Captain America must stop Thanos!

Keba Mothoagae

The Bulls and Stormers host the Crusaders over the next two rounds and Super Rugby fans in South Africa are hopeful that the Sharks have opened the door for Captain America and Thor to give an excellent account of themselves against the Thanos of the rugby universe!

The Sharks left Sydney after feeding on the Waratahs in Round 11 and then held the Crusaders to a thrilling draw in Christchurch last week. But these excellent results on tour are misleading because they’ve been the exception in an exceptionally unpredictable season.

It’s been rubbish for almost every SuperBru enthusiast who has not only seen their Grand Slam Points hopes disappear down the drain like clockwork, but also experienced spectacularly rubbish rounds of 50% (or less) prediction success rates regularly!

For context, no team in the Australian conference has a +50% win rate (the Rebels and Reds are tied on five wins out 10 games). The SA conference boasts two teams with a 60% return – Bulls and Jaguares at six out of 10.

Apart from the table-topping Crusaders and Hurricanes (eight wins apiece) everyone else in the Kiwi conference is on an uncharacteristic four wins or less.

For the neutral observer, this unpredictability makes for highly entertaining viewing. Truthfully, uncertain outcomes are what bring us back to the stadium seats or the couch at home on weekly basis, so that can never be a bad thing. But it’s the distinct lack of quality in a majority of the upsets, and there have been plenty, that grates me.

It would be disingenuous to ignore the fact that teams have had to rest players in line with plans to cotton-wool national assets ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

When you remove a Barrett, Kerevi or Vermeulen from a team, it feels like the loss of 20% in playing ability such is the quality of blue chip players in the competition. What I don’t understand is the alarming drop in quality and intensity across the board when teams do dip into their reserves, with the exception of the Cantabrians and Wellingtonians.

There have been seemingly legendary local derbies and mouthwatering inter-conference clashes devolving into something that would not be out of place in the Mitre 10 Cup, the Currie Cup or the National Rugby Championship.

I could have spent my time more productively receiving a hiding from some kid in the Korean Republic on FIFA 19 FUT Squad Battles than watching the dross served up most of the season!

Naturally, chemistry is affected by squad experimentation, but perhaps we might have overrated the depth in player quality in New Zealand. Any game that has seen the Chiefs, Highlanders or Blues crash unexpectedly or struggle to an unconvincing win has been preceded by a new-look squad being selected.

I am pointedly ignoring Australia because they have been in trouble for the longest time, trying to keep afloat a sport that struggles for participants at all levels in that country. I’ll give them a pass.

Back home, only the Stormers and Bulls have a three-match winning streak. Beyond that, two wins on the bounce is the most local sides can hope for. The Sharks and Bulls contrived terrible reversals against the Jaguares at home, the Stormers went out of their way to lose matches they should have won against the Hurricanes and Blues, and the Lions collapsed to the shockingly unpredictable Sharks.

Why are 80-minute performances beyond almost every side, especially in a year where fringe players would be eager for any opportunity to emerge as a bolter for their national team?

The dip in performances would have seemed unavoidable had the Crusaders and Hurricanes also been dragged into the logjam below, but it appears that the grand final in early July will be contested by these two teams – so much for the unpredictably of the whole competition!

While one cannot begrudge their ruthless professionalism when swatting aside incompetent outfits, as someone who feels increasingly satisfied watching the absorbing European Rugby Champions and Challenge cups (which have been improved by the southern influx) I can’t help but feel uninspired by Super Rugby at the moment.

But all will be forgiven, and the 2019 Super Rugby season saved, if the Bulls and then Stormers knock the Crusaders out of the saddle. We sit in hope!

FRESH TAKE is an initiative to identify, feature and develop talented rugby writers who are not yet part of the mainstream media. If that sounds like you, send us a sample of a story you’d like to write to

Check out Keba’s YouTube channel HERE

- Keba Mothoagae

Let's chat

  • Johan

    Captain America and Thor can’t stop Thanos… You need the whole Marvel universe, and especially Iron Man…

    However Iron Man (and most of his friends), followed the money and is currently saving lives in Europe…

    For now, we, the suffering public, will have to witness the losing of all the smaller fights, where Thanos and his allies crush the smaller, newer, heroes. For some strange reason people wonder why we avoid these places of destruction. Our wallets empty, bad writing (referee calls) and only featuring the smaller name heroes we aren’t all that motivated to cheer the local heroes on…

    Only when the final battle (World Cup) is upon us, will we see all the super heroes working together to see who will be victorious…

    • Dean Bright

      haha I like this post. Very creative.

