Willemse exploits gung-ho Sharks

Damian Willemse’s intercept-try at Kings Park on Saturday summarised a Super Rugby derby between the Stormers and Sharks that defaulted to the team with the lower error-rate.

Though rain and wind did nothing to deter the SA Conference leaders from chucking the rock around in Durbs, the Sharks must be feeling a bit squeamish after eating their first L of the season.

Shortly after kickoff, the Stormers engaged in kick tennis and the Sharks blinked first. Winger Sergeal Petersen hit grass with a 20-metre chip, collected by Sharks flyhalf Rob du Preez who pulled the chaser wide before flinging an offload infield.

The Sharks felt like something was on. It was. The Stormers were about to score.

Makazole Mapimpi stutter-stepped and was then pancaked by JD Schickerling as he passed to a flat-footed Dan du Preez. The big Sharks loosie went with a basketball, push-pass to tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen who abstained from his 35kg weight advantage over Jean-Luc du Plessis and instead fired the ball to Tyler Paul.

The Sharks blindside flanker got a pass away just as he was hammered by Eben Etzebeth (Paul cried off with what looked like a shoulder injury minutes later).

The decision to move the ball, instead of trucking it up like in the boring old days when the Bulls won three Super Rugby titles, saw Andre Esterhuizen catch Paul’s pass with the overlap beckoning.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, SA’s biggest inside centre thought it best to keep playing to space instead of leveraging his size advantage over Siya Kolisi.

Like Schickerling and Etzebeth before him, Willemse found himself running downhill at a static attack, and that put him in a great position to coast onto Esterhuizen’s hurried pass to Sbu Nkosi, who had both feet in the air when the Stormers flyhalf completed the interception.

Though they closed the gap to two points with 30 minutes to go, the Sharks never recovered from that try and SP Marais split the uprights in the fourth quarter to bank the Stormers’ second win of the season.

As highlighted by that sequence of play, the Sharks played with endeavour, dominating the stats for carries, line breaks, tackle breaks, passes and offloads. However, they also recorded far more handling errors and turnovers, and poor discipline saw them lose two players to the naughty chair as the penalty count favoured the visitors.

While the Stormers were only marginally the less-scruffy of two boys who had been wrestling in the mud, their exposure to the stain of errors was limited because they opted to put their foot through the ball more often than the Sharks, made more tackles at greater efficiency, backed their lineout drive and dined on a couple of poached eggs via Schickerling.

A look at the match stats from Kings Park:

Match information (SHA v STO):
Points: SHA 11-16 STO
Tries: SHA 1-1 STO
Penalty goals: SHA 2-3 STO
Goal kicking %: SHA 66-66 STO
Possession %: SHA 48-52 STO
Territory %: SHA 49-51 STO
Ball in play: 37 minutes

Attacking stats:
Ball Carries: SHA 130-102 STO
Metres run: SHA 678-556 STO
Metres per carry: SHA 5.2-5.5 STO
Line breaks: SHA 5-2 STO
Tackle breaks: SHA 9-8 STO
Passes: SHA 184-114 STO
Good Passes: SHA 162-103 STO
Offloads: SHA 8-6 STO
Rucks won: SHA 87-87 STO
Rucks lost: SHA 2-3 STO
Mauls won: SHA 2-6 STO
Mauls lost: SHA 1-1 STO
Turnovers conceded: SHA 17-7 STO

Defensive stats:
Tackles made: SHA 135-148 STO
Tackles missed: SHA 25-19 STO
Tackle success %: SHA 86-90 STO
Tackle turnover: SHA 4-4 STO
Dominant tackles: SHA 15-13 STO

Kicking stats:
Kicks from hand: SHA 28-33 STO
Metres kicked: SHA 962-928 STO
Metres per kick: SHA 34-28 STO 

Error stats:
Handling errors: SHA 21-13 STO
Carry per error: SHA 6-8 STO
Penalties conceded: SHA 8-6 STO
Yellow cards: SHA 2-1 STO

