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Five lessons we learned from the second week of Super Rugby Unlocked

19 October 2020 - 13:58 By Khanyiso Tshwaku
Rosko Specman of the Toyota Cheetahs celebrates with Malcolm Jaer and Clayton Blommetjies after scoring a try during the Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Vodacom Bulls in Bloemfontein on October 16, 2020.
Rosko Specman of the Toyota Cheetahs celebrates with Malcolm Jaer and Clayton Blommetjies after scoring a try during the Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Vodacom Bulls in Bloemfontein on October 16, 2020.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

Week two of Super Rugby Unlocked has come and gone‚ giving SA a better glimpse of where the domestic game stands at the moment while continuing to salivate over the prospects of participating at international level.

Few expected the Cheetahs to get the better of the Bulls but the Saturday games conducted themselves to order‚ with the Pumas beating the Griquas‚ and the Stormers getting past the Lions.

However‚ there are always lessons to learn and here are five of them.

1) Damian Willemse needs time… and coaching

Willemse had the perfect opportunity in the space of three weeks to watch how Elton Jantjies plays his rugby behind a pack that’s sometimes retreating.

Of course‚ Jantjies crawled before he walked and ran‚ something SA’s impatient rugby public needs to understand.

That Willemse is talented isn’t in doubt‚ but can the coaching staff at the Stormers actively guide the player in the right direction from a game management perspective? They have to.

John Dobson’s a smart man and so are his lieutenants‚ so they could and should be able to get the Rugby World Cup winner going.

2) That Stormers backline can do so much better

A backline with Willemse‚ Jantjies at nine and Warrick Gelant at 15 could and should be doing so much better.

Their midfield pairing of Rikus Pretorius and Dan du Plessis is untried and it’s a bit too early to see any signs of potential from them‚ but the feeling exists that they should be utilised much better than they are at the moment.

It’s like the Stormers are happy to wear down teams‚ which can work in SA‚ but will be exposed once the European sojourn starts.

3) Burger the passer could be an even better player

Burger Odendaal’s put in two excellent shifts at 13‚ but his inability to pick the time to pass actually hinders his ability to develop in the position.

He’s a 12 and plays like one at 13‚ but seemingly has more time and space at the Lions than he did at the Bulls.

If he can develop a distribution gap to match his growing ability to find and pierce gaps‚ he’ll develop into a problem that the talented‚ but gravely underutilised Wandi Simelane may be unable to shake off at the Lions.

4) Can the Cheetahs sustain their start?

The fact that the Cheetahs are playing with a point to prove is heartening.

They’ve been given the short shrift in most tournaments‚ but with their close win against the Bulls on Friday‚ they again asked a painful‚ yet necessary question about their importance and existence to the SA rugby ecosystem.

What remains now is for them to continue and the Lions will ask questions of their credentials on Saturday in what will be Super Saturday as the Bulls also host the Sharks.

5) A little bit of fun won’t kill

The joy of a Griquas v Pumas game is that it’s not bound by any pressure. The players give it a full go and while the quality can be an issue‚ the entertainment factor is there.

One would hope that DNA can be transplanted into this Saturday’s game as the big games tend to be physical‚ but soul-destroying affairs.

All rugby is being watched from home and the least SA’s big teams could do is to give fans a reason not to have the remote in hand.


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