first game in which the white card was produced to warn the citing commissioner of an illegal act.

Bye: Rebels

 

Tips

Round 2 promises to be a better round as hopefully most of the teams have shaken off their rust and can now start producing the attacking rugby that we have come to know of this competition.

Chiefs v Blues – Both sides will be looking for their first victory.  The Chiefs have some injury concerns with 5 players being injured in their last game. The Blues should be able to take this one, as they showed that they have the potential to go far in this competition.

Rebels v Waratahs – The Rebels are coming off the bye and will be looking to start the season with a good performance. On the other hand the Waratahs will want to put their Round 1 loss behind them. The Warathas should be too good for this one, but don’t be surprised if the Rebels put up a bit of a fight.

Lions v HurricanesBoth sides would have taken a massive confidence boost from their last games. The Hurricanes produced a good showing against the Stormers whilst the Lions managed to get a win on the board. For me, it will be a tighter game then most think, but the Hurricanes should be able to take the points from this one.

Highlanders v Crusaders – the best time to strike the Crusaders would be now without some of their stars, but the Highlanders are going through a bit of an injury crisis themselves. They should still be able to put a decent side out on the park, but I can’t see them beating the Crusaders this week.

Reds v Force – both corresponding games last year were really tight, which should give some hope for this fixture. The Reds will be confident from their victory last week and will be back at home at their fortress. It does not look good for the Force, as I think they are going to lose another game.

Cheetahs v Bulls – These games are usually a bit closer than one may expect. The Cheetah’s poor discipline cost them last week and they rely too much on certain players. They are not running into the best Bulls side of all time, but this Bulls side should have too much for the Cheetahs.

Stormers v Sharks – The game of the round pitches two of the South African heavyweights. Both teams like to attack and dominate in the forwards. At the present time though, the Stormers look the much better and seem to be more clinical then the Sharks. This should be an intriguing game as both sides look to get an early one over their conference rivals. The Stormers should take this one for me.

 

Super XV for Round 1:

15. Robbie Coleman (Brumbies), 14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs), 13. Rene Ranger (Blues), 12. Ben Tapuai (Reds), 11. Gio Aplon (Stormers), 10. Beauden Barritt (Hurricanes), 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls), 8. Kieran Reid (Crusaders), 7. Daniel Braid (Blues), 6. Adam Thomson (Highlanders), 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls), 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 3. Ben Franks (Crusaders), 2. Andrew Hore (Highlanders), 1. Pek Cowan (Western Force)

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