    • Barry

      Clearly an avid follower of Marvels Superheroes! Cleverly put, you’ve had a moment John!

  • Barry

    Keba, not sure I agree with this entirely. The concept of looking at a South African National stand point is noble, but the reality is that it’s not a National competition.

    Sure we’d rather an SA team win it, but the reality is that we are forced, through the conference system, to take a more parochial stand point. The Lions for example would probably be more comfortable with the Crusaders taking both legs in SA and for the Chiefs to triumph over the Sharks, so that they have a shot at the play offs.

    It perhaps cuts against the grain a bit, but if we are to be honest, that’s the way conference systems work!

    • Herman Schroder?

      One down two to go, lol. Cheers.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Three down and one winner. Cheers.

        • Barry

          Happy enough that you Lions chaps are still in the running, but really the refereeing was a huge embarrassment again!

          Seconds is in a class of his own and heck that’s not a good class, but what of Peyper and the very obvious forward pass?

          This was “Canned Rugby” – small wonder we only have one ref at the World Cup!

          • Herman Schroder?

            Name me a single team that has not benefited due to the sheer incompetence of the ref. He was poor both ways anyway. But why the fuss about that forward pass when they are on show all over the place in SR and nothing gets said. Journalists like Gavin Rich love making a meal of it when his favoured teams lose, it’s called deflection. Cheers.

        • Dean Bright

          You can thank Egon Seconds for that win.

          • Herman Schroder?

            See my reply to Barry. Cheers.

  • Albert

    When Thor became Captain America I thought Thanos would at least get hammered once. But it seems any MARVELlous dreams will be just that this year. Perhaps Loki is playing tricks on us and Spider-man is actually still alive to take Thanos out. But there won’t be any shielding us from the truth come the End Game at this years World Cup. One thing is for sure, Wakanda isn’t forever, it’s only every couple of weekends.

  • Herman Schroder?

    How about levelling the playing fields. I’m not sure who draws up the SR fixture list but I noticed that four of the strongest NZ teams each have a bye during the last four weeks, The SA and Aussie teams have none. To add insult to injury the Crusaders have a bye on the last weekend. But why is that relevant ?

    Firstly there is no gap between the last round and the quarter finals, So for example the Saders enjoy the last bye and are nicely rested before the quarters, as if they needed any advantage, lol. The other Conferences qualifiers then have effectively seven consecutive tough games should they reach the final. Not so the NZ teams.

    Secondly, it’s tough enough going to NZ to play in a final never mind going there without a break over the previous six tough matches. Even the Breakdown panel suggested that fact last year before the Lions / Saders final suggesting that it would be fairer to have a break especially for the SA teams. As yet still no change of course.

    Thirdly, the NZ teams very cleverly ( thanks to the fixture guy ) have played most of their derby games before the final four weeks, whereas the other Conferences play mainly the NZ teams and each other. They have also been extra clever because apart from the Saders / Chiefs game the four ‘strong’ NZ teams play the Blues in the remaining fixtures. As we all know the Blues have been their own wooden spoon specialists these past few years and relatively easy pickings. They have been a bit better this year though.

    So to recap. NZ teams each have a convenient bye at the back end of the round robin, have eliminated their attritional derby games in the main before the last four rounds and the system still does not afford the other teams any rest and prep time before the playoffs and especially the final. Talk about loading the dice in one’s favour. Cheers.

  • Herman Schroder?

    Geez how bad was that Bok laden Bulls team this evening. I’ve always maintained that most SA teams can be beaten by simply playing at pace, spreading the ball intelligently and not trying to out muscle them. Smarts will always ( well maybe 99% of the time ) beat dom krag and we saw plenty of that.

    A potent team running at you and what does Pollard do, gives them the ball back every time. 29 missed tackles. DV won a few turnovers to be fair but Captain America could do nothing to stop the slaughter. I’m sure they wished they hadn’t given freebies or thousands of R20 tickets ( a good idea by the way ) but the team must at least arrive for the game.

    The Sharks / Crusaders game, Stormers / Jags and today’s game have produced only two tries in 240 minutes of rugby. Hate to say this but the Lions scored two against the Crusaders in Christchurch. I’ve seldom seen a team so outsmarted as the Bulls were today. Boks all over the place but not one to be seen.

    Scrap all plans Rassie and start from scratch, you have nothing to lose. Cheers.

Comments are closed.