Super Rugby Round-Up – Round Three

Highlanders vs Reds

In a battle of teams which are unlikely to figure in the knockout rounds of the competition, the Highlanders deserved their 20-13 victory against the injury depleted Reds, who boasted several new names in their line-up. For the losers, Genia appears to have found a new lease of life and O’Connor hinted at his talents. Anthony Fainga’a is always committed but gives away far too many penalties. The Highlanders will struggle up front against the more powerful sides but their backs, with the Smiths, Ben and Aaron, Banks, Fekitoa and Naholo all prominent, will continue to pose problems for any team.

Force vs Hurricanes

The Hurricanes have given new coach Chris Boyd the best possible start to the season with three away wins from three. Allied to their consistent spreading of the ball wide in the backs, the Hurricanes now have a competitive pack of forwards. They were quick to the breakdown, strong in the scrum and have added a rolling maul to their armoury. In the absence of Jeremy Thrush, Broadhurst and Abbott were splendid at lock. At the back, Barrett is full of ideas but Julian Savea’s hands let him down on occasions. Lee-Lo turned in a useful performance in Conrad Smith’s absence and Smiley was fair but he is no Perenara.( Force 13 Hurricanes 42)

Cheetahs vs Blues

It is becoming a somewhat worrying trend in rugby that the team winning most aspects of a game is ending up the loser. The Blues completely dominated this match in terms of territory, possession and just about everything else. However, as is customary with them, they wasted several opportunities, gave away soft tries and took wrong options. The substitution of Faumuina late in the game led to a scrum penalty, which enabled the Cheetahs to kick the winning points. West continued his excellent form with the boot and Kaino, in his hundredth super rugby game, was a powerful presence. Those dynamic game breakers, Willie le Roux and Sarel Pretorius, eventually won the day for the Cheetahs, who are punching above their weight at the moment. (Cheetahs 25 Blues 24)

Chiefs vs Crusaders

This was a physical encounter in which the Chiefs were hard hit by the loss of Retallick early on, while the Crusaders lost Robbie Fruean. Judging by some of the penalties awarded in this game and in other recent matches, any contact between players competing for the ball in the air results in at least a penalty and often a yellow card against one of them, which is a ridiculous situation. Both defences were aggressive, with Tameifuna for the Chiefs and Taufua for the Crusaders putting in some huge hits. The Chiefs were far more effective in attack with excellent chasing of kicks and speedy support play, while the Crusaders continue to run their attacks from side to side, making them far easier to defend. The selection by the Chiefs of Pulu instead of Weber was crucial and Elliot’s lineout throws are much improved. Heem and to a lesser extent, Weber are the only weak links in this Chiefs team at the moment. The Crusaders are struggling but will shortly welcome back several resting All Blacks. (Chiefs 40 Crusaders 16)

Rebels vs Brumbies

This was another match which the dominant team lost. The Rebels dominated both halves but made some poor decisions, failed to finish opportunities and made too many silly mistakes. Higginbotham’s poor discipline is a bad example for a captain and scrum half Nic Stirzaker takes on too much on his own. The Rebels were not helped by the fact that cynical play by the Brumbies went unpunished, while Steve Walsh had one of his worst games as referee. The Brumbies played more intelligent rugby and their use of the rolling maul, together with their defence of it, were greatly superior to the Rebels. (Rebels 15 Brumbies 20)

Bulls vs Sharks

This was probably not an appropriate match to award to a debutant referee but it was rather the fault of the TMO Johan Greeff that certainly one and perhaps two tries, which should not have been given, were awarded to the Bulls. The match showcased the skills of what are obviously the best flyhalves in the country, in Lambie and Pollard. The work rate of Labuschagne and Strauss for the Bulls was exemplary and they are proving terrific buys for the Bulls from the Cheetahs. Matfield turned in an improved performance and for the Sharks, Kankowski made a successful return while Marcel Coetzee was excellent at the breakdown in particular. The Bulls will be happy but the Sharks were a little unlucky (Bulls 43 Sharks 35)

Lions vs Stormers

In a turnaround from last year, things are tending to run for the Stormers rather than against them. In wet conditions, which do not suit the Lions, the scrums were fairly even but the Stormers lineout suffered from poor throwing by Mbonambi, who otherwise was quite good around the park. Muller was effective in contesting the Stormers lineout and the Lions did well at the breakdown. However, in the first half in particular, they appeared disorganized and tighthead prop Koch continued to impress for the Stormers in the scrum. Behind the Lions pack, de Klerk struggled and this affected Jantjies, who did not always take the right options, gave away a crucial penalty and dropped a high kick, which led to the only try for the Stormers. More of the skills and fluency of last year’s Currie Cup campaign appeared for the Lions in the second half but some will say their insistence in going for the win, rather than an easy kick for a draw, was foolish. That is, however, part of their positive rugby approach and had Mnisi not dropped the ball over the line after his colleagues had managed 28 fault free phases and then minutes later again dropped it a few metres from the line, the Lions would have been victorious. De Jongh and de Allende were good in the centre for the Stormers. The Lions should think of giving hooker Armand van der Merwe more game time and consider Jaco van der Walt at flyhalf. (Lions 19 Stormers 22)

Source by Terence George Dale Lace