First phase stats:
Lineouts won: SHA 9-16 STO
Lineouts stolen: SHA 0-2 STO
Scrums won: SHA 6-2 STO
Scrums lost: SHA 0-1 STO
Own kickoff won: SHA 0-0 STO
Own kickoff lost: SHA 5-4 STO

- All Out Rugby Staff Writer

Let's chat

  • Wesley

    Are we moving back to the old tactics of yore? It certainly seems that way. Low error rates and positional play seems better, dominating the collisions as old Bulls rugby is making a comeback. All out attack popularized by NZ teams is dying. Lions have been successful for 2 seasons with it, but high risk is being smothered quickly this season, and the Bulls the trendsetters so far for SA teams. Lions better wake up fast and seems the Stormers after 2 wins are coming out their slumber. Sharks are there abouts but jury still out for me. Crusaders are still the enigma playing complete rugby. Sunwolves also showed it can work, managing the game this weekend with the Chiefs running everything but whos error rate was astronomical. But glad to see you cant call any games with certainty this year.
    Early days still but Superbrus are crashing and burning the world over hehe!

  • SweetAz

    I cant wait for the first comment bitching about the ref and my money is on someone starting with a B.
    I think Britz proved himself the most COMPLETE hooker in South Africa. Marx a distant second unless Bismark returns pushing him down to 3rd
    The Du Preez brothers showed us why Rassie doesn’t pick them.
    Elton Showed us why Pollard is better.
    Akker is not in the top 3 hookers.
    Papier has improved immensely and was the best scrumhalf of the SAFFA franchises

    In other news, if the Stormers can find some way to get rid of Demon Die Ellendig, SP Maarhyskak and buy a flyhalf from somewhere they might go far. Seriously, De Allende is TERRIBLE, I watched him clear a ball from the ruck when the scrumhalf wasn’t available and he passes like a retarded prop, —now we know why the man never passes the ball, HE CAN”T
    More other news,-if the Bulls can find replacements good enough to last the entire 80 minutes they will make the semi’s and probably top the Conference.

    • Barry

      One assumes the “B” is for Britz? Wasn’t aware that he had ref issues, but then I’m not as “close” to him as some!

      One needs to draw an opinion on players based on consistent form and not remote moments, and also handy if said player manages a full 80!

      One of the players you mention has managed three Man if the Match awards in four games! See, that’s the sort of consistency we’re looking for

      • SweetAz

        Very few players play 80 minutes these days, especially in the front row. Easy to get man of the match awards playing against palookas, not so easy when the opposition is better.

        • Barry

          I see Marx managed 80, by the bye.

          One of the MOTMA was against the Stormers- palookas, you say?

          • SweetAz

            He had to play 80, he was captain—–which is also probably why they looked leaderless. Chiefs have the same problem, its called the Peter Principle. It’s when someone gets promoted to their level of incompetence.

    • boyo

      Everyone knows we don’t like Peyper in KZN and that is because we hardly win a game he refs or at least it feels that way. We conceded 8 penalties in the game and were given two yellows for cynical play so a yellow per 4 penalties which seems like its harsh.

      From a sharks point of view we were in trouble the moment we lost Paul. We didn’t have the grunt to match you and our lineout lacked a tail ball option. I dont think there are major issues for the sharks but we do need one of Paul/JLDP/Phillip van Der Walt back ASAP.

      The stormers need to be a bit worried about the attack that could only score one try(an intercept) despite playing against 14 men for 20 min. The Stormers pack had the edge on the sharks even when 8 v 8 and they should have walked it against 14.

      • SweetAz

        Yeah, Stormers need a flyhalf, 2 centres and at least one wing if they are going to stand a chance. I don’t understand what the hell is going on with that backline but playing with De Allende is like playing with a handicap.

        • Albert

          De Allende wasn’t the worst. Without a doubt our worst player is SP Marais. He kicks to posts but his game is rubbish. He is the laziest defender, he missed a tackle and you could see him jogging back instead of busting a gut to make up for his terrible kick chase and lazy attempt at a tackle. He is not a winger by any stretch of the imagination. With Sergeal and Senatla, one wonders why they have SP on the wing.

