7 Apr

Super 14 Summary – Round 8
by Tracey Nelson
7 Apr 2009

Tragic news this week that Brumbies player Shawn MacKay has died in St Augustine’s hospital in Durban, following complications a week after being hit by a car outside a nightclub following his team’s game against the Sharks on March 28. MacKay, aged 26, suffered mulitple injuries and had initially been in an induced coma. He had shown some signs of improvement before the weekend after being brought out of the induced coma and undergoing spinal surgery, but a post-surgical infection caused him to deteriorate rapidly and he suffered a cardiac arrest from which he didn’t recover. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and teammates.

Crusaders v Bulls (16-13)

The first thirty minutes of this game seemed to promise something great, with the Crusaders pack hitting the breakdowns at speed and putting the big Bulls pack on the backfoot. The first try came in the fourth minute of the game after a high kick into the Bulls’ 22 bounced between Morne Steyn and Fourie du Preez, and Isaac Ross pounced on it and raced over to score. Stephen Brett was on target with the conversion, and then with a penalty goal after the Bulls were pinged and given a verbal warning for offside play at the breakdown in their own 22. This saw the Crusaders up 10-0 after 15 minutes.

Great defence by the Bulls, along with a couple of knock-ons at crucial moments for the Crusaders, kept the score this way until seven mintues before the halftime break. Bulls 2nd 5 Wynand Olivier, who was playing his 50th game, broke through a loose tackle and the Bulls outflanked the Crusaders cover defence for winger Akona Ndungane to score in the corner. The conversion from the sideline was by Steyn, and the teams went into the break with the Crusaders ahead 10-5.

The second half saw the Crusaders emerge minus centre Casey Laulala, who had broken his arm towards the end of the first half. The home team started the half strongly and swung onto attack, with Brett dropping a goal (the first one by a NZ side this season) after 5 minutes. The Bulls then gathered some momentum and possession, and launched several attacks via 2nd 5 Olivier. Eventually this led to Ndungane’s second try, and despite the missed conversion it took the Bulls to within 3 points of the Crusaders. Minutes later a penalty goal brought the scores level, and with thirty minutes left to play it looked like being anyone’s game.

Unfortunately the intensity that was to the fore in the first hour of play, was largely lacking in the last half hour and for long periods of play the crowd were witness to plenty of aimless kicking and numerous handling errors by both sides. The only further scoring came with 15 minutes left in the game, when Pedrie Wannenburg was penalised for a high tackle, and this week Brett’s boot was on song to take the injury-hit Crusaders to a hard-fought victory.

This was the Bulls second loss in a row, and will no doubt be raising doubts again that they can’t win on the road. Despite being the only South African side to ever beat the Crusaders in NZ, they last did that in 1996. The Bulls now travel to Australia to take on the Waratahs and Brumbies before returning home, while the Crusaders have the bye before travelling to South Africa for three matches.

Crusaders: Ross try; Brett 1 con, 2 pen, 1 drop goal.
Bulls: Ndungane(2) tries; Steyn 1 pen.

Chiefs v Lions (38-29)

The old saying of "game of two halves" needs to be ammended, because in the case of the Chiefs it was a flurry of scoring in a 15 minute period late in the game that saw them come from behind to beat the Lions. The Chiefs had entered this game as raging hot favourites sitting in third place, whereas the Lions were languishing in second-to-last place. But all bets were off as the Lions roared into life and very nearly caused the upset.

The Lions had a simple but effective game plan, and that was to target the Chiefs at set piece and in the air. This they did to near perfection in the first half, with cleverly placed kicks that the Chiefs foolishly allowed to bounce, and pressuring their opposition into mistakes particularly in the lineouts. Sione Lauaki and Lelia Masaga were two players the Lions targetted with the high ball, and both obliged their opposition by spilling and knocking on numerous times.

