Friday, 12 March 2010

Lions? you'd better call them "tamed cats"

When a winger takes a tap 5 meters out in front of all your forwards and nevertheless manages to trample to score a try...

... then you could very well expect to be in the losing end of a 70-point debacle.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Super 14 round 5: predictions

While I am pondering the proposal of my old friend Miff, regarding points for predictions accuracy, this is what I think shall be the outcome of the weekend games.

Chiefs: 17 - Crusaders: 22 This is the most difficult match to predict. The Crusaders are looking good, but the Chiefs will bounce back. And they won't want to lose two in a row back home. The Crusaders defense should be as good as last year's.
Waratahs: 38 - Lions: 21 This will be a much needed bonus point for the Waratahs
Bulls: 40 - Highlanders: 23 du Preez and Spies will be enough for the Bulls.
Stormers: 13 - Hurricanes: 11 This is also a very difficult match to predict. I want the Hurricanes to win, so I predict a victory for the Stormers who are on a high after their impressive display against the Highlanders.
Brumbies: 18 - Sharks: 19 There must be a first win and the Brumbies feature is as good as any other.
Reds: 25 - Western Force: 22 This game could go either way, but the Reds are confident while the Force is hungry. In the end, Will Genia will have his word.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

One third of the competition and there are not but a few certainties in the Super 14

Certain: the Sharks won't be competing for the title
Uncertain: Chiefs and Hurricanes' chances

Cert: Ali Williams, Bakkies Botha and Heinrich Brüssow are out for the competition
Uncert: When will Isaia Toeava, Peter Hynes and Andy Ellis be back

Cert: The Bulls are hot favourites
Uncert: How will they fare out of Africa.

Cert: The Waratahs are improving
Uncert: Will they be consistent enough?

Cert: Will Genia is the nine to watch in the competition.
Uncert: Luke Burgess running is better than his passes.

Cert: The Stormers will get better
Uncert: The Brumbies shall get better?

You could expect the Bulls and the Crusaders to be there at the end. Followed by Chiefs, Stormers, Hurricanes and Brumbies. From now on, I would say that Christchurch and Pretoria shall be fiercely looking at each other.

Ah, the Crusaders will play the Bulls in Pretoria. It's an important detail.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Super 14 round 4: predictions

The cool guys at keohane Jan Cardinelli and Ryan Vrede were in healthy 10 from 14 and 11 from 14 predicting the outcome of the Super 14 games during the first two rounds. Notable success from the opening rounds. But last week they "only" recorded 4 right guesses each, adding up to three mistakes in their predictions.

Now I have almost catched up with them and this is how the predictions' table would look:

Ryan Vrede: 15 points
Jan Cardinelli: 14 points
sesenta y cuatro: 13 points

So, encouraged by last week's predictions, here it is how I see this weekend's games:

Chiefs 33 - Reds 28: Good news for the home side is that they have the most dreadly back three in the world starting together. It is not bad news the way Graham and Retalick are performing, either.
Brumbies 34 - Lions 19: Don't be fooled. The Brumbies problem in 2010 remains the same old problem. Who's scoring? They need the best Giteau or else they will not be in the top 4.
Crusaders 23 - Blues 18: Who would have thought these two would ever become 3rth and 4th best teams in NZ? It was so last year, and neither has made us change our mind, yet.
Waratahs 32 - Sharks 24: Back at home and with the confidence of their very good effort against the Bulls, the Waratahs should win a talented but confidence-lacking Sharks side.
Stormers 22 -Highlanders 16: Jamie Mackintosh says the Highlanders have changed for good. I'm yet to see it.
Cheetahs 26 - Hurricanes 36: The Chiefs have been impressive on the road. Can the Hurricanes show at last such consistency? The Cheetahs could very well prove very hard to blow away.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Blou Bulls

So far the Super 14 2010 has witnessed powerhouses Bulls, Hurricanes and Chiefs go undefeated the first three rounds. Although Hurricanes and Chiefs are traditionally slow starters, it's hardly surprising that both teams have won all their games so far. Quality and consistency are the key ingredients of the succesful kiwis teams.

