Home > Rugby, Rugby News, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (18/05/12)

The Drawing Board (18/05/12)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. This week saw the cat thrown amongst the pigeons, with the race for playoff spots now a lot tighter than in previous weeks. There were several key results over the weekend, which enabled several of the stragglers to catch up.  This should be a key phase for most teams, as the build-up to the June international break begins.

Super Wrap

There were several results over the weekend that caused movement in the super rugby table. Most notably, the Highlanders and Sharks traded places, as well as the Chiefs and the Bulls. It is quite congested amongst the contenders for the wildcard playoff spots, which should lead to an interesting phase coming up. A single win or loss may impact greatly on a team’s position on the table. Also, bonus points are becoming a massive factor now, and may separate teams at the end of the day.

Blues 25 – 3 Lions

The Blues finally ended their losing streak when they managed to beat the Lions. They were ahead for most of the game, and looked the better side throughout.  Elton Jantjies opened the account with an early penalty, but from then on it was really only the Blues who were in the game.

Michael Hobbs, Alby Mathewson and Luke Braid crossed for the Blues, who managed to keep the Lions from crossing their line. This should serve as a massive confidence boost for the Blues, who are now off the bottom of the table.  The Lions were not really that good, and will struggle to convince the fans back home that they should still exsist past this year.

Waratahs 24 – Bulls 27

The Bulls managed to pull of an unbelievable heist to gain another crucial victory on the road against the Waratahs. The Waratahs were shattered after the match, as they dominated most of the stats, only to be beaten at the death. Bulls tight-head Werner Kruger crossed the line in the 77th minute for what proved to be the match-winning score.

The Waratahs had led 13-10 at half-time thanks to Rob Horne’s score and added another in the second-half through Atieli Pakalani. But Kruger’s try, along with Francois Hougaard and Akona Ndungane was enough to give the Bulls their win and cement their place at the top of the South African conference.

Highlanders 20 – 26 Hurricanes

The Hurricanes threw a spanner into the playoff race as they not only managed to resurrect their playoff hopes, but dent those of the Highlanders at the same time. The result sees the Highlanders drop out of the top 6, and the Hurricanes move into striking distance.  It was another game that was only settled late however.

The hosts were on track for their eighth win of the campaign following first half tries from fly-half Chris Noakes and flanker Adam Thomson but the Hurricanes bounced back to keep their slim play-off hopes alive with flanker Faifili Levave crossing to bring them within striking range before Julian Savea struck with just six minutes remaining.

Rebels 28 – 19 Crusaders

The Rebels managed to gain their biggest upset as they managed to topple the Crusaders in the first official meeting between the two sides. A battling display from the hosts saw them overturn a nine-point half-time deficit with the second of two tries for scrum-half Nick Phipps and another for veteran centre Stirling Mortlock helping to end the in-form Crusaders’ four-game winning run.

Not even the presence of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, making his first start of the season, could inspire the Crusaders and there was more bad news with a back injury for No.8 Kieran Read. “I think that it’s been building for a long time but it’s nice that it’s finally come to the fore,” commented Rebels skipper Gareth Delve.

Sharks 53 – 11 Force

The Sharks managed to lift themselves into the last playoff spot, as they ran riot in their game against the Force.  This gave them a much needed bonus point, and has given them a realistic shot at climbing higher in the next few weeks.

Winger Lwazi Mvovo scored a second-half double, after the hosts had led 20-6 at half-time, to break open the match and send them to a crucial bonus-point win. At one point they rattled up 43 unanswered points as the Force’s woeful campaign hit a new low, and left them bottom of the Australia conference.

Stormers 16 – 14 Cheetahs

The Stormers did it the hard way against the Cheetahs, letting them back into the game after taking  a commanding lead. They were not happy with the victory, especially after leading 16 – 0 at the break. On the other hand, the Cheetahs will be disappointed that they did not manage to finish off the Stormers and continue their rise up the table.

The Stormers, who are second a point behind Bulls in the South African conference, scored all their points in the first 24 minutes and then had to watch Cheetahs chip away at their total before ultimately falling short.

Reds 42 – 27 Chiefs

The Reds showed their title credentials as they managed to end the Chiefs run of victories. The high-flying Chiefs looked on course for their 10th win in 11 outings this season at half-time thanks largely to three tries in seven minutes courtesy of Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam and prolific prop Sona Taumalolo who is the joint top tryscorer in the competition with eight.

But the Reds roared back and produced an equally emphatic burst either side of the break that saw Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia and Saia Faingaa all cross to keep defending champions in the hunt for the Australian conference title. “The Reds are back, back on a roll,” declared winger Digby Ioane, who celebrated his 50th Super Rugby game.

Bye: Brumbies

Congratulations to:

  • Bryan Habana – who played in his 100th Super Rugby (SR) match this weekend. Habana played 61 games for the Bulls and 39 for the Stormers.
  • Heinrich Brussouw – who played his 50th SR match for the Cheetahs.
  • Liam Messam – whose 89th game for the Chiefs equalled Sitiveni Sivivatu’s franchise record.

Tips

HURRICANES v BRUMBIES – The big question mark hovering over the Brumbies is how they will fare without Christian Lealiifano, who has been their star play maker over this past season. I think that they will struggle, and that the Hurricanes will be much too good for them

HIGHLANDERS v BULLS – The Bulls backline has a more authoritative look to it with Wynand Olivier back in the midfield and with Dean Greyling, now that he has returned from paternity leave, adds substance to the front row that battled for most of the game against the Waratahs. Whilst the Highlanders have been good this year, they are going through a tough time. The Bulls should take this one for me.

CRUSADERS v BLUES – This game is a big one for both sides, as neither likes to lose to the other. They have had contrasting seasons since they first met, but the Blues have finally gotten a win up their sleeves. This should be a good game, but the Crusaders should take this one for me.

REDS v LIONS – Quade Cooper is back in a Reds team that started to gather impressive momentum in last week’s great win against the Chiefs, a performance which must rank amongst the best produced by any team in the competition this season. They shouldn’t encounter much opposition from the Lions and the smart money will be on them closing the gap on the Australian conference front-runners.

CHEETAHS v SHARKS – The Sharks are playing well at the moment, but so are the Cheetahs. The Cheetahs are the bogy team for the Sharks, winning most of the games against them.  My money is on the Sharks on the basis that the Cheetahs give the impression they have forgotten how to win.

STORMERS v WARATAHS – The Stormers did not play that well last week against the Cheetahs, but have made Newlands a fortress over the last few years. This is another big game for the Waratahs, but will they be able to recover from last week? I think not, especially as it should be a wet weather game, which would suit the Stormers.

WESTERN FORCE v REBELS – The Rebels, after their great win over the Crusaders, are the sentimental favourites of most fans, but the game is not being played in Melbourne and the Force will want to put what happened in Durban last week right. However, I do think that the Rebels should take this one, but not by much.

Bye: Chiefs,

Super XV for week 12: 
15. Luke Morahan (Reds) 14. Mark Gerrard (Rebels) 13. Juan de Jongh (Stormers) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks) 10. Kurtley Beale (Rebels) 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls) 8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 7. Liam Messam (Chiefs) 6. Liam Gill (Reds) 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls) 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) 3. Werner Kruger (Bulls) 2. Andrew Hore (Highlanders) 1. Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks).

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