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SuperWrap - Week 7



As always, from www.supersport.co.za

Forty-six matches done, 48 to go and now the All Blacks, reportedly bigger, fitter and faster, return to the Vodacom Super 14 rugby tournament for the second half of the tournament.

No pre-democracy “Swart Gevaar†headlines could have conveyed quite the dread that has been contained in despatches about the return of the men in black.

To read some of it the All Blacks will return twice as big, twice as quick and twice as talented from their sojourn to prepare for the Rugby World Cup and that their introduction in Week Eight of the Super 14 will be like a tsunami flooding over all the other teams.

Now the wait is over and we’ll be able to see whether Graham Henry’s gambit was the right one or whether he might have created too much pressure on his elite group of players.

New Zealand’s sides certainly missed their All Blacks but the truth is that only 22 of them actually sat out â€" and that number is already down to 21 following the serious foot injury suffered by Chiefs fullback Mils Muliaina.

The Crusaders were the hardest hit having to do without the incomparable two-some Richie McCaw and Dan Carter plus Chris Jack, Greg Somerville, Reuben Thorne, Leon MacDonald and Aaron Mauger while the Hurricanes suffered because of the absence of their entire first-choice loose trio of Jerry Collins, Rodney So’oialo and Chris Masoe plus Jason Eaton, Piri Weepu and Andrew Hore.

That already accounts for 13 of what the NZRFU referred to as “protected players†so the other three teams were not that badly hurt by their absentees â€" the Blues hardly seeming to miss Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock and Joe Rokocoko while the Chiefs had out Byron Kelleher, Sitivini Sivivatu and Muliaina and the Highlanders Anton Oliver and Carl Hayman.

Obviously these players form the core of the best national team in the world but their re-introduction may turn out to be more problematic than expected. In their absence new players have come to the fore, new partnerships have been formed and there may even be some resentment when the black knights come riding back. Time will tell.

This week’s SuperWrap demonstrates the old adage that all the world loves a winner with the Springbok Barometer, a national team picked on just the weekend’s form, consisting almost entirely of Sharks, Cheetahs and Stormers, the three teams who won at the weekend, with only Bakkies Botha of the Bulls, in a class of his own as No4 lock, crashing the party.

The most difficult position to decide on was centre with the “selectors,†the staff who work on the SuperSport Zone’s comprehensive coverage of the tournament, finding it difficult to separate De Wet Barry, Ronnie Cooke, Waylon Murray and Brad Barritt.

In the end the nod went to Barry at inside centre for his sterling work in defence and on attack for the Stormers, especially the way he contested at the breakdown, and Cooke at outside centre for the way in which he executed a forgotten art of centre play, that of creating tries for others.

Still it was hard on the Sharks’ pair of 20-year-olds, Murray and Barritt, whose understanding has been forged since they were 13, who have been in consistently good form and who have played a key role in their team conceding only six tries in six games.

Super XV for Week Seven:

1 Deon Carstens (Sharks), 2 Richardt Strauss (Cheetahs), 3 BJ Botha (Sharks), 4 Bakkies Botha (Bulls), 5 Nathan Sharpe (Force), 6 Johnny Leo’o (Crusaders), 7 AJ Venter (Sharks), 8 Mose Tuiali’i (Crusaders), 9 Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), 10 Stephen Donald (Chiefs), 11 Cameron Shepherd (Force), 12 Tim Bateman (Crusaders), 13 Ronnie Cooke (Cheetahs), 14 Rico Gear (Crusaders), 15 Scott Hamilton (Crusaders).

Springbok Barometer for Week Seven:

1 Deon Carstens (Sharks), 2 Richardt Strauss (Cheetahs), 3 BJ Botha (Sharks), 4 Bakkies Botha (Bulls), 5 Corniel van Zyl (Cheetahs), 6 Luke Watson (Stormers), 7 AJ Venter (Sharks), 8 Justin Melck (Stormers), 9 Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), 10 Butch James (Sharks), 11 Gavin Passens (Cheetahs), 12 De Wet Barry (Stormers), 13 Ronnie Cooke (Cheetahs), 14 Philip Burger (Cheetahs), 15 Bevin Fortuin (Cheetahs).

Match of the Week: Goes to the Sharks for getting the job done against the Hurricanes and going to the top of the log after Week Seven â€" when last has that happened for a South African side?

Try of the Week: To the gem finished by Gavin Passens for the Cheetahs. Fittingly it started with Corniel van Zyl stealing one of the many lineout balls he took off the Brumbies and then it went via Juan Smith, Falie Oehschig, Meyer Bosman, Ronnie Cooke, who got his hands through to put Bevin Fortuin in the clear before Passens did the sprinting.

