5 Things We Learned from Super Rugby Round 4
While the northern hemisphere occupies itself with the passion and drama of a thrilling Six Nations tournament in the sunshine, it has started raining tries in the south.
Round 4 of the 2014 Super XV saw six in one half of rugby in Queensland (in a game that saw 76 points scored in total), four tries in less than half an hour in Perth and a high-scoring win for one of the hot favourites in South Africa.
The only country not really enjoying themselves at the moment seems to be New Zealand.
Here are the lessons from an entertaining fourth weekend.
1. Burger Is Back
The Stormers lost 14-13 to the Crusaders in Christchurch, but the pain of defeat will be soothed slightly by the return to form and fitness of Schalk Burger.
The former Springbok flanker played his first game on New Zealand soil since the 2011 World Cup after a nightmare two years.
Burger suffered a calf problem in training and ended up in hospital to have a cyst close to his spinal cord drained. Burger contracted meningitis after the procedure and there were genuine fears he could have died.
He has overcome these problems now, and after a lacklustre 30 minutes in the Stormers’ opener this season, he played a barnstorming 75 minutes against the Crusaders in Round 4.
ESPN Scrum’s Brett McKay said:
What a return to Super Rugby from the brutal Springboks hero, after an absence of nearly two full seasons, following an almost fatal infection picked up in hospital. Thirteen runs, 18 tackles, offloads and turnovers, annoying Crusaders opponents all over the field for 75 minutes; it was as if he'd never been out of the game.
And it really was like he'd never been out of the game, too; he smashed attacking runners, he smashed into defending would-be tacklers, he was abrasive, he threw his bulk around, and generally announced himself back in the top flight in spectacular fashion.
2. The Force Can Score Four Tries
Just when it looked like the Perth-based Western Force would never again secure a four-try bonus point, they turned up and scored four in 27 minutes.
The men from Australia’s west coast had gone 28 games without registering a bonus point for four tries, but blitzed the Melbourne Rebels with a quartet of scores that laid the foundation for a 32-7 win that brought Tony McGahan’s side back down to earth with a bump.
The previous weekend had seen the Force taken apart by the Brumbies, while the Rebels had run riot against the Cheetahs.
A week, it would seem, is a long time in rugby indeed.
3. New Zealand Suffering a 2013 Hangover
The misery continues for New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises.
The Crusaders, losers in their first two rounds, were the only side to record a win—by a single point at home to the Stormers, who aren't exactly considered a title contender.
There are grumblings in the New Zealand media that standards have fallen a long way since the 2013 calendar year that saw the Chiefs win the Super XV and the All Blacks sweep all before them.
The rest of world rugby can rejoice. New Zealand aren't the invincible beast they appeared in 2013. Far from it. Our Super 15 teams have been rubbish, by and large, so far. Even the wonderful Kieran Read is playing like a plonker. The New Zealand teams have come roaring out the gate like a drunk exiting a nightclub at 3am.
4. Mum’s the Word for Reds
Each Queensland Reds player might want to think about wearing their mother’s name on their jersey every week if this is the effect.
The Brisbane-based side paid tribute to their old girls on International Women’s Day with their names on their backs and pink trim on their collars.
They did their mums proud in a 76–point thriller, which they won 43-33.
5. Sharks Still the Team to Beat
Jake White’s Sharks are the only side with three wins from three in the competition so far.
They saw off the Lions 37-23 in Durban in a game that shouldn’t have been that close, having raced into a 30-9 lead by the 50-minute mark.
With the traditional New Zealand powerhouses struggling—with the exception of the Chiefs—and the Waratahs yet to be extended by anyone, the Sharks’ favourites tag is becoming more secure by the week.