Sharks vs Bulls – Super Rugby – 31 January 2020

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The game promised to be a thriller to kick off the South African teams in Super Rugby 2020. The play from both the Sharks and more so the Bulls was less of a thriller and closer to being a horror.

At the start of the game, there was great intensity from both teams when they had the ball in hand with a lot of intent, but with a lack of accurate execution. Balls were lost when no one was under pressure, passes were timed horribly… it was a far cry from what the expectations were after good Superhero Sunday performances by both teams.

The players that really stood out however were mostly the usual suspects, but a couple of fresher faces also put their hands up.

The first half was a ping-pong battle with lots of promise and lots of errors. As a result, we only saw kicks at poles contributing to the scoreline. So much was created, but sadly so many opportunities were butchered.

In the end, the 23-15 win for the Sharks was a true reflection of the game. The Sharks should however not get ahead of themselves as it was not a performance that would have struck fear in the hearts of future opponents. For the Bulls it is worse as they would not have been in the game had Morne Steyn not kept them in the game.

It sounds bad and it sounds like I only found the bad in the game. It is what I emphasized. It is however the focus as I have seen the Blues and Hurricanes put on a spectacle and the Crusaders toyed with the Waratahs. On current form, they will slaughter both of these South African teams.

So-so Sharks

The Sharks won. That is the biggest compliment they can receive from the game and it might sound very harsh. If you look back at the game you will however see that had they not messed up as many passes with dropped balls or not passing for someone to run on to, they could have put another 20 points or more on the Bulls.

The quality that they have in their team was primed not only to carve holes in the Bulls defense but actually score a whole load of tries… they forgot about the 2nd part.

Credit however needs to go to Curwin Bosch for another mature performance that will be very encouraging. Sbu Nkosi and their little substitute number 9 saved them from having what could have been an embarrassing loss against a Bulls team that they dominated in many aspects.

The Morne Steyn (…oh sorry. The Bulls)

I know that sounds harsh, but if it wasn’t for a truly professional master-class from Morne Steyn, the Bulls would not have featured in the game.

Coming off a Superhero Sunday where they really looked to be the form team in the South African conference, they fell flat against a Sharks team that didn’t really set the world on fire either.

The Bulls put in a number of really hard tackles… but then would leave holes in their defense. They would break open the defense… but then there would be no support runners. They would put together 5 or 6 good phases… but then knock the ball behind the ruck.

It was however the Morne Steyn show mostly, with an honorable mention of young prop Matanzima. He showed that he wanted the #1 jersey through an exceptionally high work rate all over the park.

Steyn however kept the Bulls in it with his penalties and a well-taken drop goal. There was some good positional kicking, cross-kicking and putting away of a promising backline… and how about that solid earth-shattering tackle!

The rest of the team just did not pitch up…

Outstanding players

Bulls: Simphiwe Matanzima (17), Andries Ferreira (4), Morne Steyn (10), Rosco Specman (11)

Sharks: Thomas du Toit (3), Hyron Andrews (5), Louis Schreuder (9), Curwin Bosch (10), Makozolo Mapimpi (11), Sbu Nkosi (14), Aphelele Fassi (15)

Player of the game: Simphiwe Matanzima – he showed what he can do, mostly from the bench in 2019, but in 2020 he will turn into a force of nature!

Plays of the game

  • The cross-kick for Sbu Nkosi’s try. Pinpoint kick, well gathered, a little work to get over, but he made it look easy
  • Morne Steyn’s drop goal. It came at a crucial time and should have been a catalyst for a Bulls resurgence

Final verdict

Bulls: You can go with the excuse of “a young team” or “they are building a team”, but that doesn’t cut it. They are a professional outfit and should be more capable. Same potential as the Sharks with the players they have, but a lot more work in the coming week

Sharks: Deserved winners on the day between two teams not at their best. There will be lots of work if they want to compete in the coming weeks.