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Aphiwe Dyantyi © Gallo Images

Whipped, grilled, battered and beaten...



SuperWrap - week four, 2018

Let us all, for a moment, imagine a world where Oscar Wilde was right when he once famously argued that life imitates art, and not the other way around.

It is only in such a world that the happenings on the rugby fields of Super Rugby during round four of its 2018 edition can be framed in a remotely comprehensible way to a mainly South African audience.

Let there be no doubt that the three South African losses this past weekend hurt very much in real life, and let it be known that the art I intend to link it to is of the culinary variety.

Plainly speaking, this past weekend we all parted with good money to have Australasian chefs serve us a dish called “Sitting Duck, cooked three ways”.

Nowhere was the term sitting duck more deserved than in Dunedin where only the most deluded Stormers fan (a group that makes up a surprising 10% of SuperBru’s entire population) would have predicted a win for the men from Cape Town.

They had no chance, just as they had no chance the week before in Christchurch. No need to go too in-depth into this particular part of our dish either. It is clear as a bar pee that if you intend to play a ball-in-hand game against New Zealanders in New Zealand you better be able to match your hosts for pace and intensity for the entire 80 minutes.

Anything less and you’ll end up like they did.

Despite a fiery start in our opening match of the weekend, there is no doubt that the Stormers were slow-roasted to perfection. This part of our paltry dish scores a solid eight out of ten.

The Brisbane version was a little tougher to stomach.

PARBOILED

In retrospect it certainly was sitting duck, but even connoisseurs struggled for a good while to see it for what it was.

The Bulls had beaten the Hurricanes just the other day, so theoretically the Reds weren’t supposed to hold too much of a threat for this new, vibrant Pretoria outfit.

They were up a comfortable 14-3 early on and were still ahead by halftime, but just after the break they started showing the tell-tale signs of a side who has forgotten who they had become.

First it was the set-piece that went, especially the scrums. Then came the difficulties with discipline, especially at the offside line.

The true identity of the dish was only confirmed right at the end, though, when - needing a converted try to win the match - the Bulls reverted to type.

Instead of keeping their wide pattern of attack playing well inside the Reds half, they opted for the one-pass, head-down, brawn-over-brains rugby that used to make their losses so utterly boring for the best part of the last decade. It ended for them as it always has, with the forwards crying and the largely ceremonial backs pulling their hair out.

The exact opposite, equally unpalatable, happened in Johannesburg. There the Lions became sitting ducks through blowing a massive lead by refusing to read the match situation unfolding in front of them.

Whereas the Bulls played out the last part of their match as if they were leading by six (when they weren’t), the Lions played the last quarter of theirs as if they were trailing by 18 (again, exactly the opposite).

Instead of playing for territory and pressurising the Blues into mistakes close to their line, the Lions chose to play in their own half, trying to entertain us with a series of speculative kicks and hail-Mary passes in among all kinds of general frivolity. They had the pack to take full control of the situation, but they wanted to show that they can do helter-skelter better than the Kiwis.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. If you leave space for a New Zealand side they’ll charge through it, and the Blues – with that burly midfield of theirs – needed the door to be just slightly ajar. You could say the poached a few tries...

In the end the Lions lost the final quarter of the match 28-7, allowing the Blues to finish with a set of mind-blowing stats like 658m carried (against the Lions’ 465m), 38 defenders beaten (only 20 for Lions) and 218 passes (compared to 110).

What is supposed to be our best team bombed spectacularly against what is supposed to be New Zealand’s worst, and to rub salt, it happened in the last 20 minutes of a match played at altitude.

“Sitting Duck, cooked three ways” was duly rounded off with a generous portion of humble pie. The dish was a work of art, undoubtedly, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I will try and deconstruct it, though. And I won't mince my words.

All three versions of the sitting duck came because our teams failed to control the pace of the game.

Our teams, and especially the halfbacks, need to be able to read what is going on in a match and adjust accordingly. And it’s not just about speeding up, it is also about getting the timing spot-on with the brake pedal – as any good racing driver will tell you.

We couldn’t, or in the latter two cases just wouldn’t – and that should be of great worry for us as a rugby nation.

But for now, seeing that our tummies are full, we may as well end this with rugby’s version of the famous prayer. Grant us the serenity to slow down play when we must, the courage to up the pace and intensity when needed; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Right, enough of the roasting. Let's whip into the rest of the week:

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TRIES OF THE WEEK:

BEST OF TWITTER

Gimme an S....


