Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (13/07/2012)

The Drawing Board (13/07/2012)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who’s weekly rugby blog. This week is the final week of action for the round robin phase of the 2012 Super Rugby season and we still have eight teams who can get into playoff spots.  The Chiefs and the Stormers are the only teams that are certain to make the playoffs, as they have won the NZ and South African conferences respectively. Both these sides will be battling for top spot in the ladder though, as they are only separated by a point at this stage.  The Brumbies, Crusaders, Bulls, Sharks, Reds and Hurricanes probably need a bonus point victory to get into the playoff spots.

Super Wrap

This week is essentially the crunch week. Win and you have a good shot at making the top 6, lose and you are probably out. It’s as simple as that. Those who are outside of the top 8 can start preparing for next year.

Chiefs 21 – 28 Crusaders

The Crusaders managed to gain an important victory over the Chiefs. The Crusaders, who suffered a setback at the hands of play-off rivals the Hurricanes last time out, returned to winning ways thanks to tries from No.8 Kieran Read, lock Luke Romano and scrum-half Andy Ellis.

The Chiefs, who had already secured the New Zealand Conference title and are now assured of a home semi-final, were always in the contest with tries from second row Brodie Retallick and centre Sonny Bill Williams bring them to within striking range late in the game. But their hopes of snatching a draw disappeared in the closing stages with Williams guilty of ignoring an overlap which then allowed the visitors to snuff out the danger.

Reds 19 – 13 Highlanders

The Reds managed to keep their playoff hopes alive whilst also killing off the Highlanders chances for post season action in a largely uninspiring game. Mike Harris’ boot gave the hosts a 6-3 half-time lead before a James Slipper try after the break stretched their advantage. Scores from Adam Thomson and Chris King gave the Highlanders hope but the defending champions held on for the win.

A relieved Reds captain Will Genia was quick to praise his side’s defensive effort. “It’s all about character, especially at the breakdown contest and defence, and when you’re pushed to the limits on your try line you just have to front up and we did,” he said.

Sharks 32 – 10 Bulls

The Sharks stayed in the hunt for the play-offs following an impressive bonus-point victory over the Bulls. First-half tries from hooker Bismarck du Plessis and winger JP Pietersen and two more after the break courtesy of flanker Keegan Daniel and fullback Louis Ludik carried the hosts to an important win that lifts them into one of the wildcard places. The Bulls were always chasing the game and a second half try from fullback Zane Kirchner did little to stem the tide.

Sharks coach John Plumtree reserved special praise for centre Frans Steyn, who returned to Super Rugby action after a couple of years in France with Racing Metro. “He’s just grown since he’s left and that’s natural,” Plumtree said. “He’s left as boy and come back a man, it’s great to see and great for us. He’s an outstanding individual.”

Blues 32 – 9 Force

The Blues recorded just their third win of the season with a win over the Force. With both teams struggling at the foot of the Super Rugby standings, it was the Blues who secured a morale-boosting win in what has been a terrible season for the Auckland franchise. Ma’a Nonu impressed and crossed in the second-half with Steven Luatua, promising youngster Charles Piutau and Luke Braid also scoring.

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) are currently advertising the position of Blues head coach, but current boss Pat Lam is trying to stay focused on the job in hand. Lam said of the future: “No decision has been made on that yet and till there is I’ll keep my head down and doing the job and let the powers that be make their decisions.”

Waratahs 15 – 19 Brumbies

The Brumbies all but secured the Australian Conference title with a win over the Waratahs in Sydney that also keeps their hopes of a home semi-final alive. Jake White’s side are now five points ahead of the Reds in the Australian pecking order and are third in the overall standings.

In a tight affair, Harry Speight’s second-half try was enough to give the Brumbies a first win in Sydney for 10 years. Zack Holmes and Jesse Mogg shared 14 points from the tee while the misfiring Waratahs will feel that they should have taken the match with tries from Tatafu Polota-Nau and Berrick Barnes.

Cheetahs 6 – 13 Stormers

The Stormers wrapped up the South African Conference and with it their place in the Super Rugby play-offs with a workmanlike victory over the Cheetahs. Gio Aplon, the Springbok international, snatched the win for the visitors with a try on 53 minutes, the winger snaffling Peter Grant’s cross-kick to crash over. The Stormers now need a single point from next weekend’s meeting with the Rebels to secure a home semi-final. Grant added the conversion to two earlier penalties to ensure four points in dismal conditions, with the Cheetahs mustering only two kicks from fly-half Riaan Smit either side of the interval.

Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers was satisfied with the result, despite the fact that they were unable to confirm a home semi by running in four tries. “The conditions were not suited to try-scoring so we have to be satisfied with the win. It is what it is, and the Cheetahs also played the conditions really well,” he said.