Newcomer of the Week: Lachlan Turner of the Waratahs, in spite of earning a fraction of what the overhyped, overpaid and overrated Lote Tuqiri now takes home.

Like red wine: Johan Ackermann has claimed the record for being the oldest player to score a try in Super Rugby. “Ackers†scored the Sharks’ second try against the Hurricanes, against whom he also scored last year, to move above Richard Loe on the list of veteran try-scorers.

The list is as follows:

36 years 287 days â€" Johan Ackermann, Sharks vs Hurricanes
36 years 29 days â€" Richard Loe, Crusaders vs Highlanders
34 years 301 days â€" Helgard Muller, Cats vs Highlanders
34 years 174 days â€" David Campese, Waratahs vs OFS
34 years 52 days â€" Paul Mitchell, Chiefs vs Bulls
34 years 42 days â€" Frank Bunce, Chiefs vs Sharks
34 years 31 days â€" Andre Joubert, Sharks vs Crusaders

The Golden Oldies: Ackermann however is not the oldest to have played Super Rugby. That is a distinction which belongs to Sean Fitzpatrick’s old mate Johan le Roux who was a venerable 37 years and 134 days when he played his last match for the Northern Bulls against the Brumbies in 1999.

The all-time veterans were:

37 years 134 days Johan le Roux, Northern Bulls vs Brumbies
37 years 40 days Richard Loe, Chiefs vs Highlanders
36 years 287 days Johan Ackermann, Sharks vs Hurricanes
36 years 275 days Geoff Didier, Brumbies vs Highlanders
36 years 93 days Frank Bunce, Chiefs vs Brumbies
36 years 12 days Dougie Heymans, Cats vs Stormers
35 years 247 days John Welborn, Force vs Sharks
35 years 190 days Marius Hurter, Cats vs Sharks
35 years 29 days Andre Joubert, Sharks vs Reds
The Royal Family: An amazing five players, George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, Brendon Cannon, Anton Oliver and Tana Umaga, have played in every year (Oliver returns on Saturday) of Super Rugby since 1996. Ollie le Roux and Ben Tune also started in ’96 but ironically both missed 2004.

Congratulations to: Fellow wingers Wylie Human and Andrew Walker on reaching 50 caps and Cameron Shepherd for being the first marksman to reach a century of points this season. Shepherd currently tops both the point scorers list with 105 and the try scorers roll with five.

And the Jorrie goes to…the Bulls threesome of Fourie du Preez, Derick Hougaard and Jaco van der Westhuyzen for failing to learn from the past and continuing to kick the ball straight down the throats of a Crusaders team known to be the best counter attackers in the game.

Swiss Air: Frequent flyer points and a year’s supply of Red Bull to Cheetahs’ flyer Philip Burger.

From Week Three of the Super Wrap: “The inconsistencies in refereeing this season have been appallingâ€, plus “officials said the new four-phase scrum would favour the strongest scrummagers but instead it seems it does not permit any scrummaging at all…†and nothing’s changed after Week Seven. When you think of the money that’s at stake you wonder why the “brandsâ€, to quote Rob Wagner of the Stormers, put up with it.

Dear Eddie, Just a short note to let you know that having seen Matt Goddard’s attempts at controlling (?) the scrums in the Sharks vs Hurricanes match, we sympathise with you mate. Yours in exasperation, the SuperWrap. PS: We’d send you a couple of Rands to help with that fine but six South African Rands will only buy one Aussie dollar so we don’t know how much good it would do; plus we wouldn’t want our hard-earned cash to go to Lote.

Quote of the Week I: “The Cats have delighted their fans.†- Kiwi commentator Tony Johnson making a double mistake at the start of the match in Hamilton â€" they are now known as the Lions and the Cats never delighted their fans!

Quote of the Week II: “One good performance the previous week means nothing the next week. You have to start again.†â€" Naas Botha before the Bulls’ miserable performance against the Crusaders.

Quote of the Week III: “There’s a couple of reputations that went out the window this morning.†â€" Naas Botha after the Bulls’ miserable performance against the Crusaders.

Quote of the Week IV: “I’m actually a fan club of the Brent Russell clan.†â€" vintage Naas!

Quote of the Week V: “Where the hell is it?†â€" Paul Honiss trying to spot the ball asthe Cheetahs mauled for the line late in their game against the Brumbies.

Quote of the Week VI: “To be honest, this will be our toughest game yet.†â€" Robbie Deans on the Crusaders against the Stormers; yeah right, mate, pull the other one.

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