Premature analysis of Super Rugby 2017’s balance of power

Harry Jones Roar Guru

By Harry Jones, Harry Jones is a Roar Guru


116 Have your say

    Early days, but surely some teams are already out of the title picture. In fact, it looks to me that only eleven teams are truly in this competition, with three of those (the Reds, the Highlanders, and the Waratahs) hanging on by the skin of their underpants.

    First, let’s examine the credentials of the obvious contenders. The Crusaders and the Chiefs are representing each of New Zealand’s islands with aplomb. The Chiefs have scored thirty points a game against quality teams, come hard and low at the ruck, break the line ad nauseam, and are brutal on defence.

    They seem to be on some sort of image redemption mission. Nobody really wants to play them.

    The Crusaders are winning the best way: ugly. At the death. With cheeky malice. Almost inevitably. Can they improve? Yes! That’s the scary part. They are lineout menaces; with a hard pack and a joy in their rugby. But can they stay healthy, and do they have the depth needed?

    Nobody will count the Hurricanes out; with their clever coaches, their slippery ability to play tight or loose and odd way of changing games in little five minute bursts of genius. The loss to their rivals will probably wake them up.

    These Kiwi teams seem to stack up:

    1. Chiefs
    2. Crusaders
    3. Hurricanes

    From South Africa, the Lions, Stormers and Sharks return as the most likely candidates for surprise glory. The Stormers are throwing flatter passes, dropping fewer 50-50 balls, and scoring more tries (15 so far) and more attractive tries as a result of better-shaped support lines and greater enterprise, particularly from their halves. Their Bok locks are in top form.

    The Cape side should get to five wins without a loss, but their acid test comes later, against New Zealand teams.

    Stormers rugby player Nizaam Carr

    If anything, the Sharks have looked even more impressive. Had Patrick Lambie’s kick gone over in Brisbane, they would have had a perfect season at this point. They sport a harder-than-teak pack, an aggressive tackle technique, and uncompromising midfielders.

    The Lions should be there, too, at the end, but the loss to the Jaguares exposed a few flaws. Also, the chop-and-change at 9 and 10 could be preventing a smooth flow.

    I would stack these teams:

    1. Sharks
    2. Stormers
    3. Lions

    If I combined them with the Kiwi teams, I’d put them all below the Canes.

    The Brumbies are in the mix, but unimpressively (a -1 point differential, the only team with a negative margin in the top eight). The Jaguares look more like a contender.

    So, I would rank the top eight as follows:

    1. Chiefs
    2. Crusaders
    3. Hurricanes
    4. Sharks
    5. Stormers
    6. Lions
    7. Jaguares
    8. Brumbies

    As for the three on the bubble?

    1. Highlanders
    2. Reds
    3. Waratahs

    What say you, Roarers? Have I gone off too early with my predictions or do I have the upcoming season all worked out?

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    The Crowd Says (116)

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2017 @ 6:18am
      biltongbek said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:18am | ! Report

      Spoke to a big Lions supporter today and I asked him what happened over the weekend.

      He said two things, firstly the referee was harsh on the Lions. That could just be a Lions supporter complaining.

      But what made a lot of sense was when he said the Lions coach Johan Ackermann has made up his mind the trip to Argentina is a waste, so he will keep sending B teams and the trade off is better and fitter players for the rest of the season.

      We’ll have to see.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 6:36am
        Diggercane said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:36am | ! Report

        That is interesting cheers BB.

        I actually thought they had a few injuries and a couple of players had to attend an funeral and expecting a new child?

        • March 16th 2017 @ 12:17pm
          Cynical Play said | March 16th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

          I head there was 5 rolled ankles all at once.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 7:04am
        taylorman said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

        I like that thinking Biltong. Lions can probably afford to build squad depth and it explained the loss to me.
        Theyre in an easier group and hes probably done the maths and pencilled in the must win games and built some fat around that and nail a home series where if hes tries what he did last year he will have the players to handle it.

        Lions are that good with this draw they can probably win this from home.

