Super Rugby Round 15 – by Jake Laux
Ratings for the games:
Chiefs Reds: 4/10
Brumbies Bulls: 6/10
Sunwolves Rebels: 3/10
Crusaders Blues: 6/10
Waratahs Jaguares: 6/10
Stormers Highlanders: 5/10
Sharks Lions: 7/10
Chiefs 19 – Reds 13: Reds dominant in all facets except scoreboard. Couple of weird try/no try decisions but did not really impact the outcome. Chiefs made 240-some tackles to the Reds’ 70 couple. Good result for the Chiefs defense, but they did not have to do much other than tackle one out runners. For their part, the Reds need more creativity in attack and Samu Kerevi’s absence exposed them. Not sure even Jordan Petaia will be able to replace that production after Kerevi departs. Sam Cane strong in his second game back from a broken neck. The slow burn suspense in the second act was nice I guess, but nothing really to write home about here.
Brumbies 22 – Bulls 10: BuT tHe BrUmBiEs OnLy ScOrE uSiNg ThE mAuL! Complainers can eat crow after this one, in which Tevita Kuridrani got a hat trick and no forwards scored for the Canberrans. Bulls asleep at the wheel after the big win last week vs Rebels. Expect a big win again next week in Auckland. Brumbies are the form team of the Oz conference and look truly dangerous even with Pocock officially retired from Super Rugby. Relatedly, RIP to the (second coming of the) king of the breakdown. Hope he is back for RWC, if for no other reasons than Pooper jokes and making Michael Cheika’s life harder. Handre Pollard dearly missed by the Bulls.
Sunwolves 7 – Rebels 52: The sun appears to be setting on the Japanese Super team not with a howl, but a whimper. Suffering some massively lopsided losses after a promising start, the end is mercifully in sight for the Tokyo side. Rebels spent last week absorbing the Bulls’ mojo and put it on display here. Probably should have saved some for their next three weeks, which include the Tahs, Crusaders, and Chiefs. They probably need two wins to make the finals.
Crusaders 19 – Blues 11: Saders really put on some spectacular touches here, particularly the Mo’unga grubber through to Crotty who put Bryn Hall comfortably away for the score. Mo’unga scored the rest of his team’s points from the tee. It is a far cry from the allegations he spat beer on a bar patron back in South Africa and the early season “out of form” hand wringing. Blues were ok I guess. Scoreline flattered them after a Reiko Ioane try that could have been called a knock.
Waratahs 15 – Jaguares 23: Jags now sit alone atop the SA conference with only the Reds, Sharks, and Sunwolves left to play. They are in scintillating form as well. Brilliant in attack, the Jaguares really put the Tahs through their paces. Kurtley Beale was personally responsible (on some level) for two of the Jags’ tries, including this wonderful piece of defense. I’m not saying Izzy Folau is a great defender, but he is also not that (whatever that was). You can actually see the confused expression after Beale flies into touch, as if to say “where’s the good stuff”?
Stormers 34 – Highlanders 22: Stormers really brought the pain in this one with their forwards dominant. Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is playing out of his mind and must be considered a top loose forward in a crowded field this year. Despite being the bottom of the SA table, the Stormers’ finals hopes remain alive. It is truly a league of parity over there. Landers’ playoff dreams are on life support but have not yet been put out of their misery. Good news for the All Blacks in Waisake Naholo’s return from injury yielding a try. Hershel Jantjies’s continuing blinding form helps or complicates Rassie Erasmus’s haflback decision for the Boks. Faf de Klerk seems nailed on, though he isn’t lighting the world on fire. Cobus Reinach, in career best form, looks likely to be the loser.
Sharks 27 – Lions 17: A bit of bobbling the ball aside, this was a pretty entertaining match. Two intercept tries tilted the table for the Durbanites. Curwin Bosch took the first one in and it must be said he is making a push for the Bok first five eighths jersey. Later on, Makazole Mapimpi intercepted Bosch’s flyhalf competitor Elton Jantjies and ran it 95m to put the Sharks out of reach. Jantjies did have a slick short ball to Mapoe for one of the Lions tries. Notable here was the penalty count in that it was not slanted by more than 5:1 for either team. Parity!
The Final Whistle:Each and every team in the SA conference would place third in the NZ conference. The Blues, at the boot of the NZ conference, would be third in the Oz conference. Of the Kiwi sides, only the Blues do not have at least one draw.