The opening game of Round 9 saw the Bulls try their best to bounce back from their maiden tour loss to the Hurricanes, but despite a good start, they again faded and the Highlanders triumphed more comfortably than the 27-20 final score reads. Revenge was sweet for the Brumbies as they methodically disabled the Reds in Queensland for a 20-23 away victory.
The Chiefs, after a relatively successful trip to Africa, were made to work very hard for their 22-16 win against the hot and cold Rebels in their first game back in Hamilton. Over in Perth the fairytale continued as the Force schooled the Waratahs, the surprising 28-16 victory their fifth in a row as they continue to climb the ladder.
With a quarter of the match to go the Cheetahs dotted down their fourth try and got themselves ahead, on the verge of making history, but then they completely lost their composure, conceded four tries in the last twenty minutes and succumbed to a 31-52 lashing at the hands of the Crusaders. After all the publicity surrounding the match between the glorified Sharks and left-field Lions, the Ellis Park fixture was spoiled by back chatting debates with the referee and riddled with errors. When the final whistle blew the Sharks might’ve been ahead 12-23, but there really were no winners at the end of this ill-disciplined encounter.
Game of the Week: Force 28 – 16 Waratahs
As with the Cheetahs in 2013, I suspect everybody is secretly rooting for the Force this season. I mean, who doesn’t like a rags to riches story? The team from Western Australia has almost no current international players, they enter just about every match wearing the underdog tag, yet they’ve now recorded five consecutive wins, more than any other team this season. Keep ignoring that at your own peril – my SuperBru stats are on the rise because I stopped underestimating them weeks ago.
Week after week the losing captain blames his team’s defeat on a lack of this or a lack of that – the bottom line is that they have no answers for the patience the Force show in defence. Whilst the Waratahs had the lion’s share of possession and were camped in the Force’s half of the field for large swathes of the game, they simply couldn’t breach the Sea of Blue’s line. Truth be told the Force just don’t allow any team to manipulate them. Their blueprint to success lies in the fact that they focus on doing the basics right, hard work and determination.
Player of the Weekend: Nick Cummins
Nick Cummins has YouTube ablaze with his post-match interviews, but he did most of his talking on the field this weekend, bagging three tries as he rendered the sons of Sydney speechless. The man widely known as the Honey Badger picked up a new nickname this weekend as commentators started referring to him as the Road Runner. Sporting a 1970’s headband combined with the most exasperated facial expressions you’ll ever see, his rambling dialogue has gone viral.
All that aside, Cummins scored three brilliant tries, two of involving length of the field sprints, showing a clean pair of heels – any one of his five-pointers are worthy of Try of the Week. But not only was Cummins the star of the Force offence, he made a few solid tackles as well, one particularly smashing hit on Waratahs fullback Jono Lance caught my eye, therefore he also bags Big Hit of the Week, completing a clean sweep of the awards.
Team of the Week
15. Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks)
14. Joe Tomane (Brumbies)
13. Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders)
12. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs)
11. Nick Cummins (Force)
10. Coli Slade (Crusaders)
9. Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs)
8. Kieren Read (Crusaders)
7. Ed Quirk (Reds)
6. Matt Todd (Crusaders)
5. Luke Jones (Rebels)
4. Mike Fitzgerald (Chiefs)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)
1. Dean Greyling (Bulls)
By Jackie Smit (@JackieSmit1)