SUPER RUGBY COUNTDOWN
Bulls and Stormers full of early promise
Reading too much into scores at this stage of the year in the Super Rugby competition is often misleading
If preseason form is anything to go by, the Stormers and Bulls will be SA’s leading Super Rugby contenders‚ but reading too much into scores at this stage of the year is often misleading.
The Stormers won all three of their Super Rugby warm-up games – beating the Cheetahs 43-7 in Harare‚ the SWD Eagles 57-14 in George and the Lions 57-40 at Newlands – to lay down a marker of sorts.
The Bulls beat the Lions 38-17 in Harare and the Chiefs 28-7 in Brisbane and they also played in the Brisbane 10s‚ which was more about fitness than anything.
That fact that the Stormers conceded five tries against the Lions underlines that the match was about attacking plays rather than defence.
Every match has had a specific focus‚ so it is difficult to gauge exactly how good each team have been.
In terms of pure results, the Stormers are the early-season pacesetters with the Bulls‚ but gauging a season on preseason results is superficial.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann was seemingly unconcerned about leaking nine tries against the Stormers.
"I am very excited‚" Ackermann said. "There are things that we did not do [against the Stormers]‚ that we want to use in the competition. We hid away a lot of things‚ so don’t worry.
"We first have to clean our own house and start with week one. We conceded too many points and while you expect it to be more unstructured in a warm-up game‚ you don’t want to concede 50 points.
"No doubt we will have to pay attention to defence in the next two weeks‚ before we start the competition.
"At times, we showed good intensity and at times not‚ but keep in mind some of these players have not played for a long time‚ so we are very happy that we had an opportunity at this level."
And that sums up the situation for all the teams.
The Cheetahs suffered two heavy defeats to the Stormers and Sharks, but coach Franco Smith is not panicking because he knows results are only at about item 10 on a 10-point preseason checklist.
"If you play too many warm-up games, it becomes a 20-match campaign instead of a 15-or 16-game season‚" Smith said. "Twenty is too much."
Cheetahs vice-captain Francois Uys also was not reading too much into their defeats.
"The main goal was to give each and every player in the squad as much game time as possible‚" Uys said.
"Apart from one or two concussions, not too much harm was done to the players‚ so that’s a positive.
"It was also a good learning curve for the younger guys in the squad.
"We played against two very good teams in the Stormers and the Sharks who played pretty much their full-strength teams‚ so we’ll take that forward."
The Bulls will take heart from beating the Chiefs last week, but the most important aspects of the match were that key players such as flyhalf Handré Pollard enjoyed game time and that they came through relatively injury-free.
Stormers medical staff on Monday confirmed that talented wing Leolin Zas will be out for a year after breaking his leg against the Lions at Newlands on Saturday after coming on as a replacement.
Zas‚ 21‚ fractured both his fibula and tibia.
The other major casualty was centre Juan de Jongh who tore his medial collateral ligament and will spend around 10-12 weeks on the sidelines.
On a positive note, the Stormers signed former Bulls and Bok wing Bjorn Basson and will also have SA Sevens star Seabelo Senatla joining the squad this week.