It hasn’t been a good weekend for South Africa’s six franchises.
Played four, won one, lost three. Not a great record for the teams from the country of the World Champions, but that is what was recorded in this past weekend’s Super Rugby. Add two further losses by the Cheetahs and the Kings, and the conclusion is an easy one: South African rugby is bereft of quality players.
South Africa’s six franchises have one win from six matches.
There are many reasons for this, but what should be a wake-up call is that it seems that it is the same weakness that brought about most of the South African losses: an inability to defend.
If you miss 26 of your 109 (24%) tackles and make only 83 as in the case of the Lions; or let through three gift tries as the Bulls did against the Jaguares; or have only marginally more than a third of the possession and territory as the Stormers did against the Blues, a win becomes very unlikely.
Of course, there are many other factors of which an attacking inability seems a prominent and general shortcoming.
Lions lose to Waratahs
The Lions played against the Waratahs who clocked their first win in four starts without much more than a third of the possession and territorial stakes but still won 29-17. They ran marginally less metres (491 to 502), carried only 103 metres to the Lions 147 but beat 26 defenders to 15 and made 17 clean brakes to five.
Bulls lose their fourth match
The Bulls lost their fourth match 24-39 to the Jaguares and remain winless in this year’s Super Rugby series.
Their defensive structures against the Jaguares from first phase possession to the Jaguares, but they were flummoxed too often when the Argentinians went on attack from turnovers or ill-directed kicks downfield. And they struggled against the visitors’ driving mauls from lineouts.
They also don’t have a player like Handré Pollard to direct play. Morné Steyn is adequate, but no longer the general he was eight, nine years ago.
Stormers just went through the motions
The Stormers, like the Lions, also missed more than 20% of their attempted tackles, had only marginally more than a third of the possession and the territory, and were toothless on attack.
They beat only nine defenders. The Blues, on the other hand, exploited the poor defence and made 12 clean breaks. The also missed only nine of 85 tackles (10,6%) and were the undoubted better side.
Coach John Dobson has two weeks to ponder his way forward as the Stormers have their bye. One option would surely be to move Damian Willemse to the bench or to fullback after yet another disappointing performance as pivot.
Sharks look the part – but are Reds a decent yardstick?
The Sharks were the only shining light in the string of three otherwise sad Super Rugby performances by SA teams. Despite only having roughly a third of the possession and territory against the Reds, they beat 12 defenders, conceded only 11 turnovers to the Reds 21, and missed only nine tackles from 140 attempts. That is less than 6,5%!
Their lineouts remain somewhat shaky and they were penalised a for illegal scrummaging too often for comfort, but generally the Sharks forwards set a good platform for their backs who again didn’t disappoint.
On the down-side: The Reds have won only one of their five matches and are tenth on the combined log of the competition’s 15 sides. How good are they really as a yardstick?
Heartbreak for the Cheetahs
The Cheetahs, as so often this season following their scintillating start to the PRO14 Championship, lost their match against the Dragons on Saturday right at the end – in fact with the last act of the match. The score was 13-10 and they missed the opportunity to move to third place in Conference A which is the cut-off for play-off positions in both the conferences.
They are at home to unbeaten Leinster this coming weekend.
The old, old story for the Kings
The Kings played against 14 men from the 15th minute when Connacht replacement Peter Robb was red-carded – and the Irish side had only 13 players after a yellow card in the second half. The final score was 29-19 to Connacht who have not yet lost to a South African side since the Kings and Cheetahs inclusion in the championship three seasons ago.
The Kings simply don’t have what it takes at this level, and coach Robbi Kempson can hardly be faulted for the poor handling, ill-discipline and spilt opportunities by his side. One win from 13 matches with a negative points difference of 294 is indicative of the side’s quality in a very, very tough competition.