But as good as these teams are, as high as they are flying, their deeds have been eclipsed by the highest-flying Bulls, the team that not only was impressive during the dying games of last season, but also have produced the best rugby in 2010.

Some of the new interpretations of the old rules were a backstab aimed at the Bulls. More strict rulings at the offside during the kicking and a quicker recycling of the ball, made possible by the stricter interpretation of the release-tackled-player law, had pundits saying that a side like the Bulls, so strong with the kick&chase, would struggle to get going.

It's been the other way around. No team has produced more tries, no team has a more dreadful attacking game and no team looks more dangerous with the ball in hand. Take last week's game against the Waratahs as an example. So confident were the Bulls of their attack that a number of times, unerring Morné Steyn opted for kicking penalties to touch, instead of taking the three points on offer. To good effect, must be said.

The Bulls have been so strong in the highveld. Will they be that strong on the road? It's their rivals hope, including Hurricanes and Chiefs, or there will be no stopping them. Weaker or stronger, we'll start knowing in week 5, as this week is Bulls' Bye round before they go on touring Oz and NZ.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Friday games: not much, really

The Crusaders-Sharks game was not exactly a cracker, but in the end, there were tries and Zac Guilford running inside the 10-12 channel is worth to see. Besides, Thomas Waldrom is possibly the in-form number 8 of the competition and only bad luck and a suspicious referee call prevented him from scoring a try.

The game at Newlands, on the other hand, didn't have anything at all. Jacque Fourie was off. And Habana couldn't find his game. 4 penalties and no tries is just the opposite of what you would expect of such a player. Rocky Elsom was nowhere to be seen, and the bloke who saved the day for the Brumbies was the workhorse George Smith. Tackling tackles, winning turnover ball and being virtually everywhere. In the end, he was in the right spot to intercept a Stormers ball and run for the decissive try in the 77th minute.

The game was so bad that the Stormers had a final chance to level up the score with a try in the 81st minute. Joe Pietersen missed the conversion and that was all the difference between two sides that fought hard but without bullets.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Super 14 round 3: predictions

So far I have been surprised by the "unexpected" behaviour of Reds, Waratahs and Crusaders. Last week I completely missread their chances. The most intriguing case is that of the Reds. How consistent are they? The most irregular kiwi franchise is this week in Brisbane to check.

Crusaders 28 - Sharks 24: You would kind of expect both teams to bounce back. The truth is that only one of them can win, and the Crusaders play it at home.
Stormers 15 - Brumbies 19: This is the "come-of-age" game for both teams. Who will leave Cape Town as an adult? I still think the Brumbies can do it.

Hurricanes 38 - Lions 17: Even Dick Muir can't help what can't be helped.
Reds 33 - Blues 27: I predicted a different 2010 for the Blues, but they have proved me wrong, so far.
Western Force 23 - Chiefs 24: Don't expect another try-fest. The Chiefs are a very good side and although the Force is much better than two losses tell, I think the kiwis will get the four points.
Cheetahs 19 - Highlanders 20: The Cheetahs have twice shown their teeth this season. Now it's time for the Highlanders to shine.
Bulls 38 - Waratahs 24: The most impressive thing about these Bulls is that they can easily score 30+ points no matter who's in front.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Auckland Blues: An injury-prone team

It was during the pre-season that I thought that this Blues side could have their year in 2010, provided there were less injury concerns that they have had in the past.

But all of a sudden, injuries appeared again. Tuitavake out for the first rounds, just like Pisi and McAlister. Soon after, Ali Williams was ruled out for 6 months. A week ago it was Isaia Toeava who had to go off the field, now seemingly with a strange hip pain.

Now, who's left? Pat Lam does not want to risk Tuitavake in too early. What should be done about a backline who's consistently missing no less than three starting players?

New interpretations

Two main focus points have drawn referees' attention in the first two rounds of Super 14.

Tackler releasing the tackled player before playing the ball
Players in front of the kicker not retreating.

We have got general approvement of these interpretations, as the games played under them have witnessed more tries (and more penalties, too).

What do we make of them? Although there's plenty of people, like Robbie Deans, most pleased with them, ("close to perfection" was Deans' opinion) there are others like Phil Waugh who think the breakdown will no longer remain a contest.

What do we think?

