Rugby Rumblings: Bulls Rampage to the Top of the Super 14 Table

Ian TaitCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2009

If it seemed like Blue Bull country was a little down last week with the loss of Victor Mattfield, well somebody forgot to tell the Bulls. The Blues could have been forgiven for thinking that they might have had a chance in going to Loftus on Saturday. Well along came the Bulls and they stampeded the Blues and left them battered, bruised, and, well, BLUE.


One thing is certain, and I am saying this with conviction, any team who thinks that they can go to Loftus and win better be on top of its game; any team that thinks that it will walk all over the Bulls away from home, think again. Fourie Du Preez is the best scrum half in world rugby at the moment and I think that played the biggest role in the confidence that the Bulls showed. Final score: 59-26!


The Hurricanes are still rated as the team to win the Super 14 by the New Zealand press and like the Sharks they have been anything but impressive. They just scraped home against the least fancied team from the South Island, the Highlanders 22-17.


The Waratahs managed an 11-7 win at home to the Chiefs, the Sharks next opponents. The Waratahs are going to be hard to beat at home and it is actually a great result for the Chiefs. This will also boast their confidence playing at home for the first time on Saturday.


If rugby was played over a period on 70 minutes, well the Cheetahs would be Super 14 and Currie Cup Champions, well not quiet, but the amount of games that they have lost in the last ten minutes is crazy. They have still not won in Australia and Friday was a perfect game to break this duck. But the Western Force play rugby for 80 minutes and hence won the game 16-10.


The Stormers almost through away a certain victory on Friday night and although their forwards battled up front, it was the play on the three quarters that impressed me most. Basic ball skills let them down and allowed the Reds back into the game to just lose 27-14. One thing Rassie needs to look into is strengthening his front row. Buy, borrow or steal, but get them down to Cape Town.


The Brumbies fought hard in Canberra on Saturday night and only secured the game after full time by scoring and converting after the hooter. The Crusaders defending like men possessed but the amount of pressure was relentless. They still look like a championship side and if Richie McCaw was playing the game would have ended differently.


I still can’t believe the Bryce Lawrence is still on the Super 14 merit panel, he is poor, the Australian commentators think so and the Reunion presenters try not to talk about him as being a Kiwi. It was a fantastic game of rugby none the less.


The rusty Sharks managed to ground out a 25-10 victory over the Lions at Kings Park on Saturday night. When I say it was hot, let me explain the day, buy 11 o’clock in the morning it was 37c outside. The temperature dropped to about 30c by six pm but the humidity made it about 36c.


If you have never been to Durban in February you need to do it just once and you will understand the problem the players had on Saturday. Hence the game got scrappy, hence the knock-on’s and hence the spectators frustration. Even more frustrating was the fact that the Sharks did not score a bonus point try.


The Lions was there for the taking and should have been thumped by 40 points. Ruan Pienaar is looking lost at first five eight, but John Plumtree must continue and he will come right. Rory Kockott and Ryan Kankowski along with AD Jacobs are on top form. The forwards of the Sharks looks like the strongest unit in this year competition and it will take a lot to put them to the sword.


Springbok captain John Smit has asked South African players to reconsider going over to Europe to play for the big pay day. The truth of the matter is that life is not that easy overseas and even though the money is great, having no friends learning to speak new languages and learning new cultures is not always that easy.


Worst of the lot is the weather is crap. Wet, cold, wet, cold...oh yes no sun. Imagine going half a year with no sun. Come on we are Africans, we were born under the African sky, this is our country, on heritage and why would you want to hand it over for a few pounds or euros? Frans Steyn has reportedly been offered R4.5 million per year to go to France. As much as I think he is playing weak rugby, he will be a major loss to South African rugby by not being here.


The fact remains Smit, Mattfield, Willemse, Monty, Terblanche have all gone over and returned. Yes one can argue that Butch James is playing fantastic rugby and many other South Africans are doing well over seas, but at what cost to South Africa. Look at the New Zealandteams in the Super 14 and see how weak they look this year. They have lost over 15 of their top players in the last two years, most of them All Blacks. These players were key to their Super 14 teams and the impact is clear to see.


European rugby has not gained from the influx of the foreign players as it has weakened the player selection pools for their countries. The Six Nations have given us some good games this year, but it is not the Super 14 and won’t be like the Tri-Nations and the reason for that is the strongest rugby is played down in the Southern Hemisphere so why do you want to go up North, why?


Until next, enjoy the rugby.