Most sports fans probably have their favourite sporting memory as one where their team dramatically comes from behind to claim the unlikeliest of victories.
Of course, for each of these cases there are nine other heart-breaking times where your team is either on the receiving end of such a late revitalisation (often leading to either the dog or the television set being on the receiving end of your disappointment) or time their final sprint down the home straight to victory a touch too late and fall agonisingly short. In the case of the Lions in Brisbane it was the last mentioned.
The thing about an unsuccessful late comeback is that it often just contributes to the frustration as one was given a glimpse of what the team can dish up yet didn’t produce for most of the contest. The Lions pack hasn’t been bullied often over the last few seasons and it came as a huge shock to see an Aussie frontrow (okay technically it was a Saffa in the opponent’s red who made the biggest difference) be the ones to crack the 2016 and 2017 runners-up.
Trailing 24-0 at the break the Lions came home like they were late for the last boat back to civilisation (or being chased by Johan Ackerman with a sambok in hand) but unfortunately the Jo burgers just ran out of time. With two games to go against Kiwi opposition it will be interesting to see how Swys’ chargers respond to this poor effort.
The two top title contenders remain the Hurricanes and the Crusaders. The Canes looked about as enthused as a dad playing catch in the backyard with hislaaitie, who clearly exhibited little to zero ball sense. The Canes only stiffened their sails for the final few minutes as they chalked up three scores in the last 7 minutes to show that they clearly had another gear or three left un-engaged on the day.
The Saders started efficiently enough but seemed to seize and struggle home like my 1300cc four-gear Toyota Tazz trying to clear Sit Louwry’s pass. Not that the Brumbies deserve to be likened to a mountain of any kind, in terms of an obstacle to overcome their current levels leaves them hardly more significant than a speedhump. The second half of rugby produced in Canberra was pathetic from both sides with neither team able to add anything to the scoreboard.
In pouring rain that turned the game in Auckland into a wrestling match a young Blues side was always going to find it tough barking with the big dogs when it comes to close quarter combat (aka rugby thuggery). Behind a rampant scrum the South Americans were able to grind their opponents down to notch up their first ever victory on Kiwi soil. And so Tana Umaga’s team is still left peeing like a puppy.
Rain finally decided to make an appearance in Cape Town on Friday and the home team were so happy with this that they, in patches, delivered some of their best rugby of the last month. The Stormers fumbled the ball five times in the opening quarter of an hour but after Damian de Allende left Jack Debreczeni for roadkill midway through the half the game was always in the hands of the Capetonians and it was just a case of how far they could streak clear. Far from the finished product Fleckie’s folk still left plenty of opportunities out on the park, but will take the home win and set their sights on the looming derby with the Bulls coming up next weekend.
Talking of the Bulls, Mitch’s men surprised me in that they not only physically dominated the game up front but bossed the tactical aspect as well. Enjoying a 70% territorial advantage the Bulls did well to curb their new-found confidence with the running game and preferred to keep things tighter and more physical and it so nearly paid the ultimate dividends. The Highlanders were more fortunate than a leprechaun on St Patrick’s Day at the end of a rainbow to come away with a win in a game that they were well and truly shutout of in all aspects barring defence and perhaps sheer guts and determination.
At the conclusion of the contest Ben Smith revealed that Lima Sapoaga had stepped up after the final penalty was awarded and told he’s skipper “I’ve got this”. And perhaps that is exactly the difference between the Kiwis and the rest at this stage. These blokes enjoy the battle and relish the situation where they are called upon to pull something out of the bag to swing the game. In comparison one feels the Saffas often take a step back and become indecisive and uncertain in times of crises, or “chaos as John Mitchell referred to about 100 times during the week. But I suppose it could be worse because in these same key moments the Aussies of the past season or two have not been either brave or tentative – they just plain shit the bed in these instances as 37 straight losses to Kiwi opponents in Super Rugby so glaringly shows.
MadoshTambe is an incredible emerging talent but the young Lions’ speedster produced a facepalm moment when he ran back to recover a ball that was grubbered through by the Reds. As Tambe grasped the ball from the air – after bouncing five times – he stuck his hand up seemingly trying to claim a “mark”. Eish!
Personally, my favourite part of the Super Rugby weekend was how the fatties upfront took back the limelight - to where it belongs of course. Kitshoff was immense for the Stormers and JP Smith ensured his Reds team had the Lions scrum under pressure. The Jags also pulled off an upset thanks to their front row taking charge.
The big beefy ones continued to shine in the form of the Bulls duo of Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka. Trevor has taken quite a bit of criticism (yes some from yours truly as well) but his technique at tighthead is improving and clearly he is fitter than he has ever been. Gqoboka is a future star who is great with ball in hand, looks to get involved at the tackle and is strong as an ox in the scrums. Get your suit measurements done and passports ready boys, Rassie will be calling shortly!
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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