        Its a good early season tactic when considering the AB injuries where theyre all going down like flies in the derbys.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 7:18am
        biltongbek said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

        Let’s hope for their sake it works out.

        I still think not playing all the trams will bite them end of season though.

        Where are they going to play the pace and intensity of the top NZ teams?

        • March 14th 2017 @ 10:31am
          taylorman said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          They cant really get a jump on the teams they dont play so the best thing they can do is maximise their advantages- all knockouts must be at home, so they must top the table, or run with luck on second or third giving them mostly home matches.

          I think top 3 is a minimum for the Lions, cant see them not doing that.

          The other thing is exactly what hes doing, build depth.

          He could also try the Hansen World cup pool method where certain areas are off limits. Its a risk but so is having less competition…so create it yourself.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 7:27am
        Nobrain said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

        Lions will win all their games at home and the games that play against other SA teams away. They may pick a win in Aus and that will be more than enough to top the division. So Ackermann did not care much about the game with Jaguares that will have a more trechous road playing away games.

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 8:18am
          Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          I think leaving Elton behind improved the Lions

          • March 14th 2017 @ 3:49pm
            Baylion said | March 14th 2017 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

            Jantjies is still the #10 best suited to the game the Lions want to play. The youngster, Shaun Reynolds, had his first game this weekend and was blooded in a tough game and will probably start featuring on the bench from now on as Jaco van der Walt hasn’t really made a case for being the back-up 10 and 15

            • Roar Guru

              March 14th 2017 @ 9:40pm
              Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

              Elton-Faf doesn’t seem to work that well any more; I think NZ teams will pressure them into nervous wrecks

              • March 14th 2017 @ 10:27pm
                Baylion said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

                I’ve always preferred the Elton/Ross combo. I don’t think two playmakers necessarily make for a good combo and in Elton and Faf’s case it doesn’t

              • March 15th 2017 @ 12:20am
                davSA said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:20am | ! Report

                The Elton /Faf combo was standout last season. In fact the argument towards the end season was whether Jantjies was the best flyhalf in the comp. Faf was sensational against the Irish . So the 6 million $ question is what’s gone wrong in such a short time ? They were asked to slot into an unfamiliar gameplan that neither are suited to under coach Coetzee and were rubbish. Has this impacted on their game to date. I cant really answer . What I can say is that I fully agree with you Harry that they are very important to the Lions cause. I also think the Sharks are looking ominous early on. How aggressive was that defence against the Waratahs ? Reminded me of the Boks under Jake White where they don’t really mind playing without the ball.

              • Roar Guru

                March 15th 2017 @ 12:44am
                Harry Jones said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:44am | ! Report

                Exactly, davSA. The Tahs (except for untackleable Folau) looked like they were sad to catch the ball–getting driven awkwardly backward at a rate of knots, crumpled up like an old sleeping bag…

      • March 14th 2017 @ 11:47am
        Whakaata said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        I will be very surprised if the Lions don’t top the overall table and then kick on to win the entire thing.
        A much easier conference and not having to play the New Zealand teams will give them a massive lift up the table.
        I don’t think not playing the New Zealand teams will have that big an impact on them as playing at altitude will be their major Ace card not to forget the New Zealander teams will have less than a week to aclimatise and play finals footy.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 3:40pm
        Baylion said | March 14th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

        The Lions played a few rookies, a few bench players, some players returning from injury and a few regular starters in their starting XV. As to the game itself, the Lions discipline was poor and the new combinations didn’t really gel with the resulting handling errors. Playing with 14 men for 20 minutes didn’t help their cause.