          • John Comyn

            I could not agree with you more on SP. The De Allende bashing is unjustified. His tackle count is good. I thought he held his own against Esterhuizen. I think the real problem is we are not dealing with the rush defense at all. Maybe it needs an adjustment in terms playing a bit deeper in the pocket. Make no mistake De Allende & Ruan Nel have the potential to be the best centre pairing in the country. I think with a really good scrummie we would see a massive turn around in the backs. Someone like Faf De Klerk who causes havoc with his running at the opposition backs is what we need.

        • boyo

          Yip if ever there was a game to try someone else at 12 it was this one. Estherhuisen is a bit slow and a fast 12 can expose him.

    • Wesley

      Well a comment like that I can’t troll, pretty complete in terms of rugby Sweet.

      Brits I’m not sure of yet, with such small loose forwards of the Lions and bully boys like Vermeulen and Hanro, they were bound to outmuscle in the breakdown. His line-out was outstanding though, but Orie for the Lions not playing killed their chances of disrupting. Lets see how the season progresses, as the supporters and commentators are fickle in their week to week choices. Brits muscled his way into second in my heart this weekend, Bongi now third, Akker out of the Bok picture. And that smile, even stopping in the tunnel for a howzit before the game with the Lions staff and players. Very classy. Perhaps Rassie not too stupid, they even called White crazy for bringing in old toppies Monty and Os. He obviously brings a positive vibe to the Bulls camp.

      Du Preez twins not performing, as their gainline success is dwindling (can’t find the stats but feels like it) and their offload game not a game-changer anymore (part of the high risk game not working this season)

      Elton playing stupid all risk even though its not working. Is it him, or a team decision? They all just shifting ball even on their line! Stupid stupid stupid. He has never been a old style general, doesn’t make him a bad flyhalf in my book, I just don’t see his strengths making an impact this season.

      Papier solid second behind Faf, he showed his mettle even against Scotland and England last year. Shows if you give the young guns a chance, things could happen. Some must be eating their words on Papier.

      De Allende has been terrible for two seasons now, time to move on.

      • boyo

        Du Preez twins? JLDP hasnt played yet this season?

        • Wesley

          Sorry sometimes cant tell between the two, and either of them not making any impact, doesnt make a diff to me hehe

          • Wesley

            Well Barry, neither has done anything of note in my book, you can swop between them or play both for that matter. As I see it, in Bok terms, as my comment was aimed as a Bok performer reply to Sweet’s, neither cuts it anymore.

          • boyo

            no problem its an easy mistake

          • Barry

            Change feet Wesley – a bit of an embarrassing one that., criticizing a player that hasn’t played this year! A little preconceived prejudice perhaps!

    • John Comyn

      About sums it up! Right now B is busy trawling through replays and consulting the IRB rugby rules. Akka was Kakka and the Du Preez dynasty came tumbling down. Up north a “geriatric” stole the show and Elton is, let’s just say, embarrassing. Hermie must be devastated!

  • Albert

    Another weekend gone and another loss to the Lions. Seems without Whitely they are but bottom dwellers, propping up the SA conference. But, it is only week 3, let’s see how they respond. we need every SA team to be strong against the Aussies and Kiwis. This fighting eachother, name calling, finger pointing when the real enemy is waiting and salivating at the prospect of playing the SA teams. I mean, the Bulls have soundly beaten 2 SA teams but got demolished by the Jaguares. I for one really hope that the Lions can come good against the Antipodeans, and all of the Sharks, Bulls and Stormers can get convincing wins over them too.

    It is a long season, and some on this forum forget that. All the crowing so early in the season is a bit silly. But it nice to see Schrodinger eating his hat. Haha

    • Wesley

      Being a WC year, the cowing is bound to happen, with each hoping their team favorites succeed. But there has to be balance in the views across the local teams. Being a Lion i love to see our players dominating their respective position, but if they are outplayed, especially by up and comers, this makes me excited too, showing we have the talent pool growing. Specman so far the real bolter amongst the bunch. Still early days though.

