The Cheetahs and Kings swopped their local Zamalek for the Heineken Pro14 but were unfortunately left crying in their beer.
On the local front the Bulls are still pathetic, the Lions a shadow of their Super Rugby selves and the Free State Cheetahs are fielding anyone with a set of togs and Gilbert shorts in the vicinity of Bloemfontein with their top lot having travelled to Belfast.
There were two victories for the Sharks over the Cheetahs during the weekend. First the likes of Jean Deysel, Marcel Coetzee and WiehahnHerbst (all 50-plus capped ex Sharks) showed that the men from the Free State were still a touch out of their depth in the European competition as Ulster comfortably had the better of Rory Duncan’s side. Then in Durban the Sharks had much too much fire power for a third-choice Cheetah XV.
Coetzee, Deysel and Herbst were all instrumental as the Ulster forward dominated their Southern Hemisphere opponents. With their pack struggling the Cheetah backline had little hope of firing on all cylinders. The Free Staters were also sorely missing Francois Venter and Niel Marais in midfield. It sounds strange to say that South African team had the fleet footed backs but were physically overpowered by their English counterparts both in terms of defence and abrasive ball carries. Once the softening up was done (Deysel led this charge) Charles Piutau and Tommy Bowe were left to enjoy themselves.
There was little to take from the Durban clash except the performance of SibusisoNkosi. I’ve mentioned before that he is a player to watch and the Sharks winger was immense yet again. The physical attributes of power and pace he clearly has but his handling is also good and the youngster seems to have a good feeling for the game as well – as his try scoring exploits show. He better start putting in the hours to master the high ball and focus on making his defensive capabilities a strong point as these are critical aspects at the highest level and I have a strong feeling that next level is just around the corner.
It was hardly the ideal build-up for the Kings. A number of their star Super Rugby players had moved on to greener pastures and they were always going to be up against it as they made their debut in Europe. To make matters worse they drew the short straw as they had to face the defending champions in the opening round. Despite a gutsy first half performance the short straw quickly turned into a long stick as the men from the Eastern Cape eventually picked up a bit of a caning at the hands of the Scarlets. With the talent at their disposal and limited preparation time one fears that the Kings might not prove to be the best case study with regard to the possible success or failure of SA teams in this Northern Hemisphere competition.
Back on home turf little changed for the Blue Bulls in the space of a week. They got themselves 20 points clear but in the end only narrowly overcame the visiting Griquas. John Mitchell might be renowned as someone who preaches the gospel of attacking play but over the past fortnight his Bulls chargers have let in a humiliating 14 tries – and this against the “lesser” powers of the Pumas and Griquas.
One of my favourite social media posters reads: “You might think you are champagne in a flute but instead you are just luke-warm piss in plastic cup”. Now don’t get me wrong; Mitchell’s success or failure at the Bulls will hardly determine his legacy (his résumé speaks for itself) but whilst he might be likened to champagne in terms of his rugby knowledge and creative philosophy I fear that there might only be blikbekersto his disposal at Loftus at the moment and certainly not any crystal glassware. Good luck teaching these boys how to tackle John!
The Lions were able to chalk up only their second win of the season but it was another struggle for Swys de Bruin’s young cubs. The home side spent the final ten minutes hanging on to their one point advantage. They could easily have done it a tad more convincingly but inexcusably four lineouts within ten meters of the Puma line were cocked up by the home side in the space of the final fifteen minutes. Worryingly for the Super Rugby finalists these mistakes crept in at the hands of experienced men in the form of Ryan Kankowski and in particular Robbie Coetzee and AndriesFerreira.
Success unfortunately brings its own challenges. The Lions now have a large contingent of their players playing for the Boks. And apart from this in an effort to keep the continuity in their Super Rugby squad they have “allowed” a number of their stars to take up Japanese contracts. Currie Cup success is not something they have planned for and nor will they be achieving it any time soon with their current set-up.
The only moan I have this week starts with a compliment. SuperSport deserves credit for securing us the opportunity to watch the Pro14. At the same time one wonders why they bother to give us the NRC from Aus as there can surely not be anyone who wants to watch that rubbish.
Next week we wait to see what the Boks will be able to produce Down Under whilst the yet unknown path of the Pro14 journey for the Kings and Cheetahs continues. It promises to be another weekend of quality couch surfing.
Who is Couch Critic?
Hein Diemont is the resident “Couch Critic” in the Goodforthegame Forum and he shares his weekly Super Rugby Blog the “Post Match Scuffle” or “PMS” with us.
In his blog Couch Critic channels his usual weekend swearing, ranting, cheering, whinging and bickering to the written word. Brutally honest opinions of how the Super Rugby action went down from his perspective – no punches pulled, it’s PMS time…
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