        Potential changes to the Lions starting XV for the Reds game:
        1. Dylan Smith – If injured, Jacques van Rooyen
        2. Robbie Coetzee
        3. Johannes Jonker -> Ruan Dreyer
        4. Andries Ferreira – Could start Marvin Orie or Lourens Erasmus
        5. Marvin Orie -> Franco Mostert
        6. Kwagga Smith -> Jaco Kriel
        7. Cyle Brink -> Ruan Ackermann
        8. Warren Whiteley (c)
        9. Ross Cronjé
        10. Shaun Reynolds -> Elton Jantjies
        11. Anthony Volmink -> Courtnall Skosan (positional)
        12. Harold Vorster -> Rohan Janse van Rensburg
        13. Jacques Nel -> Harold Vorster (positional)
        14. Courtnall Skosan -> Lionel Mapoe
        15. Jaco van der Walt -> Andries Coetzee

      • March 14th 2017 @ 4:10pm
        Baylion said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

        BB, if they Lions had played better the ref might have been an excuse as there were some questionable decisions, as there normally are in games, but they really didn’t gel and get into a rhythm

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 11:27pm
          biltongbek said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

          Yeah Baylion, like I said, could just be a disgruntled Lions supporter

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2017 @ 6:20am
      biltongbek said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:20am | ! Report

      The first quarter of the Stormers match was frustrating to watch, errors, missed focus and the Stormers didn’t seem capable of controlling the match.

      Inevtiably their superior class saw them ease to a win.

      I thought the Kings did as well as they could with the limited stocks they have.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 10:58am
        Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

        It was ragged, but I like what they’re trying to do

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2017 @ 6:22am
      biltongbek said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:22am | ! Report

      Sharks managed to counter attack off the mistakes of the Waratahs, but apart from some good continuity of keeping the ball alive and in hand on a few occasions they still didn’t look in charge.

      Waratahs were their own worst enemies.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 8:19am
        Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        But seriously brutal tackling. The Sharks are hammering carriers and counter rucking

        • March 14th 2017 @ 9:33am
          BBA said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          From a neutral looking in, that is what you hope for SA teams that they have the defense sorted and that they do look to move from there.

          When SA teams don’t have their defense sorted they don’t tend to win shoot outs against other teams.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 4:20pm
        Akari said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

        Totally agree, BB.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 4:34pm
        Baylion said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

        To me the game changer was Lambie going off injured early on and Curwin Bosch coming on. Bosch had a good game but his speed made the difference, once he breaks and is in open space he has the speed to outrun most opposition players

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 9:41pm
          Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

          Bosch has physical edges like BBBBB

          • March 14th 2017 @ 10:38pm
            Baylion said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:38pm | ! Report

            Another 18 year old ex-schoolboy “star” the Stormers fans are raving about is Damian Willemse. Has been fed in at 15 off the bench in the Stormers games and it will be interesting to see how these two develop over the next few years

            • Roar Guru

              March 15th 2017 @ 1:22am
              Harry Jones said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:22am | ! Report

              As they say, you can’t coach speed. Bosch is just fast. With a cannon boot. And he spots gaps like a young BBBBB. BBBBB added the low diagonal kick. I wish SA teams used that more.

              • Roar Guru

                March 15th 2017 @ 2:08am
                taylorman said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:08am | ! Report

                Why do sprinters have coaches then??

                You can certainly make ones sprinting style more efficient and incorporate the right pre and in season training to maximise the players speed but yes certainly the baseline speed has got to be there in the first place, and after that small gains can be made.

                Anyway, in terms of your list Harry I still put the Canes ahead of the Saders mainly because the Saders had long spells of inactivity and needed huge comebacks to win the last two matches. They may get better but so too will the Canes after being jolted into the Real comp last weekend.

                Chiefs definitely ahead and clear at the moment, the team to beat so far. Stormers, Lions and Sharks all impressive and their draws will help or hurt those sides significantly I believe.

              • Roar Guru

                March 15th 2017 @ 5:01am
                Harry Jones said | March 15th 2017 @ 5:01am | ! Report


                You can help a fast man get a little faster

                But you cannot make a slow guy fast

              • Roar Guru

                March 15th 2017 @ 12:15pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

                Harry is dead right. Speed is all about muscle fibers. Some of us are born with long muscle fibers and they – we – will never ever run 100 meter sub 11 seconds, no matter how much training or steroids or whatever. Some of us are born with short muscle fibers and they can aim for sub 11 seconds time from their late teens almost without practice.

              • March 15th 2017 @ 3:48pm
                superba said | March 15th 2017 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

                ie fast twitch or slow twitch
                muscle fibres .

