Sharks Starting To Dominate the Super 14
The question on all Super 14 fans' lips at present is “Where are the New Zealand teams?”
The answer is very simple: playing rugby in Japan, Ireland, England, and France. Why, you may ask?
It's as simple as "money talks." If I'm a good No. 10 playing rugby in New Zealand, will I ever get that All Black contract? Maybe, but only if Dan Carter falls off of the face of the earth.
Guess what, injuries happen, and Dan is not in the rugby picture for now. Now is the time to stand up and be counted. Too bad only one young man has; he is 19 years old and from the Blues in Hopes.
One wonders if the drain of players will hurt New Zealand now, and also, if it will create a major problem leading up to the 2011 World Cup.
South Africa had the same problem a few years back, but what it did was give the youngsters the opportunity to put their hands up and be counted.
To anyone who thinks that the All Blacks will be weak in the next Cup, I think you are right. The majority of their players will be the same squad that played in 2007, and they were already getting long in the tooth then.
It's unfortunate, because New Zealand has a wealth of good youngsters, and given enough opportunity in the Super 14, Air New Zealand Cup, and the Tri-Nations, they could be a force to reckon with.
This weekend produced the lowest scoring game in the history of the competition; a 6-0 victory by the Highlanders over the Crusaders did not leave rugby fans with a nice taste in their mouths.
But on the plus side, the Chiefs-versus-Force matchup was fantastic. The Chiefs got over their bad luck and thumped their opponents 31-13.
The Cheetahs got beaten again, and I seriously doubt that they are going to win a game this season after dropping another contest—29-12 to the Hurricanes.
The Waratahs and Reds was a battleground brawl. The 'Tahs came up triumphant, 15-10, but it was not the prettiest game around.
Same goes for the Stormers-Bulls contest. Although one can't get tired of Luke Watson being booed all day long. The Bulls won 14-11.
Naming the game of the weekend is a no-brainer: Blues versus Sharks. Although the score line looked close, the bottom line is this: The Sharks dominated every part of the game.
Scrums, line-out, loose play, the back line brakes, and of course, the defense. A.D. Jacobs is without a shadow of a doubt the best center in world rugby at the moment.
Stephan Terblanche is the most consistent fullback in the Super 14, and the Sharks' pack is the best-balanced of the competition. This was just their first bonus point win of the season, but I feel it is the first of many to come.
The Sharks escaped 35-31 winners at Eden Park, although you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Sharks were playing in Kings Park.
The Arsenal seems to have found their goal-scoring form again, although it was against a championship side; they beat Burnley 3-0. Their top players are slowly starting to make a return from injury, and hopefully, this bodes well for the rest of their season.
Manchester United again turned on the charm, thumping Fulham 4-0. Chelsea was too strong for Coventry (a 2-0 final), and Everton beat Middlesbrough 2-1.
On the cricket side, Graham Smith is out again with a broken hand, and we won’t see him for the rest of the Test season.
Australia's a team on a mission, already up 1-0 in the series and setting the Proteas 556 runs to win. They are set to take the second test here in Durban.
So what does all this mean for South African cricket? Well, for starters, a change in personnel.
Morne Morkel needs to make way for his older brother, Albie, and I would suggest that Mark Boucher moves aside for A.B. De Villiers. And with Smith out, Ashwel Prince should be an automatic choice for the third test in Newland.
We had the opportunity of dethroning Australia as the No. 1 test side in the world, but this will just have to wait.
England looks set to lose the test series in the West Indies, and India seems to be in top form over in New Zealand.
The Sri-Lankan team is out of action for a while after the disgusting act of terrorism in Lahore; considering that Pakistan is regarded as one of the most dangerous countries in the world and that nobody will ever be safe there, I am sure that it will be a very long time before any team tours there again.
What about this week coming up?
Well, the Six Nations will come to a grand finale, with Ireland having the only realistic chance of winning the game.
After chatting this evening with Craig Joubert, the referee that had the pleasure of doing the Ireland-England game last week, it seems that the Irish should be favorites. I don’t see the Scotts upsetting them at Murray Field, and even if they do, the point difference should be in their favor.
The Sharks play the Reds on Saturday, and let's hope that the Sharks repeat their performance from two years ago. The Lions go to Cape Town, and the Cheetahs take on the Blues on Friday.
The Bulls and the Hurricanes both have byes while the Brumbies host the Waratahs, the Crusaders host the Force, and the Highlanders play the Chiefs.
My picks of the weekend would have to be Brumbies-Waratahs and England-France.
Until next time, take care, keep fit, and enjoy the sport. Oh, and before I forget, Manchester United plays Liverpool this Saturday; that should also be a cracker.
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