Super 14 Rugby

Stormers, Bulls show value of Defence



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Defence, largely responsible for South Africa’s winning of two World Cups without scoring a single try, has let the country’s Super 14 franchises down this season.

The Stormers, in a brilliant first half that set up their 20-10 win against the Brumbies at Newlands on Saturday, proved the worth of defence after the break – as indeed they have throughout the season.

And on Saturday the Bulls had their pack of forwards and a near water-tight defence to thank for their close 16-13 win at Loftus against the second placed Waratahs.

But a look at the season’s defensive performances by the five South African competitors in the Super 14 to a large degree explains the tale of their woes.

The Cheetahs, 13th on the log, have conceded the most tries in the competition (44).

This off-sets the fact that they have also scored the most (29) of the South African combinations with only four sides in the competition bettering that achievement.

The Bulls (39) have conceded the second most tries followed closely by the Lions (38) – and that is part of the reason for their log positions.

In the case of the Sharks, however, their dwindling semifinal hopes can be put down to their inability to score, as evidenced by the fact that only the Lions (20 tries and 160 points) have scored less tries and points than the Sharks (21 and 191) in the competition.

The Stormers, in scoring two tries on Saturday, have kept a fair balance of 25 tries to 18 conceded. The Cape side were fortunate that they were awarded a penalty try that influenced the match. Down 20-0 at halftime, the Brumbies were the better side in the second half, but the deficit was a bridge too far for the visitors. But hats off toe Rassie Erasmus’ team.

They defended well when it mattered, and a rejuvenated Gcobani Bobo and Jean de Villiers are now undoubtedly South Africa’s best centre combination – just as Conrad Jantjes is at fullback.

Schalk Britz reinforced the notion that he should have been selected in the Jake White era, and the huge Andries Bekker will soon also be a giant in world rugby.

It is on the Stormers that South Africa must pin their hopes for a home semifinal because the Sharks again battled with guts but little glory in losing 18-10 to the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The impression was always that the home side had the match under control, despite a good Sharks fightback in the second half.

The forwards toiled honestly but, like all other South African sides bar the Stormers, there is little to offer behind the pack. The Bulls have now won two in a row in a disappointing season.

They were an impressive unit on Saturday in despatching the second-placed Waratahs 16-13.

Derick Hougaard replaced injured centre JP Nel after 16 minutes. He took over at flyhalf with Morne Steyn moving to centre, and controlled the wet ball on a wet field in a way that reminded one of Naas Botha at his best with his forwards magnificent and at times awesome.

And no fingers could be pointed at Bakkies Botha, who is currently in a court dispute with his employer, the Blue Bulls Company(Pty) Ltd. His influence was immense, and the play of young Deon Stegmann epitomised the Bulls guts.

They’ll be back next year and Frans Ludeke’s detractors will be silenced. The less said about the Cheetahs the better.

They let the match against the Highlanders slip through a lack of concentration, lethargic defence and their renowned ill-discipline.

They lost 31-28 after leading 14-6 just before halftime before their opponents scored 25 unanswered points. The team’s application must be seriously questioned.

The Lions are simply not up to standard. They need, a real game-breaker at the back to supplement their forwards who play their hearts out.

Earl Rose at fullback on Saturday against the Hurricanes in Wellington was as dodgy as he has been at flyhalf, and Dusty Noble simply does not belong at this level.

Jaco van Schalkwyk is no flyhalf, and the way the Hurricanes moved the ball wide with space every time they wanted to was an abject lesson to a side that sorely needs backs of class.

The Hurricanes won 38-12 with a weakened team – and even playing badly were good enough to penetrate the embarrassing defence of the Lions at will in what was especially a forgettable first half for the visitors.

The Western Force, with Matt Giteau back, surprised the Chiefs in Perth and dented their semifinal chances with a last-gasp penalty by Giteau (22-21) in an entertaining but error ridden match.

The Blues, playing the Reds away from home, were full value for their 35-22 win and kept up their challenge for a semifinal berth.

Sapa –

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