July 23, 2012 in Uncategorized
The Super Rugby qualifiers on Saturday served up two matches that illustrated the gulf between the playing styles exhibited in the competition. The Bulls have been succesful with their particular brand of rugby in the past, but the Crusaders have again shown that if countered it very quickly becomes a losing gameplan. Granted that if executed well enough it can overcome the more dynamic style favoured by our southern adversaries, but the Bulls stumbled their way out of the competition with barely a moments excitement. The failure of the senior players to stamp their authority on the game was alarming and will give Heyneke Meyer a massive concern going in to the Rugby Championship. Pierre Spies has failed to impress as anything but a flat track bully, while the decision making of Francois Hougaard has room for improvement, but it is Morne Steyn that worries the most. Not only has his goalkicking radar gone awry, but his normally impecable kicking out of hand has begun to wobble. This key axis must fire for the Bulls to be succesful and by extension the Springboks.
The Sharks stunned the Reds playing a more expansive gameplan and though consistency has been a problem, they are irresistable in full flight. The impact of their dynamic backrow, runners like Willem Alberts and ability to mix it up in the backs showed the merit of a multi-faceted gameplan. Individually and as a team the Sharks showed the ability to think on their feet and for the most part make the right decisions. Michalak and McLeod were instrumental in stamping the Sharks gameplan on the Reds, albeit behind a rampant forward pack. The contrast of these performances will highlight to Meyer that he can’t simply rely on Steyn and his usually unerring boot. There is no other flyhalf with the kicking ability of Steyn, but there are many that offer a greater spread of talents. His decision on who to keep in reserve will be crucial, if Steyn doesn’t regain form Meyer will be forced to look at alternatives that are better at playing a style more akin to Sharks rugby than the pattern favoured by Meyer and the Bulls.