Sticking with our theme: you can look at the menu, but...

That sinking feeling


You must be barking mad . . . Still, it's early days.

Wara it's all about


When you've just had enough!

Crash ball


Was the car stolen too Craig?.

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ERRR, CONGRATULATIONS??

One of rugby's most respected players will in all likelihood be passing a milestone this coming weekend.

Following Italy's 38-14 Six Nations loss to Wales in Cardiff this past weekend, the legendary No 8 Sergio Parisse now sits on 99 test defeats.

Sergio is hoping that he won’t be raising the bat with a white flag attached to it when his Italy side meets Scotland in the final round Six Nations fixture this weekend. He is not completely without hope, however, as he has won five out of the 17 matches he has played against the Scots in the past.

Parisse made his test debut in 2002 and Italy will next week collect an 11th wooden spoon in the Six Nations over that time. Compatriot Martin Castrogiovanni played 119 tests and lost 88, the second most of all-time.

The 34 year old played his 133rd test and his 13th against Wales, a side he has only beaten twice.

His worst record is against England – 14 tests for 14 defeats. He's also experienced 10 straight defeats to Australia and seven against the All Blacks.

Despite all that, most pundits would have chosen him as a regular starter in almost every top 5 rugby team in the word for most of his 16 years in action.

We only hope that he gets to play another cracker on Sunday, no matter the result.

WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE.....

As the sisters of Wallaby prop Scott Sio and daughters of former Samoan international David Sio, it was surely written in the stars that Tina and Ana Sio would follow their family's footsteps into rugby.

The twin sisters, 22, are set to be named in the Waratahs' squad for the opening match of the inaugural Super W season at Suncorp Stadium next Saturday.

But Tina, a prop, and Ana, a lock, revealed they had a battle on their hands convincing their mother that their place was also on a rugby field, alongside their father and brothers.

"My mum was actually the one who didn't want us to play. My dad, as a rugby player, was really supportive," Tina told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"We're trying to grow it in the Samoan culture, but back when my mum was growing up rugby wasn't a sport for females to play, she still had that stigma," Ana added. "There was a lot of resistance at first but she's come around."

The Sio girls played basketball instead, and made state level before looking for a new challenge while they were at university. They did not have to look far.

"The big thing was watching Scott's success, and also looking at the women's sevens kicking off, big profiles like Ellia Green and people like Charlotte Caslick really making an impact, made me want to play the sport.”

With women’s rugby on the rise throughout the world we can’t wait for the day South Africa puts out a competitive XVs squad. One thing we’ll definitely need is role models like Tina and Ana.

Does anyone know of a Springbok or two who had a little sister play along in the backyard?

AG MAN MOENIE MOAN NIE, EET JOU KAAS EN JOU POLONY

The Lions last week surprised the media when they prepared a lunch before their team announcement made entirely out of cold meat sandwiches.

Given the news about the listeriosis outbreak a day before, the media was hesitant to get stuck into the spread, with many giving it a wide berth while muttering the words “polony” as they slinked off to prepare their questions ahead of the conference.

But kudos to the Lions, they immediately sent out an email afterwards from their caterers confirming that the meat they used was not part of a contaminated factory and was in fact, perfectly safe.

As if to back it up, their lunch ahead of their Saturday game against the Blues was footlong hotdogs, along with a printed letter that they were all safe to eat. The journos, being creatures of habit, were a little less circumspect this time round. And yeah, they were delicious.

SHOOTING BLANKS

Johan Goosen’s decision to return to training ahead of his return to Top14 action with Montpellier has raised a few eyebrows.

Goosen will train with the Cheetahs ahead of his return to pro rugby, something that was abruptly ended by his own decision to 'retire' after a fall out with his club in France, Racing Metro. Goosen’s contract was eventually bought out by Montpellier, and he now can return to club action.

The Cheetahs were so happy to welcome him back that they even sent out a press release about the excitement in Bloemfontein.

Given Goosen’s time on his farm since 'retiring’ also involved a shooting accident, would it be unfair of us to suggest that the Cheetahs were jumping the gun a bit?

BISMARCK BULLIED

Bismarck du Plessis provided one of the stranger videos on social media this week when he was caught taking blows in a bust up with a team-mate during his side’s warm up ahead of their game against Racing Metro on Saturday.

Jan Serfontein scored twice as Montpellier won and Du Plessis played on, although there has been no word on what caused the bust-up or whether the two were arguing about their favourite boerewors recipes when it happened.

Just another day in the French league it seems.



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