Closing week for Super Rugby
As they say, we’ve come to the “Business end” of the tournament. It’s been a long 19 rounds for all fifteen rugby franchises and we as the fans, have surely received our monies worth.
This 2014 season has been made up of some great derbies, controversial referee decisions, and some surprise packages from the not – so popular teams. Let’s take a closer look the respective conferences:
SOUTH AFRICAN CONFERENCE
It doesn’t make for any good reading on the combined log for SA teams this season. The Cell C Sharks carry the hope of the nation as they are the only SA side featured in the play offs. The Vodacom Blue Bulls, DHL Stormers, Toyota Cheetahs and Lions are too far behind the prouncing pack to make any kind of impact on the log.
It’s been yet one of those seasons where inconsistency, injuries, and incapability to win games away from home that has lead to 3 of our sides in the bottom half of the combined log.
One has to question the management of South African players, especially the Springboks – Are we over playing them? New Zealand and Australian teams play just as much football, but you get the sense that they are well managed and prepared to perform week in week out for their franchises; and then still represent their nations at top class rugby. There’s no doubt that the Springboks have brought home some outstanding results in the past couple of international seasons, but then why is that not reflecting in Super Rugby?
Sharks are playing an in – form Stormers side who haven’t conceded any points in their last two home fixtures. We know Sharks can produce the goods off their home turf, but by the end of the weekend we’ll know weather they will have a home semifinal or not.
The Lions can take some pride from their return to Super Rugby. The Joburg side has won 6/15 of their games and sit in 13th position. I know it’s nothing to get excited over but considering they were in “Super Rugby wilderness” for the longest while, and their history in this competition as the whipping boys, Johan Ackerman can take pride of what his young side have achieved.
NEW ZEALAND CONFERENCE
All five New Zealand teams have been rather exceptional this season. Another display of why they are considered the Rugby nation of the World! The NZ conference has been fiercely contested and it’s great to see that the Crusaders aren’t the out and out favourites whenever there’s a local derby.
It’s fair to say, in general, NZ teams are lethal when it comes to capitalizing on the oppositions mistakes as well as converting points when they are in their opponents 22. Something both SA and Aus teams still need to fine tune.
Defending champions Chiefs still have a chance for play offs but will need to beat the Blues and hope they receive some favourable results from the other matches.
The Canes aren’t the same without their line breaking machine Alapati Leiua, but will need to find other solutions to free up their backs against the clinical Crusaders. Otherwise the Highlanders have shown some class this season barring in mind that back bender result against a devastating Waratahs.
Discipline has been a matter of concern amongst all NZ teams. But SANZAR has since kept a close eye in that regard.
The Aussies have again shown that they must not be taken lightly in this competition. They haven’t enjoyed the greatest form in test rugby apart from the June test but they sure have made up for it with three domestic teams in with a shout for playoff spots.
The Waratahs have leap frogged the Sharks with some famous wins over the Highlanders, Brumbies and Chiefs respectively. Their forward pack have provided enough secure, front football for Israel Folou and Co.
The Western Force have been impressive with their never say die attitude on defense – Also showing their attacking abilities with ball in hand. One name that immediately springs to mind – The HONEY BADGER! A big surprise from this tournament as they look to make their maiden play off appearance.
Match of the weekend:
Crusaders VS Highlanders
Prediction – CRU23 – HLD19
Player to watch: Nizaam Carr