              • Roar Guru

                March 16th 2017 @ 5:37pm
                taylorman said | March 16th 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

                Yes it was tongue in cheek…hence the smiley. I’m well aware of what sprinting is and requires and did a bit of track at school but certainly I have seen incredible pace gains from players, mainly loosies that are not typically sprinters in the truest sense through a lot of targeted weight training and high intensity sprint work.

                Pure line speed becomes irrelevant in rugby when you can turn on the pace when others can’t. Rapid recovery can make some players faster than others even though they couldn’t beat them over 50. In rugby speed is relevant, not pure.

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2017 @ 6:36am
      Diggercane said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      Seems like you have nailed it to me Harry, cheers.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 8:26am
        Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Thanks, Diggeroo!

        • March 15th 2017 @ 5:58am
          BBA said | March 15th 2017 @ 5:58am | ! Report

          Not to be nit picky but it depends what top 8 you are talking about. The real top 8 or the competition formats top 8 as there is no way that 3 South African teams and the Jaguares can make the top 8 under the present rules as 5 places have to go to the Australasian conference.

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2017 @ 2:50pm
            Harry Jones said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

            It’s the “contention” chances

    • March 14th 2017 @ 6:38am
      Blue Horned Mike said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:38am | ! Report

      I wouldn’t count the Bulls out just yet. They have many home matches still to come.

    • Columnist

      March 14th 2017 @ 6:42am
      Nicholas Bishop said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      A lot of nice thinking in there Harry… (surprise surprise!)

      Bit I still feel the Lions will end up as the top side in SA, and also I cannot see the Brumbies finishing above the Reds this season in Australia.

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2017 @ 7:42am
        Geoff Parkes said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

        I’m on board with that Nick. Reds to top the Aus conference, and Lions in SA.
        But I’m also on board with your Stormers Harry, they’re playing some very good rugby.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 8:10am
        Nobrain said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        Lambie is out for a extended period of time, I think the Sharks will feel the impact.

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 8:12am
          Fionn said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

          That bloke they had replace him (can’t remember his name) looked pretty good though, mate. Didn’t seem a bad second option at all!

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2017 @ 8:17am
            biltongbek said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

            Curwin bosch

            • Roar Guru

              March 14th 2017 @ 8:20am
              Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

              Future superstar

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2017 @ 8:30am
                Nobrain said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

                Is a long season, who is next?

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2017 @ 1:30pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | March 14th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

                I noticed him right away. He looks very very promising. So he is a legit talent? Tell us more please.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 4:40pm
                Baylion said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

                @TNVFS: A 19 year old schoolboy star at flyhalf and fullback, twice SA Schools, u20 Boks last year and should be again this year. Recruited by the Sharks out of school for a substantial contract for a junior.

                Robert du Preez has been playing him off the bench as 15 cover to ease him into senior rugby and it’s only Lambie’s injury that pushed him into the #10 spot as Bernard Janse van Rensburg and Inny Radebe are actually the designated #10 covers but neither was in the team and Bosch might just have jumped the queue with his performance on Saturday

                Not great on defence but will hopefully develop in that area too

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2017 @ 6:47pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

                Big thanks for that Baylion.

        • March 18th 2017 @ 1:31am
          Tutema said | March 18th 2017 @ 1:31am | ! Report

          Still, Bosch (from SA not Arg) showed his willingness to make a name for his own.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 8:27am
        Harry Jones said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report


        But I am liking the coastal teams better this year bc of the packs

      • March 14th 2017 @ 12:28pm
        Suzy Poison said | March 14th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        I concede you are correct Nicholas. It’s obvious already, there will only be one Australian team finals bound.
        The Reds are better than both the Brumbies and the Tahs. I am a bit shocked at how far the Waratahs have fallen.

        • March 14th 2017 @ 1:15pm
          Jock Cornet said | March 14th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

          Tahs will walk it in the finals though they will lose more than they win.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 5:25pm
        Paul said | March 15th 2017 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

        Of course they will Nicholas as the Lions do not play one single NEW ZEALAND team during the season ..