The Lions scored first with a try to Jano Vermaak, before the Chiefs struck back with a penalty and then a try to Dwayne Sweeney after some sloppy work at the base of the Lions’ scrum led to a turnover. Some poor kicking by the Chiefs’ backs was returned with interest by the visitors, one superbly placed down the sideline led to Jaque Fourie’s first try of the night. A drop goal followed, and then a high kick was fielded and spilled by Lauaki to allow Fourie to go over for his second try, and the Lions were leading 22-10 at half time.

When No 8 Ernst Joubert was sin binned after the break for a professional foul at a ruck, the Chiefs went for a set-piece move but it was well read by Earl Rose who timed his run onto the pass from Donald to score an intercept try from 60m out. This gave the Lions their bonus point try and the conversion had them out to a 29-10 lead with 24 minutes left to play.

Things were looking hairy for the Chiefs when Masaga had to leave the field injured, but it was their bench that sparked the revival they needed with Hika Elliot giving them some much needed go-forward and front foot ball to attack from. The Chiefs finally managed to string some phases together to send Sweeney over for his second try, before Pretorius missed a penalty shot for goal that may well have put the game out of reach for the Chiefs.

As the Lions started to tire, the Chiefs replacements were making their mark with Jackson Willison going over in the corner. The conversion of Willison’s try took the Chiefs to within 5 points, before Elliot crashed over the line minutes later to draw the scores level. A counterattack from the Chiefs’ own half saw Sweeney win the race from a kick through to score his third try and take the Chiefs out to a 36-29 lead in the space of 15 minutes.

This was a timely scare for the Chiefs as they go into the bye before heading to South Africa for three matches, and they will be looking to work on their set pieces, aerial skills and defence before taking on the Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers.

Chiefs: Sweeney(3), Willison, Elliot tries; Donald 4 con, 1 pen.
Lions: Fourie(2), Vermaak, Rose tries; Pretorius 3 con, 1 drop goal.

Sharks v Hurricanes (33-17)

This match started off as a closely contested affair, with just a penalty goal apiece in the opening 15 minutes. The first try came when John Smit uncharacteristcally slipped a tackle to allow Faifili Lavave to run 20m to score under the posts. Piri Weepu converted to take his side out to a seven point lead, but two penalty goals had the Sharks just one point behind at 9-10 at half time.

Five minutes into the second half Zac Guilford kicked directly into touch from a ball taken back into the Hurricanes 22, and quick thinking by the Sharks saw them take advantage of the Canes’ lack of awareness by taking quick throw in for Vulindlu to score in his first Super 14 game.

The Canes then botched the restart with the ball not travelling 10m to immediately put themselves back under pressure. A high return kick from Stefan Terblance travelled into the Canes’ 22 and was dropped by Tamati Ellison, allowing Francois Steyn to swoop on the loose ball and score their second try in the space of three minutes.

The Canes tried manfully to get back into the game, but strong defence by the Sharks kept them scoreless. The Sharks had a chance to further their lead after a high tackle by John Schwalger gave Kockett a penalty kick at goal but he missed. The pressure began to mount for the Canes, first conceding a tighthe
ad from a defensive scrum in their own 22, then losing an attacking lineout throw in the Sharks’ 22.

Eventually they managed to cross the line when a neat pass from Conrad Smith sent Zac Guildford in for a try in the corner, and they could have scored again had Dane Coles not knocked the ball on just before the line. The Sharks struck back late in game from yet another high kick that this time was not fielded by Guildford and Sharks went in for their third try to take the game and any chance of a bonus point out of the reach of the Canes.

Much like the Chiefs, the Canes were guilty of trying to play too wide too early with the ball, and also suffered from numerous handling errors and an inability to control their own set pieces. They now have the gruelling trip back from South Africa to contend with as they look to take on the Stormers back in Wellington this week.

Sharks: Vinlindlu, Steyn, Jordaan tries; Kockett 3 pen, 3 con, Steyn 1 drop goal.
Hurricanes: Levave, Guildford tries; Weepu 2 con, 1 pen.

In other games:

The Force beat the Reds 39-7
The Waratahs beat the Stormers 12-6
The Cheetahs lost to the Brumbies 27-40

The Blues and Highlanders had the bye.

