Heinz Schenk
3 minute read
10 Apr 2018
6:50 pm

Super Rugby report card: It’s not so nice to look at…

Heinz Schenk

With the exception of the Lions, it's been a fairly depressing first eight weeks of Super Rugby for South Africa.

Lukhanyo Am has been a standout player for the Sharks. / AFP PHOTO / Marty MELVILLE

As the Lions and Stormers take a breather after eight weeks’ straight competition and the Bulls and Sharks embark on the part of their campaigns that’s predominantly home-based, it’s perhaps apt to take stock of South Africa’s 2018 Super Rugby campaign to date.

However, despite the optimism of a new Springbok coach in Rassie Erasmus, there hasn’t been much to cheer about in this year’s campaign.

Here’s how South Africa’s four participants have performed.

LIONS

Log position: 1st overall, 1st in South African conference (25 points)

Leading points scorer: Elton Jantjies (78)

Leading try scorers: Madosh Tambwe, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Malcolm Marx (5)

What’s gone right:

The Lions’ log position isn’t really much of a surprise given the continuity within their ranks.

This is a team that knows its game out-and-out but it’s been really important that a few rookie members such as wingers Aphiwe Dyantyi and Madosh Tambwe find their feet and perform.

They are the future of the franchise.

What’s gone wrong:

While there’s been improvement the past two weeks, the Lions struggled to implement their defensive system under new specialist coach Joey Mongalo.

They’ve already conceded five more tries than the whole of 2017.

The suspicion also persists that they don’t have a Plan B in terms of a game-plan.

SHARKS

Log position: 9th overall, 2nd in South African conference (14 points)

Leading points scorer: Robert du Preez (100)

Leading try scorer: Lukhanyo Am (4)

What’s gone right:

The Sharks have found a viable and extremely effective way of playing the past two weeks – by continuing to be pragmatic.

That’s been their strength under coach Robert du Preez and they’ve now added a string to that bow by gradually becoming more effective on attack under Dick Muir’s guidance.

What’s gone wrong:

The fact that they didn’t realise the above earlier.

The Sharks stumbled in the opening weeks, seemingly trying to play too expansively and leaving too many opportunities unused.

It might still bite them later on.

STORMERS

Log position: 11th overall, 3rd in South African conference (13 points)

Leading points scorer: Damian Willemse (60)

Leading try scorers: Wilco Louw and Raymond Rhule (3)

What’s gone right:

Damian de Allende is starting to look like an international centre again and the Stormers tight five can certainly hold its own when it wants to.

What’s gone wrong:

The Stormers are making too many tackles – and missing too much of them – and can’t seem to get the best out of numerous senior players.

There are also whispers of too many coaches trying to actually coach the team.

BULLS

Log position: 12th overall, 4th in South African conference (9 points)

Leading points scorer: Handre Pollard (40)

Leading try scorers: Adriaan Strauss and Johnny Kotze (3)

What’s gone right:

This team looks like it’s being coached and has upped its skill levels. Various Springboks like Jesse Kriel, Lood de Jager and Handre Pollard are seemingly becoming better players instead of stagnating.

What’s gone wrong:

There have been growth pains … a lot of them! The continued uncertain state of the franchise’s finances could become a distraction.

ALSO READ:

https://citizen.co.za/sport/south-africa-sport/sa-rugby-sport/super-rugby/1888331/super-rugby-team-of-the-week-roaring-time-for-lions/

For more sport your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.