      • Albert

        Specman looking the real deal for sure. But as you said, early days. His real test will be the Kiwi giant wingers. Shine there and he will in all likelihood be in the bok extended squad. He has passion, desire and ability. That’s way more than most of the players in the Bok fold of recent years.

    • SweetAz

      Mate, as a Stormers supporter I don’t get to crow often, I’m out of practice so I’ve probably gone overboard.

      • Herman Schroder?

        My, my it took you a few years to come out of the closet on your team affiliation old chap. Sure explains the sourness against the team that dominated the landscape for so long. A Stompies fan, well I never. I hope you’re not basing your hopes on the way they played in the Sharks match because it rated as one of the worst games of the weekend. Who was the winner, dumb or dumber ? Cheers.

        • Albert

          Dumberer Lions lost to Stormers HAHAHAHA

          • SweetAz

            Jaaaaa Swaer, you cant argue with stupid, they will beat you with experience. LOL

      • Albert

        Hahaha, all too true, Sweets. The best thing is how annoyed both the Lions and Sharks were to lose to the Stormers. But the thing to notice is who rescued them after the first round rout. Masters Etzebeth and Du Toit turned in world class performances. And that Jaco Coetzee chap looks a real diamond in the rough. I would say Stormers should bench Kolisi as he is desperately out of form at the moment. A loose trio of Coetzee, Du Toit and Augusts is what I want to see. It is no coincidence that the Stormers looked much better when Notshe didn’t play. Now they just need a couple centres who can be playmakers and perhaps another good winger. Why not give Willemse a go at 12? Ruhan Nel can be a good 13, he just needs a good 12 to unleash him.

        • SweetAz

          Too true, Willemse at 12 could be the second playmaker and he is also good at taking a gap and has excellent footwork. Too many people rate De Allende because of his size and tackle count in that channel, BUT that channel should also be covered by someone else AND its the place where a CREATIVE player has a lot of space. De Allende creates nothing, all he ever does is bash. Its totally predictable and makes the Stormers easy to defend against. It is also the reason they don’t score any tries.

          • Winger

            Just play Dan du Plessis at inside centre, with Willemse at flyhalf. The other du Plessis at flyhalf has been singularly unimpressive. Put Marais at fullback where he belongs and play Leyds on the left wing. Play Dan Kriel at 13 and Petersen at 14. Now you have a backline where most of the players can both catch and pass the ball. Send Nel back to club rugby or sevens so he can relearn catching and just keep d’Allende on permanent passing practice. This is a backline that can do the basic things right. The only position where there is no solution, is scrumhalf. WP should take their last money and buy Shaun Venter from the Cheetahs. He is attacking and understands that the ball should be cleared quickly

            .As for the forwards: Make sure Jaco Coetzee is always on the field and find a real prop as replacement loosehead. Nothing else has to change.

      • boyo

        ha ha well enjoy it! we will all be along to bash your boys when you next lose so bask in it while you can your team earned you that right.

  • SweetAz

    One thing I specifically looked out for was the breakdown refereeing. Peyper was mostly spot on, the guy reffing the Bulls/Lions game had no clue. Almost every ruck either Marnus Schoeman or Kwagga was digging around with their hands after the ruck had formed,—he obviously didn’t get the memo last year and still hasn’t found it this year. It’s a bit disconcerting because there was a huge disparity in the way the breakdown was reffed

    • Wesley

      There were seriously bad calls going both ways in that game, cant complain either way. Even if one team dominates, doesnt make them right all the time…

  • Barry

    First, congratulation Stormers, a good away win.

    No Sweet delighted with the result for the Stormers they were really in need of a win, they’ve had a really tough time you know.

    I read comment in another forum that it was odd that they changed/relocated the Kiwi ref from Durban to Johannesburg rather than save cost and let him do the Durban fixture, but I’m sure there’s nothing in that. They often change refs at the 12th hour, people must stop being overly sensitive about these things!

