WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Mar 12 – Missing Springboks and returning All Black Beauden Barrett are among Super Rugby talking points ahead of this weekend’s seventh round of the 2020 season:
– Stormers warning –
Coastal Sharks number eight Sikhumbuzo Notshe has warned that the visiting Western Stormers will not be any easier to overcome in Durban because they are missing three injured Springbok forwards.
“They have a lot of talented young players ready to fill the gaps,” warned Notshe, who has starred for the Durban side this season after leaving the Stormers to get more game time.
Flanker and reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit misses the clash between leaders Sharks and fifth-place Stormers because of a thigh injury.
Captain and loose forward Siya Kolisi (knee) and hooker Bongi Mbonambi (hamstring) were injured in the season-opening victory over the Wellington Hurricanes.
– Barrett’s ‘itchy feet’ –
The Auckland Blues finally got their man this week when star fly-half Beauden Barrett joined the team for training for the first time after an extended break following the World Cup.
But fans are no closer to knowing when Barrett will actually take the field for the Blues, with coach Leon MacDonald saying only he was targeting a “mid-April” debut for the high profile recruit from Wellington Hurricanes.
Barrett a crammed a lot into his time off, including trips to Thailand, Fiji and the United States where he watched the Super Bowl and Phoenix Golf Open
“It was a really good break until Super Rugby kicked off, then my feet started to get itchy,” the 83-Test All Black told reporters.
“I’m not expecting to be back to where I was last year next week. It’s up to me get myself right physically and mentally, to learn the plays, the calls. It’s like learning a different language, so I’m enjoying that challenge.”
– Jersey jumble –
There was mass confusion as Northern Bulls and Otago Highlanders ran out in strikingly similar jerseys in Pretoria on Saturday.
Players, officials, commentators and spectators all had trouble distinguishing the Bulls’ tops — featuring blue squares — from the Highlanders’ marginally less garish green diamond pattern.
“The Bulls changed strip at half-time to alleviate the issue and SANZAAR will endeavour to ensure similar confusion does not take place in the future,” the competition’s governing body said.
The sartorial shambles almost paid dividends for the Highlanders, who led 10-5 at half-time only to lose 38-13 once the issue was resolved.
– Boys to men –
Golden Lions skipper Elton Jantjies refuses to use the loss of several stars to Europe and Japan as an excuse for his side’s dismal early-season form.
“I do not like the word ‘rebuilding’ because it is an easy way out,” the fly-half said before facing the Auckland Blues in the third match of their Australasia tour following two losses, 37-17 to Melbourne Rebels last week and 29-17 to the NSW Waratahs the week before.
“Super Rugby is a competition for men, not kids. We need to put the defeats in Australia behind us and learn quickly.”
The Johannesburg side’s only win in six outings this season came back in week two, 27-20 over Queensland Reds.
– Second-half crash –
The woeful NSW Waratahs are desperate to regain some respect against the ACT Brumbies on Sunday after their horrendous second-half capitulation against the Waikato Chiefs last weekend.
The Tahs, littered with Wallabies, were 14-13 ahead at half-time but collapsed spectacularly, conceding six second-half tries in a 51-14 drubbing.
“There’s some pretty brutal terms that’s been used to describe what that second-half looked like,” said coach Rob Penney. “Very concerning.”
Veteran Karmichael Hunt added: “It’s hard to see the positives when you finish a game like that,” he said. “We were pretty poor in a lot of areas.”
– ‘We lost the plot’ –
Hurricanes coach Jason Hollands is looking for his players to smarten up against Waikato Chiefs this weekend after poor discipline cost them against the Auckland Blues.
The Canes picked up three cards in the 24-15 loss, including a red card for Tyrel Lomax, who was suspended for three weeks for a head-high tackle on Stephen Perofeta.
It’s not the first time this season that the Hurricanes’ conduct has been questioned, with the Western Stormers last month accusing them of hair-pulling and cheap shots.
Holland insisted the problem against the Blues was poor tackling, not poor temperament.
“We’re just not smart enough around the tackle technique. I don’t think the boys lost the plot,” he said.
“It’s something we have to address. The reality is, if we played 15 on 15 I think we win the game.”