3 Apr

Super 14 Preview – No Blues Agony This Week
by WAJ
3 Apr 2009

I’ve got to say that I am quite happy for the sanction ELV’s to be on the way out. That every ruck and or maul has to end in a free kick is particularly annoying.

And the amount of free kicks given, often for non-existant offences but because the ball does no emerge after 2.94 seconds, is another huge frustation. And refs blowing free kicks if an opposition player comes within a foot of the ball, saying "all rights to the player on his feet", but half time they don’t even allow the tackled to play the ball. And with teams willing to sacrifice free kicks to stop tries it is inevitable we get to the penalty and yellow card stage eventually, so why not have penalties straight off and thus more severe consequences, which should in turn reduce the yellow cards.

1 5/8 rankings: Duck, Berquist, Weepu, Brett, Gopperth.

Hard to argue with the Ducks form – any team that is scoring the amount of tries that the Chiefs are is well directed. And Berquist didn’t do too much wrong either. As for bloody Gopperth and his option taking, why would you kick the ball away, which he did more than once, in the last few minutes when you are a converted try away from winning the game – friggin’ ponce.

My current(must have played well in the last couple of weeks) AB team on form:
Backs: Muliana, Sivi, Smith, Big Dick, Tuitavake, The Duck, Leonard
Forwards: Lauaki, Latimer, Thomson, Thrush, Thorn, Newlands, Frenchie, Crockett
Reserves: Toeava, Nonu, Cowan, Messam, Ross, Afoa, Big Kev

It doesn’t get any easier with the picks either.

Crusaders v Bulls
What to make of this game? The Bulls were very disppointing being totally outplayed by the Highlanders last week. So what do they do – bulk up their pack of course, with Matfield in and Roussow moving to the flank, the Flash is also back adding some real class to the backline. But can they change the mindset and move away from the high veldt stuff of kick and chase, that won’t beat the Crusaders with Mr Tried and True at fullback. They also have never beaten the Crusders in NZ, in fact have only won 4 of 25 in NZ. So steady as she goes for the Crusaders will probably see them home, don’t get bullied up front and take your chances, and there will be a few, outside. Looking forward to Thorn v Bakkies.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Force v Reds
Well this one is a bit of a guess. Two middling teams with up and down form – the Force have a poor home record, the Reds have a poor away record. The Reds will be hugely disappointed with last weeks capitulation and have a real dislike for the Force so will be well motivated and if they can do the basics up front and settle down early they probably have the better game plan and can win.
Reds 1 – 12

Chiefs v Lions
More power to the Chiefs – have they turned it around big time. The tight five are holding their own, the loosies thus getting on the front foot with their complimentary styles allowing Leonard and Donald to unleash the considerable fire power out wide. Mistakes are limited, right options taken and with 6 or 7 individuals capable of making a break at any stage they are impossible to contain. And the Lions sure aren’t going to.
Chiefs 13+

Waratahs v Stormers
Don’t think this will be the most attractive game of the weekend to watch. Whilst the Waratahs are having a winning season they sure make hard work of it. It is puzzling that their talented 3/4 line always struggles to have an impact on a game, they are too easily closed down, lack accuracy in passing, just don’t click. But they are good points accumulators and their forwards will give them plenty of pill to keep doing that. The Stormers are fast waving their season goodbye, failed to get anything going last week, have a couple of injuries, and really look like a struggling team. They look better with the Grant/de Villiers/Bobo midfield reinstated, but will struggle up front, especially in the T5. Expect it to be tight.
Waratahs 1 – 12

Cheetahs v Brumbies
Overshadowed by the terrible injuries suffered by Shawn Mackay – here’s hoping he makes a full recovery. This would normally be a straight forward win to the Brumbies against the worst side in the comp, but how much will the events of last weekend distract them, and it must do in some way. Fortunately the Brumbies have plenty of old heads to get them through this weekend and they have too much talent, especially with Mortlock back, to ensure they have a strong win. Not much can be said about the Cheetahs. Juan Smith is a big in, but even his class is overshadowed by the mediocrity surrounding him.
Brumbies 13+