    There were also some silly remarks about the yellow card for Akker being a little harsh, compared to the penalty to Etzebeth, for diving in, taking out the half back and making contact with the head area. I think Peyper was fully justified in his decision – Rugby is a tough old game after all and there was definitely no ill intent!

    The final straw for me in the article, was a whinge that Schikerling had throttled Akker VDM into touch and should have been carded – this at the point of the try attempt by Beast. Do these idiots know nothing about the game! Akker’s neck was clearly outside the field of play, so Schikerling was fully justified in throttling him and no less Seconds for not calling it in.

    • Chris

      Cant quite understand what Eben got penalized for.
      That was a standard clean-out. He even used his arms. Ref said it was because he came in from a distance ?
      Not sure what rule specifies the minimum distance you have to come from. Big guy cleaning out a small guy often get punished for some reason. I suspect that’s why the ref came out with a BS explanation for the penalty. It was a knee-jerk whistle and then he had to figure out how to explain it on the fly. The best he could do was this” coming in from a distance” crap.

      • Albert

        Beast did the exact same thing not 10 minutes earlier without any penalty.

      • Barry

        Diving in (yellow), taking out the half back (yellow), making head contact (red). Pretty straight forward really!

    • SweetAz

      LOL, a masterclass in whining without overtly appearing to do so.

      • Barry

        Not sure what you chaps are on about- just commenting on the silly stories there are out there. Can’t believe what people have to say. You’d think there were some contentious calls made. Anyway enjoy your moment and thanks for not chirping too much – there’s some sensitive soles out there, we don’t want to be seen as partisan!

        • Winger

          And DuToit almost being decapitated in the first half, compared to Du Plessis high tackle. This time the great Mallet commented on that yellow card being harsh and no-one takes it up and runs with it. So he is great, but only when you agree with him?

          • Barry

            So you agree then, it was harsh- thanks!

      • John Comyn

        Waaaaahahahaha he’s seething! characterized by intense but unexpressed anger. It will all surface as the day goes on. Never mind Barry – the sun will rise tomorrow!

  • boyo

    While on stats here is one for the sharks fans- Since 2015 the sharks have a win percentage of 52% and when Peyper refs- 27%. Facts are facts

    • Barry

      Pure coincidence Boyo, next you’ll tell us he wares blue and white panties, how silly. Lol

      • boyo

        Ha Ha true I must be bias you know.

        Seriously though I am sure most teams have a ref who has an issue with them like Peyper does for us but I dont like it when pundits just dismiss the issue. How in an age of professional refs is it ok that a team is half as likely to win with a specific ref is that ok?

  • Wesley

    Correlation vs causation there boyo…

    • boyo

      Sorry Wes you will need to elaborate I struggled to work out the percentages. Lets just say maths and stats are pretty foreign to me.

      The sample size is 11 games though over 3 years so fairly big grouping? Also you could consider that he is less likely to ref us overseas where our win percentage would be lower and it makes it even worse.

      • Wesley

        Sorry, am I mistaken? You say 11 games total since 2015 vs all opponents or only vs Stormers? My comment was to vs Stormers only…

        If the 11 games vs all opponents, can you perhaps consider the opponents first? Maybe mostly vs dominating teams – Lions in 2017 and 2018, Stormers 2015, All NZ teams minus the Blues perhaps? If you perhaps bring that into contention it may make a clearer picture.

        • boyo

          No problem Wes

          I understand your reasoning and a more in depth look could maybe clear it up but I just did this as a quick exercise to show why the KZN fans don’t like Peyper. (Haven’t even double checked it for accuracy so may have missed a game somewhere and I also didn’t look at finals series games).

          What surprises me most though is that you cant find stats on this you have to try compile them yourself. In todays age of analysis surely bookies etc look at the ref ?

          • Wesley

            I understand the frustration is palpable with Peyper, but not entirely justifiable. KZN fans are not the most critical thinking bunch, but hey, which SA team fans actually are?

