Rugby

Three SA teams well placed in Super 15.

Super Rugby
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The Vodacom Bulls were slaughtered by the Sharks on Friday night and lost the forward battle comprehensively. Remarkably, they are still one of three South African teams who can feature in the Super Rugby playoffs if they perform according to the script against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld during the weekend. The DHL Stormers and Sharks are the other two that can advance to the playoffs

The DHL Stormers are currently ranked second in the combined conference and have already secured the South African conference trophy by beating the Toyota Cheetahs 13-6 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The Bulls are placed fifth at 54 points and the Sharks also on 54, are sixth on the log.
Can both feature in the playoffs of the Super Rugby competitions if they win their final game with a bonus point?

The Sharks will host the Cheetahs on Saturday and judging by the way they dominated the Bulls in the"Droid Sans, sans-serif"

The Reds, the defending champions on 53 points, will be playing against the Waratahs in Brisbane for their final game. If they win with a bonus point and the Bulls or the Sharks fail to secure a fifth point by scoring four tries, the Reds can still sneak into the playoffs.

The Chiefs are currently the combined log leaders, with the Crusaders fourth on the combined log.

The Stormers cannot afford to take the foot off the accelerator against the lowly Rebels, as they need at least a point to ensure that they finish second on the combined log to secure a home semi-final.

But it would take some form of miracle for the Rebels to beat the Stormers in Cape Town during the weekend.

If the status quo remains, and the Chiefs finish at the top of the log, (they play against the Hurricanes in Wellington in their final game, a tricky encounter indeed), they will advance to the semi-finals where they will play the lowest-ranked playoff winner at home.

If the Stormers remain second on the log, they would get a clear passage to the semi-finals, where they will play the highest-ranked playoff winner home, at Newlands.
If the Brumbies stay in third place and the Sharks remain sixth, the Australian team will host the Sharks in Canberra 20 and 21 July.

The Bulls, if they remain fifth, will also have a very challenging playoff date with the Crusaders on that same weekend.

Stormers

The Stormers registered their thirteenth win in fifteen Super Rugby starts and secured the SA conference trophy for the second successive year with their unconvincing but crucial win against the Cheetahs.

Some critics would have bemoaned the Stormers tactics of playing conservative rugby against the Cheetahs. The truth, however, is that if the Stormers collect a bonus point try against the Rebels and if the Chiefs come unstuck against a very dangerous Hurricanes team in Wellington, the Cape Town-based team will move to the top of the combined log.

The one area of concern for the Stormers was that their scrum struggled against the Cheetahs, who were playing without their stalwart, Coenie Oosthuizen.

And remember, the Stormers struggled in the semi-final defeat against last year against the Crusaders when the New Zealanders put enormous pressure on the Stormers’-scrum.

Peter Grant has been a superb servant of Stormers rugby this season and it was his immaculate tactical kicking that set up the crucial Gio Aplon try against the Cheetahs. His place kicking has also been excellent all season.

Ashley Johnson played a crucial role for the Cheetahs when he came on as a replacement, while Heinrich Brussow repeatedly robbed the Stormers of much needed momentum by effecting turn-overs at the breakdowns.
It is something that would cause the Stormers some concern, as it has been an area where they came unstuck against the Sharks in the Currie Cup final in 2010 when Bismarck du Plessis was a poacher par excellence.

Sharks

The Sharks produced one of their best performances in years by walloping the Vodacom Bulls 32-10 and making a massive statement about their ambitions to get into the Super Rugby playoffs.

The Sharks edged the Bulls in the scrums and, amazingly, also poached possession in the"Droid Sans, sans-serif">Bismarck du Plessis and Kankowski were colossal, and three first-half tries contributed to the Sharks win.

The truth is that the Sharks out-muscled the Bulls at the collisions and were also brutal on defence.

The Bulls were starved of possession in the first half and were trailing 3-20 at half time, which effectively terminated their winning chances.

Bulls

If the Bulls want to win against the Lions and if they hope to improve their chances in the playoffs, they will have to significantly lift their level of play in the tight phases and at the collisions, where they flattered to deceive against the Sharks.

They clearly miss the experience and class of their three retired Springboks in Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Danie Rossouw.

The Sharks will also have to improve their consistency if they want to reach the semi-finals.

They were masterful against the Stormers and the Bulls in Durban, but mediocre in defeat against the Lions at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg.

Fanie Heyns







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