The league fixtures have been completed and after 18 rounds of Super Rugby, it is now finally time for the knock-out stages to commence.
Stormers top the overall standings with a very unconvincing win over the Rebels at Newlands, where the Semi-final and possibly the Final will be held, as well as claiming the second consecutive SA Conference Cup. There were definitely some shady calls by the referee and he also allowed much of our attacking ball to be slowed down illegally and the Rebels weren’t really blown up for that, the final scoreline 26-21.
However, the Stormers once again made the match-up look much closer that it should have been, but its almost like the Stormers thrive on being in these close encounters and they have proven to be effective in closing out these close matches, almost like they are purposely keeping the opposition at arm’s length, but when put under pressure, we could strike back and score almost at will. Which is a good sign heading into the play-offs, but my only concern is, would Juan de Jongh so easily have scored those tries against opposition like the Crusaders or the Sharks for example?
I was also pleasantly surprised at how well Deon Fourie managed to fill in at nr. 8, as I was a bit sceptical as he is way too short for an eighth-man, but his speed off the mark and strength made up for that and the way he played, as well as stealing a couple of the opposition’s ball.
Overall,a very impressive performance and gives us the option of maybe using him there during the play-offs, not like the Stormers have much of a choice, with all these injuries to the loosies.
Let’s have a look at the top 6 qualifying for the play-offs:
Sharks have to travel to face the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. The Reds did really well in clinching the Aussie Conference after the defending champions started out really poorly and hit with injuries, but they effectively knocked out Jake’s Brumbies, which should have been interesting to see how they would do come the play-off matches. The Sharks will have to travel without Frans Steyn and Patrick Lambie, and this might cause disruptions for the Sharks and I feel they might struggle, but be able to win it.
The Bulls have to face the Crusaders in Christchurch, which is never an easy task and the Bulls simply aren’t the force they were as in previous seasons and the Crusaders should win this encounter.
The semi-final match-ups could then see the Stormers having to face the Sharks and the Chiefs to face the Crusaders, which will then lead to another SA vs. NZ final….