            I understand a lot of analysis and stat “number crunching” is proprietary to bookies and the like, and not widely available to the public, so yeah a lot of own research is required if you want the full picture. Actually had a cool conversation over the December break with a guy working for a company who deals with this type of analysis for all sports, who then have clients such as bookmakers and even the leagues such as Pro14, European Cup etc. Interesting stuff.

      • Wesley

        Yes the sample size is pretty big, but considering the sample overlaps where Stormers dominated the SA conference over a couple of seasons and the Sharks have always been only there and thereabouts over a course of the 3 to 4 years, the causation cant be applied. Stormers conference winners outright once since 2015 (3 times if you count Africa 1 winners in 2016 and 2017). Sharks only took it once in 2014. It may mean nothing in terms of causation of the good precentage they have with Peyper, but shows they have been the most consistant and most likely riding on highs inbetween where they encountered the Sharks on the day. I’m not saying this is an outright reason, but all factors are to be considered. Unless the games were totally bungled many times by Peyper over the course of the 11 games, the causation is just not there.

        • boyo

          The 11 games are all the games he reffed the sharks against all opponents since and including 2015 I didnt look at the stormers results in isolation. The 52% win rate is our overall win rate in the same period also against all teams.

          • Wesley

            Sorry boyo, please see my other reply above. I was mistaken in understanding your intention.

  • Barry

    There were two issues for me over the weekend of worthy note.

    Firstly, is it not time that New Zealand were cut back to four teams. The Blues have not performed for four years now. After some intense tlc they are now showing improvement, only to be replaced by the Chiefs who look very ordinary.

    They simply do not have enough players of suitably standard to justify five teams so why should they enjoy 5/15ths of the pot?

    The final point is that something urgently needs to be done about Rob Du Preez mustache!

    • Albert

      They need to do what they did for both SA and Aus conferences. Replace a NZ team with a PI team.

    • Wesley

      It does look like at least one NZ team does suffer, but to me it seems 2 will be nose-diving in terms of NZ excellence this year. Although Blues have shown some improvement in the first game vs Crusaders, the last two on the road they looked like they will continue on from last years troubles. Chiefs looking less than ordinary, perhaps their leader being on the overseas radar is distracting. McKenzie at 10 is also a mistake. The other teams are also looking vulnerable, with the Crusaders as the exception. Perhaps an indication of end of an era for NZ?

  • John Comyn

    Some of the things I took out of the Sharks/Stormers game. The Stormers still have no idea where the try line is. It’s not going to change until they have a top scrumhalf playing behind this very strong pack. This ain’t going to happen as the union is insolvent. SP Marias is a serious liability at this level & they should not be making compromises because he is a good goal kicker. I was disappointed in Coenie because the Boks need him at his best. Thomas Du Toit was once again decimated by Wilco. The Sharks backs looked dangerous and the pack let them down. The Stormers, on the day, should have won with something to spare and will get better.

    • Barry

      Oh dear, you really need to think these through through a bit!

      On the scrum bit – rather first have a look at the stats John. The Sharks had the better of it by some margin. Connie did his business just fine thank you, but you should rather be worrying about why Malherbe didn’t!

      So Wilco sorted out Thom Dutoit did he? What, did he leap across to the opposite side of the scrum undetected?

      SP Marais had an off day, but the issue is that he is being played out of position. He’s been moved out the way to accommodate Remgro’s Willemse! You quickly forget the form he showed a few month back in the Currie Cup.

      The Sharks had a disallowed Try, whilst by your own admissions the Stormers are yet to work out where the try line is. So prey tell how it is that they should have won easily?

      • Winger

        What disallowed try? There was no try to disallow. The try scorer dropped the ball after standing on the line! How is no try a disallowed try? Disallowed means that on a good day it may have been awarded or there was a 50% chance that it might have been a try.