Sharks v Hurricanes
Probably the game of the round. The Hurricanes have it all to do here – and if they can perform with the intensity they brought to their win over the Crusaders they can win. My concern is the forwards – whilst Hore is a great addition, the likes of Tialata and Eaton need to perform in the tight to get an underwhelming loose trio into the game. The backs will look after themselves(though Smiths lack of outright pace concerns me) so the forwards have to front up. The Sharks are great opportunists and will be up the other end on attack very quickly from turnovers. And they have a good success rate at then scoring. But they also make mistakes – both Kockett and Steyn are fallible, so the opportunities will be there for the Hurricanes. But have to tip the Sharks at home where they haven’t lost since the 2007 final.
Sharks 1 – 12

Regards Waj

1 Apr

ELVs to be sanctioned into law
by Tracey Nelson
1 Apr 2009

An International Rugby Board conference in London has reviewed the impact of the various experimental law variations (ELVs) being trialled around the world, and will recommend to the IRB’s Technical Committee Meeting on May 13 this year that ten ELVs be adopted into law.

The IRB conferencewas made up of60 representatives from the major fifteen unions, and a detailed review including game analysis and statistical surveys from over 800 games was carried out over two days. New Zealand was represented by Steve Tew, Neil Sorenson, Steve Hansen and Lyndon Bray (NZRU Referee Manager).

There are no major surprises in theten ELVs to be recommended, with laws such as the pass-back -which prevents ground from being made with a kick to touch if the ball has been passed back into the 22 – being an obvious favourite amongst all countries. Likewise the 5m offside line at the scrum was also unanimously recommended to go forward.

Two ELVs that won’t be recommended are the the variations allowing sacking (pulling down) of mauls, and the freedom for teams to choose how many players they put in a lineout. The sacking of mauls was a contentious ELV, with Ireland and Italy in particular voicing their dissatisfaction. Chris Cuthbertson, chair of the Rugby Football Union’s ELV Task group said: “The feedback from the Game and our game analysis indicates that pulling down the maul and unrestricted numbers in the line-out have not improved the game.”

Steve Hansen reported that while discussions had been “robust, with plenty of debate”, there was no suggestion of a Northern vs Southern Hemisphere split over the ELVs. Currently only the SANZAR compeitions (Super 14 and TriNations) are trialling the sanctions law at the breakdown, where free kicks rather than penalties are awarded for all but off-side offences. This ELV has been reccommended for further investigation and review.

Unfortunately the ELV sanctions have done nothing to tidy up the breakdown, and the IRB will be looking at the laws surrounding the breakdown areas of tackles, rucks and mauls. Confusion and lack of consistency with rulings at the breakdown have led to less attacking play and an increase in kicking as teams have become more hesistant at taking the ball into contact.

The IRB’s rugby committee will finalise their list of recommendations at a meeting in Dublin on 27 April before they go before the full IRB council meeting on 13 May.

The following ELVs will be recommended to be passed into law:

Law 6 – Assistant referees allowed
Law 19 – Kicking directly into touch from ball played back into
22 equals no gain in ground
Law 19 – Quick throw permitted in any direction except forward
Law 19 – Positioning of player in opposition to the player
throwing-in to be two metres away from line-out and the line of
Law 19 – Pre-gripping of line-out jumpers allowed
Law 19 – Lifting in the line-out allowed
Law 19 – Positioning of receiver must be two metres away from
Law 20 – Five-metre offside line at the scrum
Law 20 – Scrum-half offside line at the scrum
Law 22 – Corner posts no longer touch in goal

The ELVs not recommended are:

Law 17 – Maul, head and shoulders not to be lower than hips
Law 17 – Maul, pulling down the maul
Law 19 – Freedom for each team to determine line-out numbers

The ELVs still under review are:

Sanctions and free-kicks at the breakdown