Lions 37 – 32 Rebels

The Lions saw off a second-half charge to defeat the Rebels.  The hosts raced into a massive 24-7 half-time lead thanks to an early try from centre Waylon Murray and a brace from flanker Derick Minnie, although they were unable to keep up that pace for the full 80 minutes.

Ged Robinson bit back for the visitors bang on half-time and for a time after the interval it was one-way traffic as lock Hugh Pyle snatched a double and fly-half James Hilgendorf crashed over. Lions replacement Jaco Kriel landed a killer blow on 73 minutes with his side’s bonus-point try while Elton Jantjies’ third penalty made sure of victory.

Bye: Cheetahs

Congratulations to:

  • Chiliboy Ralepelle and JC Janse van Rensburg, who both played their 50th Super Rugby (SR) matches for their respective franchises.
  • Wilhelm Steenkamp, who played in his 50th SR match. (Sharks 5, Cheetahs 13, Bulls 32)
  • Aaron Cruden, who became the second player after Morne Steyn to pass the 200-point mark this season.
  • Elton Jantjies, who passed the 100-point mark for the season.

Tips

HURRICANES v CHIEFS – Victor Vito is back for the Hurricanes and that is a big boost for them. The Chiefs are losing Sonny Bill Williams, but he will still be there for this game, and should add his incomparable skill levels to what should be a quality game, and possibly also the most entertaining clash, of the weekend. The Hurricanes need five points to stay in contention and the Chiefs want five to knock the Stormers out of contention for top spot, so we should expect a lot of tries. In my book the Chiefs have a slight edge, even away from home.

BRUMBIES v BLUES – The Blues are running into late season form and are starting to become the unpredictable team that could be a problem for Jake White’s Brumbies. The Brumbies though need just one log point to ensure top spot in the Australian conference, and it will be a surprise if they don’t manage at least that. It should be close though, with plenty nails being gnawed by both Brumbies and Reds fans. The Brumbies should still be able to just take this one.

CRUSADERS v FORCE – Richie McCaw is back at No 8 because of the injury to Kieran Read and the Crusaders have been forced to make three changes, but they need to win to be sure of fourth, and they are playing at home. Yes, they lost to the Hurricanes there a few weeks back, but they are unlikely to be caught out two games in succession, and while the Force will be trying to do something special in Nathan Sharpe’s last match, they just don’t have the class of the Hurricanes. The Crusaders should win comfortably and secure fourth spot.

REDS v WARATAHS – The Reds have Digby Ioane back and need to win and score four tries to challenge for a place in the top six and push the Brumbies in the Australian conference. They will know by the start where they stand regarding the Brumbies – it’s likely they will be playing just for a top six spot. At home they should be able to both win and get those four tries, but in Aussie derbies there is a tendency for teams to drag each other down so you never know.

STORMERS v REBELS – The Stormers are well placed on the log and their second successive SA conference title is a notable achievement, but their chances of backing that platform up are delicately balanced given the injuries at loose-forward. A lot of focus will be directed at hooker Deon Fourie’s performance at his new position of No 8. The Stormers should win comfortably and if it is a dry day they should score four tries. The first game of the weekend will determine whether that is what they need to aim at. If the Chiefs have shut them out and the Brumbies haven’t picked up five against the Blues, this should be an opportunity for Allister Coetzee to experiment.

SHARKS v CHEETAHS – The Sharks team wasn’t to hand at the time of writing but with most of the stalwarts fit again it should be a strong one. The Cheetahs used to be a hoodoo team for the Sharks, but the Sharks appear to have shaken off the jinx just recently. Still, this is one of those funny games where no-one seems quite sure of what the Sharks should be aiming at, and if the Cheetahs were to shock them at their home ground in what is essentially an eliminator, it wouldn’t be the first time it has happened. The Sharks should still take it out though.

BULLS v LIONS – Come on, the Bulls only know one way to play, and that is to win, and win by as big a margin as possible. So even if they are better off not thumping the Lions, they probably will, and so they should, for just recently their form has been patchy and they are looking more and more like the team we thought they would be at the start of the season – in other words one that loses six matches in the league phase. Wilhelm Steenkamp is playing for the injured Flip van der Merwe. The Bulls should win comfortably and with a bonus point to clinch fifth spot.

Super XV for week 17: 
15. Charles Piutau (Blues) 14. JP Pietersen (Sharks) 13. Andrew Smith (Brumbies) 12. Frans Steyn (Sharks) 11. Hosea Gear (Highlanders) 10. Dan Carter (Crusaders) 9. Andy Ellis (Crusaders) 8. Ryan Kankowski (Sharks) 7. Adam Thomson (Highlanders) 6. Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs) 5. Hugh Pyle (Rebels) 4. Luke Romano (Crusaders) 3. Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs) 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) 1. Sona Taumalolo (Chiefs).

 

 

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