        As for Thomas du Toit, he was sorted out by the smallest loose head prop in the competition, Corne Fourie. I think that even the Sunwolves’ loosehead is bigger. And Thomas at 6’3″ and 136kg You know that that is just one pound short of 300 pounds. If only it had been Wilco. He may have been able to retain some dignity.

        The Sharks have a problem. They don’t have tight head props. These guys are fat flankers.

        • Barry

          Well they took four minutes of TMO time to determine whether or not it was a try, so it seems you’re the only one that had it clear!

          Maybe spend your time worrying about Malherbe, you know, Beast’s bitch! Costly performance again from him!

          So here we have the third attempt at trying to trash the reputation of Sharks players. First from Wesley, about a player that hasn’t played this year- whoops, then from John who thought Wilco scrummed against Thom Du Tout – whoops and know some drivel that the stats simply put a lie to!

          • Winger

            Do you seriously think that the try had any chance of being allowed? You are also the only person left on the planet that thinks the Sharks in some weird way won the scrum battle.

  • Herman Schroder?

    Well well well. I can only imagine the joy in Sharkette country when the final whistle blew at Emirates, lol. With the Stompies coming up it was another almost certain 5 point haul and the Lions nowhere in sight on the log. That was not to be and the most consistently inconsistent team on the planet was well and truly brought back down to earth.

    The Lions continue to frustrate me with a hybrid of a game and clearly in need of a complete change of game plan and certain players. The only thing in their defence is that not many teams can lose practically their entire pack from last year and not feel it. Despite that only six points separate them from the Sharkettes which in SR terms is negligible. It’s early days folks but they will have to pull up their socks. Lets hope the difference at the end of the pool stage does not cost them due to the Secondsgate debacle.

    But having said that the results so far has made things pretty clear to me. I don’t believe our teams have improved this year at all. Too many world class ‘wonder kids’ one week followed by poor performances the next game. No consistency to speak of and Rassie can’t be too happy about it. Is it a case of the Lions being brought down to the level of the other Franchises this year or the other Franchises upping their game to a higher level ? Regrettably I believe it’s the former.

    Rassie may as well put all the contenders names in a hat and do a lucky draw for WC representation. Of course he will have to have two hats with the white players in one hat and the black players in the other to ensure compliance with the 50 / 50 abomination. The standard of rugby is generally poor by all teams and the players match ups pretty even but regrettably on a very average scale. Good luck Rassie.

    But more remarkable this year is the NZ Conference melt down. Their Conference log features more losses than wins at this stage and with their next few weeks mainly derby games it’s going to be a bloodbath over there. The most improved Franchise is indeed the Aussie’s with the Sunwolves sublime so far. We can only wish our teams could play like that. As usual our Conference is below par, no change there.

    So not a pretty picture folks and as the saying goes – the more things change the more they stay the same. A regrettable Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      Groaaaaan, living proof that there is no cure for stupidity.
      Firstly, the Lions are STILL playing exactly the same, their AFKOP-HOENDER style of play has not changed at all, what HAS changed is their error-count because they now lack COHESION. They are now merely afflicted by the same ailment ALL other SAFFA teams have had to contend with,—-player turnover.
      Secondly, this is the 3rd game of a LONG season with some Boks only playing their first full game now, How the frick can you judge their performances as unimproved? Papier was immensely improved as was Etsebeth, Duane is the best 8th man by some distance which is a good thing because we can’t rely on the fragile girly boy from the Lions, in fact across all the franchises we can now select a very good backline with backups. Its only fullback where we still lack a Rolls Royce like Andre Joubert.
      Thirdly, when are you going to admit that Marx is a kak hooker and only there because we have been lacking a fetcher? The only player worth anything in that Lions team is Marnus Schoeman and with him there they URGENTLY need someone who can actually perform core hooker roles properly.
      Lastly, can we now finally just admit that Elton Jantjies is not in the same class as Pollard? For crying out loud the man isn’t even in the same school. Its like watching a college guy play against a primary school kid.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Oh sad SweetAss, he with his blinkers on. Your team the Stompies so far – Trounced by the Bulls, ambushed the Lions with home town ‘mafia’ style officials and beating an even dumber Sharks team. Way to go old chap considering you haven’t played any team of note as yet, lol.

