United Rugby: It could have been worse, it should have been a lot better

Lucky Sithole

It seems strange to think of some of the most experienced rugby players in the world as novices, but the four South African franchises found themselves struggling to adapt to unfamiliar territory. 

They faced not only experienced teams, but also damp and windy conditions. Rugby crowds are not supposed to be impartial and rational, but the visitors faced crowds at all four venues that were partisan to the point of being belligerent.

  • Expecting Parma Zebre to beat the Bulls is almost as far-fetched as thinking the Bulls would play with flair. Zebre didn’t and the Bulls didn’t. Losing against the visitors was Zebre’s 20th defeat in a row, reflecting the performance of the Italian national side which last won a Six Nations match in 2015. 

The score line is a true reflection of the game, but it was a scrappy affair with the Bulls powering through the Italians for six tries to one. 

Zebre: Tries: Antonio Rizzi. Conversions: 1

Bulls: Tries: Johan Grobbelaar, Embrose Papier, Marcel Coetzee, Arno Botha, Lionel Mapoe, Kurt-Lee Arendse. Conversions: 6. Penalties: 1  

Zebre 7-45 Bulls

  • Leinster is the complete deal. It is very difficult to see weaknesses in a team that has only lost two matches out of 11 in this competition. When they scored early in the first half, it looked like it could turn into a rout, but the Lions stabilised and in the last quarter were the better team on the field with Jaco Kriel scoring off the side of the scrum. 

Leinster: Tries: Dave Kearney, Michael Alaalatoa, Scott Penny. Conversions: 3

Lions: Tries: Jaco Kriel. Conversions: 1. Penalties: 2

Leinster 21-13 Lions

  • The predicted nail-biter of the weekend, Connacht vs the Stormers, lived up to its expectations as the score swung back and forth. Certainly the wind played its part, howling over the low stands of the Western Irish stadium and disrupting play. The lead changed hands several times with Connacht scoring a two point victory. 

Unfortunately it is difficult to deny that ref Ben Blain, like the wind, had an impact on the match. You should have heard Nick Mallett after the match on the subject of Ruan Nel’s yellow card.

Connacht: Tries: Paul Boyle, Tom Daly, Peter Sullivan. Conversions: 2

Stormers: Tries: Sergeal Petersen, Damian Willemse, Manie Libbok. Conversions: 1

Connacht 19-17 Stormers

  • The Sharks secured a substantial win over Benetton but unlike the perfect weather, the Sharks’ performance was anything but perfect. Even though the Sharks scored four tries for the bonus point win, the match spluttered to the inevitable conclusion with little or no enthusiasm from either side. 

There is some satisfaction in knowing that this is revenge of a kind after Benetton beat the Bulls in the final of the Rainbow Cup last year. Curwin Bosch was man of the match because, one suspects, somebody had to be.

Benetton: Tries: Carl Wegner. Conversions: 1

Sharks: Tries: Ruben van Heerden, Aphelele Fassi, Phepsi Buthelezi, Sbu Nkosi. Conversions: 3. Penalties: 1

Benetton 7-29 Sharks

Image source: @Keo.co.za