Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (11/05)

The Drawing Board (11/05)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog.  This week saw the leading bunch pull more away from the chasing pack.  The Sharks and the Hurricanes kept their hopes alive of reaching the playoffs, whilst the Highlanders will be looking a bit nervous now. It is do or die time for some teams, namely the Reds and the Waratahs. They are now lagging badly behind the Brumbies in the Australian conference, and are well off the pace in terms of the playoff race. The next few weeks will be crucial for them, and the Sharks and Hurricanes, as they look to push for playoff spots.

Super Wrap

As I mentioned last week, depth is crucial. This was made even more pertinent over the weekend. The teams that are now languishing in the bottom half often don’t have the best backup players, and have suffered as a result. There are some teams now in the top half of the ladder that are also suffering from injuries (Stormers, Bulls, Highlanders). It will be interesting to see how these teams cope, and if they have built enough of a lead to make it into the top 6.

Hurricanes 35 – 19 Blues

The Hurricanes gave the Blues awful season another loss, as they managed to give them another loss to contemplate. The beleaguered Blues, who have now won just once in 10 games, were in touch at the break thanks to Piri Weepu’s four penalties but the Hurricanes took charge in the second half with tries by Julian Savea, TJ Perenara and Jason Eaton putting the game beyond doubt following first-half efforts from Conrad Smith and Andre Taylor.

Blues’ coach Pat Lam is now fighting for his job with New Zealand Herald columnist Wynne Gray among those calling for change. “Memo Blues,” Gray wrote. “It’s time. The stagnation cannot be allowed to continue. Start thinking clearly and make some decisions before the franchise heads into an uncontrolled tailspin. Coach Pat Lam is one of rugby’s gentlemen, but he is not cutting it as a coach, not with the Blues. They need a different supremo next season.”

Rebels 35 – 41 Bulls

Surprisingly enough, this was the most entertaining game of the round, as the Rebels gave the Bulls a bit of a scare.  Fly-half Morne Steyn led the way with 21 points that propelled his side to another victory,  with further tries from Akona Ndungane, Bjorn Basson, CJ Stander and JJ Engelbrecht seeing the visitors home.

The Rebels – who fielded Kurtley Beale at No.10 after the departure of Danny Cipriani – pushed the Bulls all the way with two tries from Cooper Vuna and other efforts from Rodney Blake, Nick Phipps and skipper Gareth Delve but their leaky defence left little room for manoeuvre in the final reckoning. “It was pretty exciting from the stands, high intensity, good attacking from both sides, maybe not the best defensively from us but good to get the win,” said Bulls captain Pierre Spies.

Chiefs 34 – 21 Lions

The Chiefs managed to get what they wanted from their victory over the Lions, but did not produce the best performance of the season. Fly-half Aaron Cruden was the star of the show with a try, four conversions and two penalties to cement the Chiefs’ place at the top of the New Zealand conference. The Chiefs’ other tries came through Craig Clarke, flyer Lelia Masaga and Brendon Leonard. The Lions notched three tries of their own – with Cobus Grobelaar grabbing a brace – but they remain rooted to the foot of the South African conference with just one victory to their name.

They would not have been over the moon about their performance, but they were resting several front line players. In saying that, they still managed to achieve a victory with the bonus point, and did so relatively easily. This should be taken as a positive from this game, that they didn’t need to be at their best for a victory to be achieved.

Brumbies 23 – 6 Waratahs

The Brumbies managed to increase their lead in the Australian conference with an important victory over the Waratahs. Brumbies winger Jeremy Speight scored a sensational solo try on the half-time whistle with Andrew Smith adding a second in the second-half but he victory was overshadowed by a broken ankle suffered by Wallabies hopeful Christian Lealiifano who has since been ruled out for the rest of the season.

This loss dealt a massive blow to the Waratahs title ambitions, as they now languish in 11th spot on the ladder. On the other hand, it gives a massive boost to the Brumbies title hopes, as it keeps them firmly on top of the Australian conference. As mentioned above though, they have been dealt a massive injury blow and it will be interesting to see how they cope with such a massive loss.

Sharks 28 – 16 Highlanders

The Sharks managed to get an important win over the Highlanders to keep their title hopes alive. Pat Lambie was the hero for the Sharks on this particular night. The 21-year-old South Africa international scored the Sharks’ only try on the hour while also kicking over 23 points to inspire his side to a much needed victory.

