The sixth week of the Super 14 saw the Top Three remain in charge and on track for the semi-finals.
The rest of the log did not change a lot, although the Sharks finally managed their first win, and the Blues showed how good they can be, on their day!
The Lions continue to be a walking bonus point (unfortunately for the opposition), whilst the Cheetahs start what I believe will be their downward spiral with injuries that can only makes things even worse they can possibly imagine.
Blues (39) v Brumbies (34)
I had deliberated all week about this result, and whilst the scoreboard signifies a close match, it was not a true reflection of the game.
The Blues opened up a lead and always looked the more dangerous side with ball in hand. A four try blitz straight after half-time effectively sealed the win, and the Brumbies tried to work their way back but lack the ability to take the ball through multiple phases and really threaten the line. They certainly miss Stirling Mortlock in midfield.
Rene Ranger was the star of the show, dangerous every time he got the ball, but I suspect against tougher forward packs, the Blues won't be given so much space to move. The Brumbies were shown how average they truly are this season.
Bulls (19) v Hurricanes (18)
Tight. Do people truly wish to see tons of tries when you can get gripping rugby such as this that goes down to the wire?
The Hurricanes were upset with the ref, but I felt the Bulls had greater reason to be; with Steve Walsh fairly lenient on the Hurricanes persistent infringing at the breakdown and maul.
The Bulls started off well, but handling errors and not protecting the ball on a hard surface resulted in every attacking foray producing no result. The Hurricanes had two chances and put points on the board.
However just as we saw in last years Currie Cup semi-final, the Bulls don't panic, revert back to the game plan, and wear their opposition down.
It's not always pretty, but it's darn effective!
Many are saying Matfield was arrogant not taking the penalty with just a single point lead and minutes on the clock. However, his reasoning was that if the Bulls kicked it and got a 4 point lead, the Hurricanes had a chance to reclaim the kick-off and score a match winning try.
I love Matfield's attitude, as it displays confidence in his side to retain the ball and execute their game plan, and suffocates the life out of the opposition.
Four points and it doesn't matter how they were earned, just that they are in the bank. Three Consecutive losses will hurt the Hurricanes who really needed at least one win on tour.
Crusaders (46) v Lions (19)
To be satisfied with a 27 point loss shows how hopeless this Lions side is. Sure there were improvements, but rugby is an 80 minute game, and tackling is half of the game.
Every time the Lions repelled a Crusaders attack, they come up with silly errors.
Failure to kick penalties out, knock-ons, forward passes. It's basic errors that kill them.
At times they look disorganised and lethargic.
Two Things stand out for me: players don't know what to do, and the players are not fit enough. Trying to play an upspeed, high tempo game is not going to work for a side that struggles to last 80 minutes.
Carlos Spencer gives away at least two tries a game, trying to run the ball out of his own half. The Bulls have shown, play for territory, and grind away. Go forward and run hard! The Crusaders showed how lightly they took the game, yet still scored 47 points.
Sheesh, I remember when Lions rugby was tough and uncompromising...
Highlanders (16) v Sharks (30)
Before we start to get too carried away with the Sharks winning, the Highlanders looked tried in the second half, as they had just travelled back from Johannesburg, and secondly, the Highlanders are a weak side that a Springbok laden Sharks outfit should expect to trounce!
The Sharks defended gamely in the first half as they simply had no answer to the Highlanders attack. The Sharks really struggled to get out of their half, but thankfully their defence held strong.
Whether Andy Goode's departure and Ruan Pienaar's move to flyhalf had anything to do with it, the Sharks suddenly looked a different side in the second 40.
Running onto the ball, they started creating opportunities, and actually scored some tries.
Patrick Lambie at fullback was superb. He showed great positional sense, and was fearless under the high ball. He needs to be persevered with, and Terblanche may have scored a good try, but again made far too many silly errors for my liking.
John Smit was great at loosehead prop, and I'd leave him there to allow Bismarck to remain at hooker without disrupting the strength of the scrum.
Force (10) v Waratahs (14)
Where is all this running rugby and tries we were told would occur this season? And weren't the Aussies promising their sides would play attractive rugby?
One attribute the Waratahs have over their fellow countrymen is the ability to win ugly, and scrape home when needed. Prehaps the most important feature was the failure of the Waratahs to get a four try bonus point, something they may regret at the close of the season.
Stormers (21) v Cheetahs (8)
What fantastic intensity in front of 43,000 passionate fans!
The massive injury toll showed just how much this game meant to both sides, and unlike derbies of yesteryear, the skill level remained high throughout.
The fact the Stormers were able to overcome the loss of Peter Grant (injured in the warm-up) so effectively speaks volumes for how far they have come as a side, with a strongly entrenched playing style that allowed Willem de Waal and Tim Whitehead to step in with no ill effects.
The Cheetahs tried gamely, but lacked the overall class to compete with the Stormers, and the Stormers were deserve winners.
The fact that the only try conceded by the Stormers came from the luck of the bounce from a chip kick is testament to just how good the Stormers defence has been.
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