We think that is further prove (if anymore was needed) that Waugh won't ever wear green and gold again.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Crazy weekend in a sentence

Bulls: too strong.
Hurricanes: good start.
Chiefs: best SA tour in history.
Stormers: Gotta get better.
Reds: Wait and see.
Crusaders: What the hell?
Brumbies: Brave effort, but still no points.
Blues: Get better or die.
Cheetahs: Much improved effort.
Waratahs: Try trying some tries.
Sharks: The hardest is yet to come.
Lions: 65 and still they lost.
Highlanders: What do you need to win a game?
Force: Weakness.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Super 14 round 2: Predictions

Last week, the only real surprises were the seriousness of the Chiefs and perhaps, the firepower of the Cheetahs.
This week, a question mark stands over Sharks, Blues and Waratahs. Can they show a better form than they did last week?

Highlanders 23 - Blues 17: Perhaps the most difficult game to predict. These Highlanders have something. Let me predict a win for them.
Reds 18 - Crusaders 29: The forwards will nulify the Reds.
Sharks 20 - Cheetahs 18: This is the game which could define the seasons of both teams. Do you think the Sharks can't lose this one? Don't be so sure.
Lions 19 - Chiefs 30: The Lions looked like division 2 last week.
Hurricanes 42 - Force 19: Did I ever tell you the story of the Western Weakness?
Bulls 33 - Brumbies 23: The Bulls have too much firepower for almost anybody.
Stormers 22 - Waratahs 24: The 'tahs are the most motivated side of Super 14 right now.

The Western Force injuries make them The Western Weakness

First, Andre Pretorius.
Then, Mark Bartholomeusz, the man who was signed to cover the former's injury.
That was bad luck indeed, or was it?
Earlier this week winger Cameron Shepherd was ruled out due to injury.
And today we have known that two wallabies, Richard Brown and David Pocock won't be able to play next round.

Will John Mitchell be forced to come out and play himself?

In the mean time we suggest the Western Force to change their name to Western Weakness.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Super 14 Round 1 surprises:

There were a few surprises in round one, although the scores weren't as surprising as they could have been. These are the surprises that caught our eye:

  1. 9 tries in the best of the all-african match.
  2. Peter Hynes playing as fullback
  3. James O'Connor unerring boot
  4. Steve Meyer's exit from rugby
  5. The ability of the Brisbane Reds to lose a game that they should have won
  6. The storming attack of the Bulls the first round of the competition; it seems as though they had resumed last year's campaign

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Outstanding players

These are some of the players that have shone in the first 4 games of the 2010 Super 14.

Morné Steyn: This can hardly be a surprise, but this guy has carried on his outstanding 2009 form to 2010.
Josh Bekhuis: Please Graham Henry, consider this guy.
Andy Ellis: The best halfback in New Zealand by a long mile.
Juan Smith: He's always leading, he's everywhere, he's doing everything.
Ben Alexander: He's playing much in the spirit of Dave Gallaher: forwards atacking like backs.
James O'Connor: He's the firepower of the Western Force.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Sharks; legacy or money-built squad?

The decission of Steve Meyer to quit rugby has substantially weakened one area where the Sharks had already coped with two blows: the injuries of both Hernández and Pienaar.

Comments have arisen about the policy of the Sharks and Natal's rugby. Are they poachers? Do they breed their own talent? Natal never won the Currie Cup until 1990, and have managed to win it 5 times since. Presently the Sharks have a dispute with the Lions regarding two players: Willem Alberts and Louis Ludik Besides, they have signed players along SA: Stefan Terblanche (from Boland), Pietersen (from he Jaguars), Odwa Ndungane (from the Bulls). They have also gone to Zimbabwe to get the services of Tendai Mtawarira, and signed world class players like Michalak or Hernández. However, some outstanding players like Ruan Pienaar, John Smit or Ryan Kankowski have grown up within the Natal province.

All in all, the Sharks are a mixed bag of tradition and pragmatism. They can't be compared by any means to teams like Saracens (I have not heard anyone in SA complaining about them) nor they have the same philosophy as Canterbury have.

If you want a team of mercenaries, wait until next year, Melbourne Rebels have still got to build a team