5 Things We Learned from Super Rugby Round 5
Round 5 sees one team apiece from each country occupy the top three slots in the Super XV table, with the Sharks leading the way after four games. The Chiefs and Brumbies follow having played a game less.
All three were in action last weekend and all of them recorded wins, with the three conferences beginning to take shape in the competition.
Here’s what we learned.
1. The Way to Beat the Waratahs
Sydney’s Waratahs suffered their first defeat of the campaign to the Brumbies in a 28-23 reverse in Canberra that revealed the weaknesses in Michael Cheika’s attack-minded team.
The Brumbies’ scrum got well on top of the men from New South Wales. The home side also targeted Kurtley Beale, new to the inside centre role, for a lot of heavy punishment by their big ball-carriers.
For their first try, wrecking ball Tevita Kuridrani came hammering straight down Beale’s channel.
The former Rebel stopped him, but only managed to bring the big man down well beyond the gain line, ensuring the Brumbies could flood over the top, recycle quick ball and score in the next phase.
This exposes the major flaw in positioning Beale in the No. 12 shirt. He may well function effectively as a second playmaker in that jersey, but he is also an easily identifiable weak defensive link, and the Brumbies have highlighted that for everyone else to see.
2. The Origins of the Honey Badger
The Western Force made it back-to-back wins with a 31-29 victory away to the Highlanders.
The Western Australian side have firmly established themselves as the Highlanders’ bogey team after making it six wins in a row over the men from New Zealand’s South Island.
Talismanic wing Nick Cummins was again on form with the post-match microphone, revealing the inspiration for his nickname, “The Honey Badger.”
3. Sad News for Robbie Fruean
The Chiefs made it four wins from four to open the defence of their crown with a 36-20 win over the Stormers.
However, the result was tarnished with the sad news that centre Robbie Fruean had to be withdrawn after complaining of shortness of breath following his entry to the game as a replacement.
According to the APP (via The Sydney Morning Herald):
Fruean, 25, underwent open heart surgery seven years ago before returning to rugby two years later.
He struggled to play the full 80 minutes in four seasons at the Crusaders and, following a second heart operation to replace a faulty valve, joined the Chiefs this year.
He began the season promisingly with a brilliant long-range try against the Crusaders but missed their win over the Highlanders because of concussion.
His latest ailment is a blow to the second-placed Chiefs, who are three wins-from-three to begin their pursuit of a third successive title.
4. Boshoff’s Boot Proving a Match-Winning Weapon
The Lions have won three and lost one so far this season, and all three have come courtesy of the shoe leather of Marnitz Boshoff.
In a roller-coaster 39-36 win over the Blues, Boshoff kicked 24 of their 39 points, which secured victory in a game that saw them outscored by two tries.
There was good news for the Aucklanders, as Benji Marshall registered his first try in his first start for the franchise, but Boshoff is quickly establishing himself as a modern-day Jannie de Beer.
England fans will remember with little affection de Beer’s drop goal virtuoso display that booted them out of the 1999 World Cup.
5. Sharks Learn to Hang on
Jake White’s unbeaten Sharks have developed the ability to streak into a healthy lead and survive a fightback from their opponents.
Last week, they did it against the Lions, who came back from 30-9 to make it 30-23 before the Sharks closed with a late fourth try.
It could be a pattern that sees them punished should they repeat it against the Bulls next week. However, for now, White's men are getting away with it, and their 100 percent record is intact.