My Super Rugby review, part 1…
So we’re just about half way through the new Super Rugby season, so I thought I would do a review on all the teams to see if they are living up to all the pre-season hype, to tell you who I think have been the stand-out players in those teams, and to go along with it all, some very interesting stats. I’ll be doing 5 teams at a time, in a 3 part series.
By far the most disappointing of the New Zealand teams this campaign. There was much pre-season hype around the blues, as the new marquee signing of Ma’a Nonu and the world cup winner Piri “who ate all the pies” Weepu were set to shine in a season where, along with players like Kevin Mealamu, the unfortunate Jerome Kaino (who is out with a shoulder injury for about 6 months) and the ever dangerous but wildly erratic Rene Ranger, im sure Pat Lam would have been thinking of a top 6 finish. Sadly tho for the Aucklanders, they just haven’t seemed to be able to get going, and they showed it again this weekend against the Sharks, where they went down by 6 points. They once against showed their dangerous attacking skils, but couldn’t produce the whole package. One positive they can take, is the emergence of baby black Gareth Anscombe, who scored 13 out of the blues 23 points this weekend. He certainly looks like a very talented fly-half, and one for the future.
The Blues board came out in full support of Pat Lam this past week, but after another disapointing result, I wouldn’t be surprised if their patience were running very thin.
Now coached by the great Jake White, the Brumbies are starting to look like a formidable outfit again. Christian Lealiifano has been their stand-out player, backed up by the ever solid Stephen Moore and the performances of young starlets Sam Carter and Michael Hooper. According to some Aussie Commentators, they have unearthed the new Joe Roff in Jesse Mogg but the only comparison you can make between the two, is the same number of syllables in their surnames. They arguably had their best performance of the season against the hapless Rebels this past weekend, giving them a solid hiding by 31 points. Ben Mowan and Stephen Moore had very strong games, while Michael Hooper was once again very impressive. Their forwards out-muscled and out-classed their opposite numbers, which laid an excellent platform for an excellent win. The Brumbies are 3rd on the overall log, only because they top an otherwise weak Australian conference.
- Nic White leads the way with 3 try assists, which is tied equal for scrum halves.
- Pat McCabe leads the list of line breaks with 8.
- Peter Kimlin has missed the most tackles with 15, as well as having made the most errors of 8, for locks.
- Lealiifano leads the charts for most errors at 14, as well as line break creates, 6.
I always have mixed feelings about the Bulls because of their traditional style of rugby. They have this imprint of a game plan that they very rarely shift from, but when they do, they produce some of the best rugby in the competition, as seen in the demolition of the Reds a few weeks ago. I’m still not sure if the Bulls feel as though they are playing their best at the moment, and it showed in the win against the ever disappointing lions. The Bulls would have wanted to really rub salt into the lions wounds with a big victory this weekend, but couldn’t quite find the killer instinct in their 14 point win. The stand out player being CJ Stander who had an enormous game, making 10 runs with 2 line-breaks and 6 tackle busts, plus the bonus of crossing the white line. The Bulls are going to have a small problem in choosing their loose trio when Stegmann and Potgieter are fully fit. Another player who had impressed this season is Chiliboy Ralepelle. He has proved to everyone why he is the starting number 2 for the bulls, and most likely cemented his place in the Bok squad.
- Bjorn Basson is joint second top scorer with 5 tries.
- Pierre Spies and CJ Stander lead the tackle bust list for loosies with 18, while Hougaard leads the Scrummies by some distance, with 26.
- Juandre Kruger leads the lineout steals with 7.
Well what can one say about the Cheetahs? They have definitely surprised a few teams this year, and the brand of rugby they have been playing is certainly easy on the eye. Their Victories over the Rebels and the Hurricanes and the oh-so close loss to the Brumbies, made it their most successful tour of Australasia. The huge difference this season, in my opinion, has been the phenomenal form of their captain Adriaan Strauss. Yes, obviously the rise of wunderkind Johan Goosen cannot go unmentioned, because lets be honest, he has been fanatstic, an all-round package that South Africans haven’t seen since… well, since Pat Lambie. He will be a Springbok, if not this year, then soon. But in saying that, I still think Strauss, with his excellent leadership skills and incumbent form, is the real star. Hopefully he too will become a Bok this year. Another player who has really been outstanding this season is 8th man, Phillip van der Walt. He has been all over the park, making tackles and carrying the ball with much force and direction. Coenie Oosthuizen cannot go unmentioned too, he has been huge in every sense of the word, probably the best in-form prop in the country.
- Willie Le Roux leads the try assist column for outside backs with 4, but has also missed the most amount of tackles at 17.
- Oosthuizen and Strauss lead the runs column for props and hookers with 54 and 68 respectively.
- Oosthuizen leads the pilfer stats for props with 5.
- Brussow and van der Walt lead the tackles made column overall, making an astonishing 114 tackles each.
The most complete super rugby team thus far, the chiefs have managed to mix excellent forward play, combining with their ever-dangerous backs. It has been a treat to watch the chiefs when they are firing on all cylinders, and they showed this in their second half performance against the Cheetahs this past weekend. Aaron Cruden looks like he is getting back to the form that saw him named the IRB junior player of the world in 2009, and combined with one of best inside centres in the world, Sonny Bill Williams, and the flying Lelia Masaga the chiefs backline is more then just dangerous. And then there is Sona Taumalolo, who leads the overall scoring charts with 6 tries from 7 matches. That is a truly remarkable record, let alone for a prop. Every week I expect his great run of form to come to an end, and every week he keeps proving me wrong! Great to see a front rower playing such scintillating rugby.
- SBW unsurprisingly leads the off loads stats with 14.
- Cruden is joint top line break creator with 6.
- Taumalolo leads the tackle bust for props with 15
So at the end of round 8 Chiefs are at the top of the overall log, looking strong as mother Russia. I, for one certainly hope that they continue their good form, as it brings me lots of fanatsy points!