        Yeah pepper the Lions players I have no problem with that, I have already stated that their recovery will take time considering they’ve lost practically their entire pack since last year but as you correctly point out – it’s only been three weeks, THIRTEEN to go.

        Enjoy your bye and prepare for your first real test of the season the Jaguares. We’ll try to soften them up this weekend but after your two ‘wins’ in a row history tells us you won’t take advantage of that. Oh boy, I fear you may regret coming out of the closet. Target practice for me in the coming weeks. Cheers.

        • Albert

          Lions on a two game losing streak, and the Russian bot still crows. Lol

    • Barry

      No Hetman, it’s just the Lions that are screwed up, the others are showing promise. Sharks are one point of the top of the log and the other two in striking distance. More so, we are collectively a damn sight better placed this year than we have been in previous years, compared to the New Zealand and Australian logs

      • Herman Schroder?

        Barry. Promise ?? Compared to what ?. Lions beat Argentina and the Sharks beat the woeful Blues. Otherwise it’s business as usual amongst the also ran’s. Early days my friend and the standard of rugby played is pretty poor all round. Nothing has changed. Let’s hope for some tangible improvement. Cheers

      • Winger

        Agreed. I am very impressed by Papier. I predicted a year ago, that even if he does not make this year’s world cup side, he would be one of the top three scrumhalves in the world by 2023, if the Bulls could be cured of their fixation with finding a new Fourie du Preez. That seems to have happened.

        I still think we could have the best pack in the World Cup and that includes Marx, who is still the best hooker in the country. We will have to carry our captain in place of a fetcher, which makes Marx and Vermeulen essential to the side. Pity about Lood’s injury. He was looking good. Like Etzebeth, real class. Let’s hope July to September is enough time to regain form.

        As far as the backline is concerned, we are in dire need of Jan Serfontein. There is just nothing else available. Both Esterhuizen and d’Allende are seriously deficient in almost all departments, except size. Jessie Kriel remains the best 13, with Am looking reasonable good. I just wish Rassie would stop playing with Nel and find a real contender. Four wingers look as though they will be contenders: Dayantyi on last year’s form, Nkosi, Mapimpi and Specman. At full back, we have only Willie le Roux. Gelant has never impressed me. I just don’t really like showmen. Willemse is no fullback. Sad to say, but Andries Coetzee is the distant second choice. It means we are in some trouble. Pollard looks majestic and Jantjies can do a job, when required. The others are really erratic. Faf and Papier at scrumhalf will do.

        I think we can do well. If Rassie utilizes the available talent and stops trying to force a dogma onto the players that does not suit their abilities. He can pick players to counter the northern hemisphere box kicks, but should not try to emulate them. Our scrumhalves don’t do the perfect box kick.

        • Albert

          What about Kolbe as fullback/wing sub? He may be small but he is fearless, fast and skilful. Bring him on with 20 to go and the big men tired, and I think he’d win the game for you. The way he defended against Rieko Ioane last year was just sublime.

          But I agree with your assessment, we have the talent and makings of a really good side, capable of beating the All Blacks, we just need to get rid of the underachievers and get all our best players. Serfontein at 12 is the answer, I think Am at 13 as he is way smarter than Kriel. But Kriel is strong and fast, a real machine so he needs to be there too. We have 13 covered in my opinion, maybe a bolter for 12 would be Polly or Willemse. Good defenders and 2nd playmakers. Been crying out for Willemse at 12, I think he would be a better 12 than 10 as he has a bit more time on the ball and can use his step and strength there too. At 1.84m and 90kg he wouldn’t be the biggest, but I think he would be good.

          • Winger

            Kolbe deserves to go to the world cup and yes, he can cover fullback. I am not a fan of the flyhalf at inside centre idea. It worked only once, when New Zealand used Mauger with Mertens. Your best flyhalf (Pollard) should play at flyhalf.

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