8th – 10th March:
All in all another weekend of surprising results. With all 5 SA teams in action for round 4, we can at least celebrate 4 wins. It is hard to predict a weekend like the one gone by when you have the Cheetahs thrashing the Highlanders, the Kings keeping the Sharks tryless, the Bulls thumping the Blues in a scoreline that does more to flatter the Home team than the Bulls, then of course, the Stormers finally getting their play back together to grind out a hard-fought victory against the Chiefs.
As far as pre-game predictions go, I predicted that the Chiefs with their superior attack and solid defence would walk away the victors at Newlands. While I may have been wrong about who the winner would be, I did however point out that the Stormers had the class to turn things around, I also said that the match would be won and lost in the first half and whoever led the game at half time would go on to grind out the victory. Truer words had never been spoken. Home town hero Gio scored a double on the day, the 2nd a fortuitous try thanks to a very ill-timed grubber by the Chiefs which was blocked football style, toed back and with Gio chasing in space, there was always going to be one outcome. As it turns out, that ended up being the lucky moment of magic for the Stormers that enabled them to grind out a 36 – 34 win.
How fickle their fans are though, demonizing them and speaking of how the world is coming to an end. Then you look at the news headlines and read comments on all the blogs afterwards and suddenly their opening 2 losses were “planned”. Before I get lambasted for being overly critical of Stormers fans, I’d like to point out that it is not directed at all of you, but that portion that loves their team when they win but can’t stand when they lose. You must support your team win or lose, that is how you support your team. All I can really say is, Welcome back Stormers. Good to see you again. The reality is that an opening draw pitting them against 3 of the toughest teams in the competition, 2 of which were away derbies at Loftus and Kings Park was always going to be a tough ask. I think what caught most fans off guard was the manner in which the team played in both those losing encounters. Stormers back at possibly one of the most intimidating home venues in the competition, supported by a home crowd happy to have their team back at home gave them that extra 5% that home ground advantage offers, to hold on for their first win of the season. The downside is that their win has cost them their star winger Bryan Habana for at least 10 weeks, and should he make a return back to Super Rugby, it will in all likelihood be for the playoffs. Lets hope Juan and Jaco recover soon, I well enoy watching those 2 play.
There can be much said about the Kings vs. Sharks game, but before I delve too deeply, I think John Plumtree said it best with this gem:
“I don’t want to do the Kings any injustice. They were outstanding in defence. I didn’t think we would run away with it coming down here because Super Rugby is tough and the Kings have a point to prove. They have some proud guys in their team, so let’s give them some credit; we were pretty poor, but they were up for it.”
Keeping the Sharks tryless is a mean feat. There are some talking points regarding Jason Jaftha’s handling of the match, I for one thought Sharks deserved a penalty try early in the 1st half, too many resets on the try line, that was a no brainer. He is a good ref, but failing to award the Sharks that try makes you wonder about his BMT as a ref to make the big calls. Also, would getting that try have opened the floodgates? I also think that when Jean Deysel came off, Botes was a stand out in replacing him, but at the same time the Sharks lacked that go forward ball that he creates. A few years ago I met Schalk Burger Senior when he hosted a private wine tasting of his wines, when he introduced himself he said, “Hi, I’m Schalk Burger, or rather I used to be”. The reason why I am telling you this is because of what I always say about Jean Deysel. Jean Deysel used to be Willem Alberts before his knee injury put the “Bone Collector” in the limelight. It remains to be seen how serious the injury on Saturday is.
Then we have the Highlanders vs. the Cheetahs. Diabolical I say! As South African’s we know not to take the Cheetahs lightly. Ever. The Cheetahs are a team with very fickle cogs, but when those cogs work in unison, their high tempo running game will run you off your feet and before you know it they have 30 points on the board. I don’t like to get things wrong, I’m pretty sure nobody does, but this time I am happy to do so. Much the same as everyone else watching the Cheetahs win in such dominating fashion shows that their first half against the Chiefs was perhaps no fluke and that they deserve more respect than what we give them. The only question is the same one that accompanies every one of their big wins, can they do it again? This weekend they play the Waratahs, the very same team and venue that they won at last year. So here’s hoping they can keep their good work up.
The the final match of the weekend, judging by the selections in my 7 various Superbru pools, not many gave the Bulls a chance against the Blues and why should we have. The Blues looked fantastic in their first 2 games to get 5 pointers out of the Canes away and the Crusaders at home. Coach Kirwan took a heavy gamble by playing 6 debutants against a Bulls outfit that themselves had 7 changes to their starting lineup. There is however no substitute for experience. While I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn to watch the match, the joys of PVR, my later viewing of the match was very reminiscent of their opening match against the Stormers. The Bulls, playing with the right attitude and going hell for leather from the first whistle simply ambushed the Blues in a brilliant display of what SA teams can do when they combine forwards rugby with inventive back play.
