Cracking Start to the Super 14
Well it was a mad rush yesterday afternoon getting home and search for anything that resembled rugby. The closest thing I could find was highlights for the IRB Sevens, but that was not what I was looking for. Yes the rugby was fantastic. The local supporters standing in the stand in their Stars and Stripes Bikinis were awesome.
But still not the cheerleaders for the greatest competition on the planet, yes Super 14 rugby. Even my daughter's chomping at the bits to see any form of television for the weekend sat enthralled watching the highlights and waiting for our beloved Sharks to come on TV.
I don’t think that the Super 14 could have started with a better game than the Highlanders Vs the Brumbies. The Highlanders started with a 19 point lead only to have the Brumbies score 29 unanswered points. Back came the Highlanders to go 31-29 up only for a drop goal to seal the game in the favour of the visitors 31-33 with less than a minute to go.
The next game saw the Western Force blow the game against a spirited Blues side that is now in a lot of trouble with three key players out for at least the next three weeks. The Blues won 19-25 in Perth.
One on the quickest games of the weekend was the battle of the cats, with the Lions hosting the Cheetahs. Let it be said, the Lions front row will rain down the Roth of God on many an unsuspecting front row in the Super 14. Wepner at hooker and Van Der Merwe at prop are frightening strong, but their line-outs do leave a lot to be desired.
The loose forwards dominate with Bay-Watch and Brussow going treat gun, but Juan Smith was my loosie of the day. Was it also not great to see Heno Mentz in full cry with two fantastic tries for the Lions? He is still a class player and a deadly finisher. Final score 34-28 to the Lions!
The Crusaders out did the Chiefs at home with a solid 19-13 encounter. Typical hard no quarter given All Black rugby! Even with the loss of Carter and Deans the Crusaders will not find it to hard to make the semi’s this year. Last year’s finalist the Waratahs came away with a very good win over the Hurricanes in Wellington.
The Canes will also be without the service of Rodney So’oialo after he was suspended for one match for stomping on Phil Waugh. Although it was an Australian that took the boot, let Rodney come to South Africa and do the same to Puke Watson and we will make him president of the country.
This Australian outfit is a quality side and should also not take too much effort to make the semi finals, only their away form to South Africamight let them down. The final score was 22-26 to the Tahs.
The Stormers Vs the Sharks was supposed to be the game of the weekend. It seemed to be a game of two halves but also one of missed opportunities. The bottom line with nine points squandered in the first have and with over 60% of possession and 64 % of territory the Sharks should have won by a lot further. However the defence was fantastic on both sides and the “Big D” is going to win the Super 14 this year.
I think if the two teams had met later on the game would have been a bit more flowing, but a great game non the less it was. The try of the weekend also game from this game with the Old War Horse, Stephan Terblanche scoring a try under the uprights started from the Sharks try line.
The Bulls got off to a flying start by securing a bonus point in beating the Reds 33-20. The win came at a high price though, with Victor Mattfield being sidelined for the next three weeks. He tore the AC ligaments in his shoulder. Although this will be a big loss to the Bulls I don’t see them losing to the Blues on Friday night.
The tight five was solid as always and although the ELV’s might not suit their style of rugby, there is too much class in this years squad not to be able to adapt to the ELV’s.
On the seven front, the Boks lost to Englandin the semi finals only for the Poms to come up short against the Argies. England and South Africa are now joint top with 60 point followed by the Kiwis on 52 points. The Kenyan side pulled off their second major scalp of the year by beating New Zealand in the first round in San Diego.
The Six Nations saw results go according to form, with Wales and France pulling off expected wins and Italy getting thumped properly by Ireland. Wales dispatched of England23-15 and only the ill discipline of the English players proved to be a serious draw back for them. Jonathan Kaplan took no prisoners with handing the Poms two yellow cards for professional fowls costing them dearly. Something Martin Johnston must be very concerned about. The French beat the Scotts 22-13 at home.
Ireland beat Italy 38-9 and I firmly Nick Mallet is wasting his time coaching the Italians. He should be looking at going back to France or maybe England to coach, were his skills as a coach can be properly used.
I will have more news next week on English football, cricket and the return of Lance Armstrong to cycling.
Take care, keep fit, and enjoy the sport.
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