Flyhalves I am not fond of get exposed defensively in a particularly embarrassing manner edition.
Ratings for the games:
Highlanders Bulls: 7/10
Reds Blues: 4/10
Crusaders Rebels: 3/10
Waratahs Brumbies: 5/10
Lions Hurricanes: 5/10
Stormers Sunwolves: 4/10
Jaguares Sharks: 4/10
Highlanders 24 – Bulls 24: Two ties in two weeks for the Bulls. Pollard back a boon for the Bulls, and Waisake Naholo’s return has been great for the Landers. Bulls have an outside shot of missing the playoffs, while the Highlanders need some help. Neither team seems especially frightening to the top seeds, though. Good rugby and an exciting finish, as ties often are.
Reds 29 – Blues 28: I am a little sad to rate the battle of the primary colors so poorly, but alas this game was bad. An exciting finish to send Samu Kerevi off from Suncorp in style. Neither of these teams will make the playoffs. The Reds will lose their clear best player next year in Kerevi. Petaia has some large shoes to fill. Blues, for their part, have some returning talent but no answers to questions that have plagued them in the halves. Augustine Pulu went well at halfback, in fairness.
Crusaders 66 – Rebels 0: A bagel. A donut. Zero. This is, undoubtedly, the nadir of the Rebels’s season so far. Losing to the Crusaders happens. In fact, it happens to most teams who play them. Losing at the Crusaders, even more so. But scoring zero is quite unusual, and giving up 66 also well outside the ordinary. Doing both at the same time? Downright historic. Only two other shutouts this year, both the clear bottom of the table Sunwolves. Not the company one would like to keep. Saders run in 10 tries and deliver the hiding of a lifetime to a Rebels team that once envisioned winning the Oz conference. Next up they have a date with the Chiefs who just beat those same Crusaders and are looking to book their own finals tickets.
Waratahs 24 – Brumbies 35: Brumbies imperious in a not close game whose scoreline still flattered the losing Waratahs. In reference to today’s title, Bernard Foley was bumped off, on his own five meter line, by a small (84kg) wing coming from a standing start (Andy Muirhead). Great stuff! The Brumbies were just better in this one and are clear of the pack in Oz, locking in the division and a home quarterfinal. Tahs need to win next week against the Highlanders, and some help after that, to make the playoffs.
Lions 17 – Hurricanes 37: Pretty close at half time, this one got out of hand once Hurricanes hooker winger Dane Coles came on late to score a brace of tries. Speaking of late additions, time to refer to the title again. Ardie Savea, also from the Canes bench, delivered a Justin Marshall worthy BOOMFAH to Elton Jantjies, who was sent rolling backward and unable to stop the try that followed. Again, great stuff! For his part, Jantjies did have an incisive run and deft pass to set up Aphiwe Dyanti’s second try. Speaking of, Dyanti had himself a blinder of a game. In addition to that one, he scored a solo effort chipping while under pressure and gathering an (admittedly lucky) bounce to dot down under the posts. Hurricanes are through to the quarterfinals. Lions play the Bulls who are already in but are now without Kwagga Smith. A win does it for the Johannesburgers.
Stormers 31 – Sunwolves 18: This was not a great game for Stormers fans. Yes, they did win, but they did so in unconvincing fashion against a Tokyo side that has apparently been checked out for over a month. When will teams learn to stop kicking to Semisi Masirewa? It does not go well for the kicking team! Makes for fun watching though. Stormers need a win to be in. Sunwolves play the Jags in a game that has no playoff relevance.
Jaguares 34 – Sharks 7: Jaguares form continues to build and the Sharks’ deteriorates. This one was never a contest. The Jaguares have locked up the South African conference for the first time in history, and it must be said that they look to be a real non-Crusaders contender this year. They will have a home quarterfinal. The Sharks need to win against the Stormers, who also need to win. Neither team has been in scintillating form of late, though desperation could inspire some end of season heroics.
The Final Whistle: The top four teams are locked in, and a full eight teams contend for the last four finals slots. Only two (the Highlanders, the Waratahs, who conveniently play each other) need help, whereas the remainder can control their own destiny. Intrigue to the death in this year’s edition of Super Rugby! Check in next week to see how it shakes out and peek into the first round of finals footy.