We pride ourselves on our defence and always think of attacking second. Safety first some might say, but when we keep ball in hand it shows how good we can be to punish the fragile defences of Kiwi teams. The Stormers on Saturday looked like every time they got their hands on the ball that they were going to score, so why can’t it be like this every weekend? They and the rest of our teams absolutely have the right stuff to make it happen. A mate of mine this weekend spoke of a Sharks team so focused on defending that they forgot to attack, while this does ring true for that match, it can be applied to the rest of our teams. If we can desist with the kick and chase, keep ball in hand, and give our backs the chance to run, the rewards will be many tries.
|10||Blues||21 – 28||Bulls||Auckland|
|9||Kings||12 – 21||Sharks||PE|
|9||Stormers||36 – 34||Chiefs||Cape Town|
|9||Brumbies||35 – 6||Waratahs||Canberra|
|9||Highlanders||36 – 19||Cheetahs||Dunedin|
|8||Hurricanes||29 – 28||Crusaders||Wellington|
|8||Rebels||13 – 23||Reds||Melbourne|
The Proteas, as curious a conundrum as any. Dominate the one game, dominated the next. Their win yesterday was every bit vintage Proteas winning their opening ODI against Pakistan by 125 runs. Colin Ingram’s 105 off 104 balls was studded with 10 fours and formed the backbone of South Africa’s total of 315-4. Pakistan’s batting woes continued on the tour with Kleinveldt and Ryan McLaren combining well to dismiss the visitors for 190. South Africa’s ODI captain AB de Villiers also made a handy 65 off 63 balls and featured in the run-a-ball 120-run third wicket stand with Ingram, who reached his third ODI century in the last over of the innings. South Africa lead the series 1 – 0 with 4 more matches to go.
The Proteas are in fourth position on the ICC ODI rankings, but if they win the 5 match series against Pakistan with a whitewash, then they will win the ODI Shield, reclaim top spot on the ICC ODI rankings and a handsome approximate purse of R1.6 million in revenue. If the Proteas can win the series 4-1, then they will at least move ahead of England into second position and will then collect a purse of about R680 000. So good luck to them.
Their next Fixtures:
|15 March||South Africa v Pakistan||14:30||Supersport Park|
|17 March||South Africa v Pakistan||10:00||Wanderers|
|21 March||South Africa v Pakistan||10:00||Kingsmead|
|24 March||South Africa v Pakistan||10:00||Willowmoore|
Results from the RAMSLAM T20:
|08 March||Titans v Warriors||Warriors won by 12 runs|
|08 March||Dolphins v Knights||Dolphins won by 14 runs|
|08 March||Cape Cobras v Lions||Lions won by 5 wickets|
Liverpool’s 3 – 2 defeat has helped them climb into 6th on the overall EPL log, while Spurs will remain 2 points adrift of Man City who have a game in hand. A combination of good pressure late in the game allowed Liverpool to force Spurs into defensive lapses that helped them come from 2 – 1 down. My prediction was 2 – 1 or even 3 – 2 to Tottenham, who controlled large portions of the game looked on song to do just that. The 2nd goal had Hugo Lloris come off his line and he failed to clear the ball allowing Downing to slot the ball in the back of the net. With the game leveled at 2 – 2, both teams were pushing hard for the winner. The defining moment came when Assou-Ekotto shoulder charged Suarez in the box, enabling Gerrard to slot home the ensuing penalty in the bottom right hand corner.
Spurs finished the final 8 minutes of regulation and 3 minutes of added time going all out, but Liverpool defended very well flying into tackles and even looked to try and capitalize for a 4th goal. The full time whistle puts Suarez on 22 League goals while Bale stays at 16. Bale was however not absent from the game, he took 2 knocks to the head during the came, but luckily for Spurs he setup both of Jan Vertonghens goals with superb pin point crosses.
In FA Cup action, Man Utd will have to try to beat Chelsea in the 2nd leg of their FA Cup tie after giving up a 2 – 0 lead to draw the match 2 – 2. Late in the 2nd half Chelsea gained the ascendency in the match and Man Utd. nearly conceded a 3rd were it not for a great save by de Gea.
Carlos Tevez scored a hat-trick in Man City’s 5 – 0 routing of Barnsley and Everton sensationally were dumped out of the tournament by Wigan after conceding 3 goals in the space of 4 minutes. It was an incredible 4 minutes of play that they just never rebounded from. They spent the rest of the game chasing eventually going down 3 – 0.
That is my Weekend Wrap.
Look out for my Humdinger of the Weekend on Thursday, which includes Superbru predictions and key Fantasy League player selections.
Have a fantastic week!
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