Round 14 was into a weekend of upsets – the SuperBru community had its worst round of the season, averaging less than 30%. But don’t let these unexpected results take anything away from the grit and determination shown by the underdogs.
Regrettably the Hurricanes dropped the ball in Wellington. Their inability to breach the Highlanders’ impressive defensive line saw them slump to a 16-18 defeat, one that they can ill-afford at this stage of the competition. Saturday’s action kicked off with a cracker in Christchurch where, against all the odds, the Sharks managed to make history by beating the Crusaders 25-30 while being outnumbered for most of the match.
We then saw the TMO intervene to practically gift the Rebels a 27-30 win over the Reds in Brisbane, bringing about a public dig at the officials by Queensland captain James Horwill. At Newlands nearly three hundred tackles were completed between the Stormers and Western Force, but on this occasion the visitors’ accuracy failed them and the hosts managed to overpower them for a much needed 24-8 conquest, putting a dent in the tourists’ finals hopes.
One of the biggest surprises played out in Bloemfontein where the Cheetahs bounced back nicely from their loss the previous weekend to overthrow the conference-leading Brumbies with a thrilling 27-21 victory. And on Sunday we saw the Waratahs put in a strong, yet imperfect, performance for a 41-13 triumph over the error-ridden Lions.
Game of the Week: Crusaders v Sharks
At the risk of hyperbole, in my mind the clash between the Crusaders and Sharks will go down in history as one of the greatest matches ever played. The majority of punters, myself included, backed the Red and Blacks to jump to the top of the overall log. Unfortunately the seven time champions didn’t take into account the visitors’ desire to rewrite the record books.
When Sharks’ flanker Jean Deysel was sent off in the seventeenth minute for stamping on a head, I thought the Crusaders had the game in the bag – sadly so did they. In the words of captain Bismarck du Plessis, that red card was the best thing that could’ve happened for his team, it pulled the guys together and served as a thorough wake-up call.
By touching down early in each half and through a much improved goal kicking performance, the Sharks ensured that they stayed ahead on the scoreboard for most of the match. With five minutes left on the clock, replacement hooker Kyle Cooper crashed over the line, Tim Swiel converted the try and with a five point cushion, all they had to do was prevent their hosts from breaching their defence.
I’ve had very little praise for the Sharks, but on Saturday they genuinely impressed me. It has been thirteen years since a South African side had success in Christchurch, and they showed great character and big match temperament to bring their decorated opponents’ five match winning streak to an abrupt end.
Player of the Weekend: Johan Goosen (Cheetahs)
There were a number of players that produced magnificent performances this past weekend. Waratahs winger Rob Horne very nearly scored a hat-trick, Highlanders midfielder Malakai Fekitoa prevented at least three tries through superb defence and the Free State farm boy Boom Prinsloo again played his heart out – so the Cheetah flyhalf’s nomination might come as a bit of a surprise. I just felt that the wunderkind at last displayed the form that earned him Springbok selection last year. He had a fantastic day at the office, putting points on the board in every conceivable way and his kicking was outstanding. I have no doubt that it was his performance that put the Cheetahs on the front foot, lifting his team to punch above their weight and beat the Brumbies.
Try of the Week
This weekend wasn’t exactly with breathtaking tries, but we got our fair share of entertainment. The Waratahs displayed some deft touches and powerful running that rewarded Kurtley Bealy and Ron Horne with five-pointers, but the try that will forever be etched in the mind was when Sharks substitute Kyle Cooper spotted a gaping hole behind a ruck only metres away from the try line and proceeded to worm his way through three Crusader defenders to score the try that won them the match.
Big Hit of the Week
Waratahs man mountain Will Skelton did a Jonah Lomu vs Mike Catt straight over Faf de Klerk and Cheetahs Rayno Benjamin smashed the daylights out of Christian Lealiifano, but the hit that keeps popping into my mind occurred during the Stormers-Force clash at Newlands. Cape Town pocket rocket Cheslin Kolbe chased an up and under which was caught by Patrick Dellit and in an attempt to sidestep his opponent, the Force winger slipped slightly and Kolbe picked up and carried a man nearly twice his size, thumping him into the ground behind the advantage line. It was the epitome of the aggressive manner in which the Stormers defended their pride.
Team of the Week
15. Israel Folau (Waratahs)
14. Tom Kingston (Rebels)
13. Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders)
12. Mitch Inman (Rebels)
11. Rob Horne (Waratahs)
10. Bernard Foley (Waratahs)
9. Luke Burgess (Rebels)
8. Boom Prinsloo (Cheetahs)
7. Shane Christie (Highlanders)
6. Matt Hodgson (Force)
5. Joe Wheeler (Highlanders)
4. Ruan Botha (Stormers)
3. Pat Cilliers (Stormers)
2. Deon Fourie (Stormers)
1. Kane Hames (Highlanders)
By Jackie Smit (@JackieSmit1)