Currie Cup

Not a good weekend in the Currie Cup



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It was not a Currie Cup weekend to remember as the first round of this year’s competition drew to an end.

The Sharks took over the first place on the log and consigned Griquas to third place with their 41-6 drubbing of the Kimberley side; the Lions fought back to bring some excitement to a dour clash at Newlands before losing 25-20 to Western Province; and the other two matches rather predictably were runaway wins for the Blue Bulls against the Leopards (44-11) while the Free State Cheetahs ran in nine tries in their 59-8 win over the Boland Cavaliers.

If the Sharks and Griquas, who went into the match in Durban as the country’s top two, are the best on offer, South African rugby is not as healthy as is often purported. It is not about the style of play, running or kicking, but rather about the execution, that there must be questions.

When the Sharks decided to attack, they looked very, very impressive.

However, when they played the kicking game – which they mostly did – it was unlike that of the Bulls in the Super 14 or the Springboks they were ineffectual, leading to a ping-pong kicking contest. Griquas were out of their depth with mistakes in all facets showing up their deficiencies under the pressure so well applied by the KZN side.

To say their bubble has burst is perhaps unkind to the Kimberley side that led the log for six rounds, but Griquas will now be under no illusions about what can be offered at this level.

Western Province have been and still are shopping all over for players but not even a Bryan Habana who is on their shopping list will be able to cure their illness. At Newlands they scrummed well against the Lions, and the highlight of their play surely was the patience they showed in their build-ups.

But their tight five remain suspect, the options behind the scrum not great, the penetration very average and the skills are not up to standard. The fact is that WP scored two tries in a first half against a very average Lions side that spent close to 70 percent of this period in their own 22 .

Overall WP scored three tries against a gutsy but rather disjointed side that had to make well in excess of a hundred tackles – and only one of those tries came after the break when the Lions turned the 18-8 halftime score to a close thing at 18-17 before WP clinched it with great patience and little flair. WP have some good youngsters coming through, but they’re on the point of losing them.

Their future stars are turning to the northern unions in search of contracts as Rassie Erasmus and co are aiming to fill the weaknesses with imports. A long-term solution this certainly is not. However, as it now stands, these two sides must fear next year’s Super 14 campaign when they p[lay under different names. They’re simply not in that class with their present personnel and proficiency.

The Free State Cheetahs are slowly but surely playing catch-up on the log, and their 59-8 win over the Boland Cavaliers in Bloemfontein underlined that the Cape side simply do not belong at this level.

It was Free State’s third consecutive win after four defeats on the trot, and they’re within striking distance of the top five, but they will do well to remember that this win was against a weak side playing poor rugby.

Boland are now in their third season in the Premiership rugby and have won six of their 21 matches. Unlike Griquas who were mostly competitive in their earlier years, there seems to be no real upturn in the Boland graph. Jacques-Louis Potgieter is maturing at flyhalf and is now prepared to attack the line more often than before

. His goal kicking, however, was again a problem. Fullback Hennie Daniller scored twice and Springbok wing Jongi Nokwe dotted down four times in the nine try glut.

The Blue Bulls played six Under-21s in their Currie Cup squad against the Leopards and gave some fringe players a run while resting stalwarts at Loftus.

They were always in control, not always very good and easily won 44-11 with six tries against one in a match where the Leopards got four yellow cards and two reds – one of them because of a second yellow to prop Barend van der Walt.

The Blue Bulls lost Akona Ndungane for the season with a broken leg on his return following some shin splint problems on a night that again proved that the rethink about the Currie Cup competition must be speeded up.

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