By Lucky Vince Pienaar
There’s no denying the facts. The South African teams had a terrible weekend in the United Rugby Championship losing four out of four matches. But it was encouraging to see players from all four franchises playing with passion and commitment.
➤ Last year, the Bulls had to come from a long way behind to become a real force in the last part of the URC.
They have had a much better start to the tournament this year, but if you didn’t watch their match against Edinburgh, don’t bother. Marcel Coetzee’s red card unleashed a frenzy of cards with the Bulls getting two yellows and Edinburgh one.
Referees, 4, rugby, 0.
➤ As we’ve come to expect, the Lions gave it all they’ve got but, also as expected, they could not manage a win.
It’s turning out to be a smart move to use the Lions’ playmaker Sanele Nohamba at flyhalf. As with last week, he showed that he is up for it even though he was playing behind a losing pack. We may never see him at scrumhalf again, and that could be a good thing.
And if the players are giving it a full go as individuals, who is responsible for making them a team? Look to the coaching bench for answers.
➤ The Sharks, not unexpectedly, lost their fifth match in a row, this time to Connacht. But this was their first home match played in hot and humid Durban conditions – but, nope, it was not to be.
The Sharks were always on the back foot after conceding an early try. They put up a gutsy fight, scoring two tries, with Werner Kok, as always playing his heart out.
The Sharks should have learnt the lesson from the World Cup final: if easy points are on offer, take them! The Sharks kept giving up penalties to go for the line out, hoping to score tries. They ignored at least three penalty opportunities and missed one conversion. That’s a lot of points in a match won by one single point.
Great strategy, John Plumtree and Neil Powell.
They are now the one and only team to have gone without a single win in the first five rounds of the tournament.
➤ John Dobson, in spite of dropping down to ninth on the URC log, can be somewhat hopeful that his team could fight their way back into contention for championship honours.
The match against Ulster played in probably the worst conditions of the tournament so far, was a low-scoring affair. The Stormers conceded a single try, which turned out to make the seven points difference.
Even in those conditions, it was a pleasure watching Sacha Mngomezulu showing some brilliant individual skills. He probably can’t wait for next year’s Springbok selection.
Edinburgh (3 tries) 31-23 (2 tries) Bulls
Ulster (3 tries) 24-17 (2 tries) Lions
Sharks (2 tries) 12-13 (1 try) Connacht
Munster (one try) 10-3 (0 tries) Stormers
Pictured above: Blue Bulls.
Image source: X