Wed. Sep 30th, 2020

Super Rugby: Five talking points ahead of Round 15

sevu reece try crusaders forward passSuper Rugby 2019 is heading towards crunch time. Here’s what awaits in this weekend’s action.

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Goodbye to injury-prone Pocock?

Wallabies flanker David Pocock may have played his last game for the Brumbies after failing to shake off a calf injury that has dogged his season.

Pocock, who is expected to move abroad next year, has been
ruled out of Friday’s match against Northern Bulls and coach Dan McKellar said
the veteran may sit out the rest of the season to ensure he is fit for the
World Cup.

“We’ve got to look at whether he plays Super Rugby or whether he now puts his attention towards the World Cup,” he said.

“Those are things we’ve got to discuss between the Brumbies and the Wallabies.”

However, the Canberra team are celebrating prop Scott Sio’s
decision to sign a three-year deal to stay with the Brumbies and Wallabies
until the end of 2022.

Nothing in the air for Folau-less Waratahs

NSW Waratahs wing Cameron Clark has indicated the
Sydney-siders will run the ball more, rather than kick it, now that aerial
specialist Israel Folau has departed in controversial circumstances.

Clark described Folau, Super Rugby’s leading try-scorer, as
“probably the best player in the air in the world” but insisted the
Waratahs would remain a potent attacking force without him.

“We definitely have the ability to score points if we hold onto the ball,” Clark said ahead of this weekend’s match against Argentina’s Jaguares.

“It comes down to our attacking structure, and wearing teams down. We want to hold onto the ball and pressure our way into points.”

Sharks lose their bite at home

The Sharks will lack two injured Springbok front rowers, prop Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira and hooker Akker van der Merwe, against the Lions as they seek to improve a dismal home record.

The Durban outfit have lost four of six Super Rugby matches
at Kings Park in the Indian Ocean port city this season, including a 34-point
drubbing by the Argentine Jaguares.

“I do not know the exact reasons why we struggle at home,” admitted Coenie Oosthuizen, another Sharks prop who has represented South Africa.

“What I do know is that we need to start home matches better. When our team does not begin well, we tend to struggle throughout a game.”

Despite winning only five of 12 matches and lying fourth in
the South African conference, the Sharks are just three points behind the
table-topping Northern Bulls.

Hansen questions penalty count

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has criticised Super Rugby
refereeing in South Africa, although his comments could also be seen as an
early warning that he will be vocal about officiating at the World Cup in
Japan.

Questionable decisions cost Canterbury Crusaders victory in
their 19-19 draw with Western Stormers last weekend and Hansen also believed
Golden Lions were getting the rub of the green.

“(Penalties) are not consistent on both sides — if it’s a penalty today then it’s a penalty for the whole day, not just part of the day,” he said.

“The Lions have been awarded 48 penalties in three games while the opposition sides have only been awarded six. That would mean there’s not a lot of consistency being applied.”

The complaint is a departure for Hansen, whose colourful
advice after previous refereeing controversies has been to “flush the
dunny and move on”.

NZ Olympic sevens options restricted

New Zealand sevens coach Clark Laidlaw has revealed
officials have restricted him to selecting one player from each of the
country’s Super Rugby clubs for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

The move is an attempt to avoid the messy selection process
before the Rio Games, when Laidlaw’s predecessor Gordon Tietjens failed to lure
All Blacks such as Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea, Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith
into his squad.

In a major shock, the 12-time world sevens champions failed
to win a medal in Rio and Tietjens resigned, complaining that  New Zealand Rugby had blocked his access to
top players.

Laidlaw said he had made a pitch to New Zealand’s Super
Rugby players about chasing Olympic glory in Japan and expected to hear from
those who were interested next month.

“We’ve identified Super Rugby players and All Blacks who we think have the potential to play sevens. Now it’s in the players’ hands to see who is interested and who is not,” he told the New Zealand Herald. 

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