Very few punters had a good night’s rest after two shocking results rocked the Super Rugby world on Friday. The Crusaders are taking much longer than usual to find their rhythm and relentless attacking, and they went down 26-29 in Christchurch against the Hurricanes. We then headed to Melbourne where this time the Rebels were cooking, producing perhaps the biggest upset of the weekend as they handed the Brumbies a 32-24 defeat.
The Blues swiftly dealt with the Highlanders, scoring three tries to none, the final score of 30-12 a mere formality in the end and then, for the fourth time on their tour, the inept Stormers lost a game they had every opportunity of winning, allowing the Reds to walk away with a narrow 22-17 win.
Over in Pretoria it looked for all money like the Bulls had the game in the bag as they constructed a 16-point lead, but they lost their composure and the Chiefs capitalised in emphatic style, bringing proceedings to a 34-all draw as the final whistle blew. By this time I was zero from five and simply wished to at least be entertained by the round’s concluding match-up as two of the more exciting teams went head to head in Durban. Sadly the show in the Shark Tank was full of niggles and off the ball stuff, riddles with fumbles and eventually, through the boot of Fred Zeilinga and superior power up front, the Durbanites recorded a very misleading 32-10 victory over the abnormally uninspiring Waratahs.
Game of the Week: Bulls v Chiefs
This season is bound to go down to the wire – never before have there been so many unpredictable results. A quick look at the log will reveal that only five points separate teams two through ten, and as if to emphasise just how close things are at this stage, Loftus delivered the first draw of the season.
The Chiefs did the early running, scoring two well-worked tries before the Bulls smothered the life out of them through dominating forward play. A textbook driving maul took flanker Deon Stegmann over the line and a short while later that very same tactic earned them a penalty try. Five minutes later a defensive error allowed Bjorn Basson to finally open his account and the way things were going one would’ve been hard pushed to find anyone still thinking the visitors would break their Pretoria hex. Enter Gareth Anscombe. His presence sparked life into the Chiefs’ backline and one could sense the momentum shift. The Loftus faithful were stunned to silence as the visitors scored three tries in ten minutes to even out the scoreboard.
Player of the Weekend: Jason Woodward (Rebels)
All was going to plan for the Brumbies as they shot out of the blocks and stormed to a two-try lead, but the Rebels fullback had other ideas when the teams took to the field for the second stanza of their Australian derby. Whatever was said in the locker room at half time, nobody took it more seriously than Woodward. Apart from his flawless performance off the tee, he was suddenly full of running, threatening with every touch of the ball and it was quite poetic that his try got their noses ahead for the first time in the match and they simply refused to give up that lead.
I must take a moment here to add that if I was able to nominate an official for this award, it would have gone to South African referee Craig Joubert. In the midst of all the controversial decisions overshadowing this tournament, he delivered a performance that truly deserves to be acknowledged.
Try of the Week
There weren’t that many tries scored in Round 7, but amongst the few were some spectacular ones. Both of the Hurricanes wingers dotted down through brilliant individual efforts, but rugby is a team sport and therefore my pick of the week goes to a team effort. The Chiefs got themselves right back into the game when Tim Nanai-Williams broke the line from inside his own 22, the ball then moved back and forth between the support runners and eventually Gareth Anscombe stepped inside two defenders to cross the whitewash.
Big Hit of the Week
This week yielded more than enough solid hits, but the tackle that sticks in my mind occurred during the final match on Saturday. Maybe it stands out because of the extreme overkill or perhaps the fact that such a dangerous tackle was punished so mildly. A slight fumble and regather caused Kurtley Beale to be caught in possession and even though Frans Steyn had ample time to pull out, he followed through and catapulted his opposite number into the unforgiving turf. Steyn did receive an off-field yellow card, but should consider himself very fortunate to have escaped a suspension.
Team of the Week
15. Jason Woodward (Rebels)
14. Alapati Leiua (Hurricanes)
13. Andrew Horrell (Chiefs)
12. Mitch Inman (Rebels)
11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes)
10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)
9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
8. Nazi Manu (Highlanders)
7. Faifili Levave (Hurricanes)
6. Luke Braid (Blues)
5. Luke Jones (Rebels)
4. Willem Alberts (Sharks)
3. Chris King (Highlanders)
2. James Hanson (Reds)
1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders)
By Jackie Smit (@JackieSmit1)