This victory is important in two respects; 1) it keeps the Sharks hopes of making the playoffs alive, and 2) stopped their nearest rivals and the team in the last playoff spot from getting away from them.  There is now only three points beteween the sides, meaning the race has now tightened up considerably.

Cheetahs 17 – 13 Force

The Cheetahs are still in contention for a playoff spot after a scrappy victory of the Force. Skipper Adriaan Strauss scored the home side’s only try on 53 minutes and they held on to the lead to claim a fourth win of the season. The Force had threatened an unlikely success when Benson Stanley crossed after a charge down on 46 minutes but the visitors’ hope was short-lived.

It would take a lot for the Cheetahs to make the playoffs, but they are in the exact same place as the Reds and the Waratahs are in. This is developing into a good season for the perennial underdogs, but they will need to continue on their winning ways to ensure they are still alive later on in the season.

Crusaders 15 – 11 Reds

The Crusaders managed to exact some revenge for last year’s final loss to the Reds, as they just got over the line. The Reds did manage to keep the Crusaders try less for the first time since 2000, and should be applauded for the effort they put in, considering the injuries they have suffered.   The Reds began brightly with a first minute try from hooker James Hanson but Crusaders fly-half Tom Taylor steered the hosts’ home in Christchurch with five penalties.

The result of this leaves the Reds in a desperate situation, whilst the Crusaders have now moved into second in the New Zealand conference. It was by no means a classic game of rugby, but was no less tense then the fixtures last year.

Bye: Stormers

Congratulations to:

  • Mark Gerrard – who played in his 100th Super Rugby (SR) match this weekend.
  • Hika Elliot – who played in his 50th SR game for the Chiefs.
  • Pat Lambie, Tom Taylor and Christian Lealiifano – who all passed the century mark for SR points scored this season.


BLUES v LIONS – One of these teams is going to have a long sequence of defeats broken this week. Both teams are under intense pressure, perhaps even more so the Blues in that they are at home and will feel the harsh scrutiny of a media and public that is rightly hacked off at the underperformance of their talented team. Logic suggests that the Blues should win this one, but logic can be wrong on occasion.

WARATAHS v BULLS – The Bulls will be looking for another win on tour, and the Waratahs desperately need a victory. Both teams have issues (Bulls and their defence, Waratahs and most things) that will need correcting. The Bulls know how to win, and this should see them through.

HIGHLANDERS v HURRICANES – The Highlanders are experiencing injury crisis at the moment and have come back from a long tour to South Africa. The Hurricanes are going relatively well, and got a much needed boost with a victory over the Blues. This should give them the confidence to gain another victory.

REBELS v CRUSADERS – The Crusaders were kept in check by the Reds in Christchurch but there is a massive difference between the quality of the two Australian teams in question. The Rebels felt good about running the Bulls close, it is unlikely they will do the same against the Crusaders.

SHARKS v FORCE – The Sharks won but won ugly last week, but as they say, “a win is a win, ou pal”, and their coach John Plumtree is right when he says a positive result breeds confidence. What the Sharks need to do now is break through the barrier that separates them from backing up positive results, and they should do it with some degree of comfort against the Force, maybe even with a bonus point thrown in.

STORMERS v CHEETAHS – The Stormers have made seven changes, a few of them positional, but although there is still no Schalk Burger or Duane Vermeulen, they look distinctly stronger for this game than they did last time out. And considering last time out was a game on foreign soil against the Western Force, and they won comfortably, the Cheetahs could be in for it at Newlands. The Cheetahs did win in Cape Town in a friendly before the official season kick-off, but they had Johan Goosen then and the Stormers were a second-string combination.

REDS v CHIEFS – The Reds are desperate for a win, but they are running into the form team in the competition. The Chiefs have been red hot this year, and have gone on a massive winning streak. They might be due a loss soon, but I can’t see the Chiefs losing this one

Super XV for week 11:
15. Andre Taylor (Hurricanes) 14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs) 13. Richard Kahui (Chiefs) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls) 10. Pat Lambie (Sharks) 9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) 8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 7. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks) 6. Michael Hooper (Brumbies) 5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force) 4. Craig Clarke (Chiefs) 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) 1. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs).

Categories: Rugby, The Drawing Board
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