During an understandably emotional weekend for the Super Rugby community, there was some real up and down rugby played.
That’s becoming one of the common themes of the 2019 season – just as your team seems to have found some form, they crash and burn with such a poor performance that you start thinking you could play professionally if you could just find your old boots, put in a bit of time at the gym and put down that burger.
So with all this up and down, here are the key talking points from Round 5.
It’s a good news, bad news sort of thing for the Chiefs
Well the good news is that the Chiefs have not lost five in a row! The men in black were able to pull off an unlikely draw against the Hurricanes on Friday and in doing so stopped the rot, slightly. There were passages of the game where the Chiefs looked confident and some of the partnerships started to really click.
However they also have not won a game yet in 2019 and that is becoming a problem.
They are three points behind the Blues (yup, the Blues!) and they’ve played one more game than them! They are also already 16 and 12 points behind Crusaders and Hurricanes respectively.
Does anyone really see those teams giving up that sort of lead over the coming rounds?
While it’s great that they didn’t lose, their overall performance was still well below what you’d expect from a talented squad.
There were too many errors, too many missed tackles and not enough continuity with ball in hand. For a team that has been struggling in attack, you’d think that they would want to keep hold of the ball, build up some phases and allow themselves to start feeling comfortable with the ball in hand.
However they only put together two sets of play over seven phases and had to rely upon mistakes from the Canes or open play to create anything potentially threatening.
One of the biggest lessons the Chiefs hopefully learned from this weekend is…
Damian McKenzie should play full back – no debate!
Not sure what more to write here. It’s simple – the guy is a) one of the biggest threats to defences in world rugby when he plays at full back b) not a good enough fly half.
That’s not meant to be a criticism – it’s a compliment of his talent at full back and acknowledging that with his skills he has to be given the space and opportunities that full back allow him.
When McKenzie runs into the back line from full back he is able to carve teams up. He picks good lines, he’s quick and he’s a fantastic elusive runner who changes direction quickly without losing pace.
He’s getting better at his defensive positioning and he can kick out of hand too. You lose so much of his potential when you stick him at fly half.
The Chiefs have to commit to playing brother Marty at fly half and letting Damian do what he does best with the 15 on his back.
Brumbies forwards could do it alone
The Brumbies pack has already shown that they are a real force in this year’s competition. Not convinced? Then check out who is the current top try scorer in 2019… Folau Fainga’a. Yup – he’s on six tries ahead of meat pie masters Ngani Laumape, Rieko Ioane and Israel Folau.
Against the Tahs on Friday, the Brumbies pack showed again that they are a well-drilled outfit. They dominated the Tahs and were the reason why the Canberra men walked away with the win. That’s even more impressive when you consider that they were missing Allan Alaalatoa and David Pocock.
There was one moment that showed the talent of the Brumbies pack. Early in the match against the Tahs, the Brumbies had a line out on the NSW five-metre line.
Everyone was expecting the tried and tested driving maul from the line out. The Tahs certainly were as they decided not to compete for the throw but instead organised themselves to hit the maul before it could get going.
The Brumbies however were one step ahead – they set up just as if the driving maul was coming and then at the last second they peeled off the back of the maul and charged into the Tahs backs.
While most of the Tahs forwards were head down trying to hit the line out maul, the Brumbies players were hitting the Tahs line hard and a couple of phases later they were over for the opening try.
That was a great piece of play and showed that the Brumbies are adding guile to their forward play.
While it was a group effort, it’s worth pointing out the game that Lachlan McCaffrey had as it has impressed many.
He was in the action throughout and the Tahs had no answer for him, especially when he ran with ball in hand. If he can keep up that level of performance then surely he’s got to be in a Wallabies jersey later this year.
Unfortunately the Brumbies’ backs are still looking pretty average and you wonder how many more times the Canberra pack can do all the point scoring. But for now, those forwards are really leading the way.
Waratahs? More like Watwasthat?
If you’re a Tahs fan then you need to check that your health insurance covers you against high blood pressure – cause it’s going to be a tough, frustrating season full of feeling let down.
On Friday the Tahs got off to the lucky start that all teams could do with – an easy penalty shot at goal bounces off the post into the arms of your talisman who then wrestles over the line for an unlikely try.
At that point it would be hard to blame Tahs fans for thinking it was going to be their day.
However over the next 76 minutes the Tahs found new and intriguing ways to be incredibly average. They gave away penalties, they screwed up good opportunities and they just kept dropping the ball!
Players who are classed as top Wallabies – yes Mister Foley and Mister Beale, we’re looking at you – made error after error and bad choice after bad choice.
There was no accuracy and no real passion from players who would think would be leading by example week in, week out.
One of the more worrying aspects of the Tahs play is just how deep Bernard Foley is taking the ball at first receiver.
Defences in today’s rugby are rushing up so quickly that Foley is being tackled 10m behind the ruck and if he does get it away to the next man then that guy is taking the ball even further behind the gain line.
Add to that the fact that the NSW men are just shipping the ball wide without creating any space first for their pace men and you can see why Tahs fans must be trying to learn yoga and Buddhist mantras to stay calm at the moment.
Rebels, please don’t do it again!
Last year the Rebels started well – some great wins and good performances that had them running away with the Australian conference.
Last week we spoke about how they were doing the same again but in a more impressive manner this year – not just winning but winning in a way that made you think they could be a real Finals threat.
But this week there was that reminder of how the Rebels are still figuring out some key issues. Against the Lions they ran away to a commanding 26 to 5 lead at half time.
With just 30 minutes to go the Rebels had pushed ahead and were 28 points ahead. They had caused the Lions real issues in the backs as the pace and quality passing from the Melbourne men had carved up the South African side.
Then it all went wrong. Very, very wrong. As the final whistle sounded the Rebels were struggling to understand how they had just lost by three points.
Simple errors in basic skills and attention to detail meant that the Rebels conceded try after try and couldn’t find a way to stop the rot.
This switching off needs to stop right now and not come back if the Rebels want to be a genuine power in Super Rugby.
Scoring points doesn’t seem to be an issue for this set of players but perhaps they could do with some good old fashioned game smarts and experience outside of Will Genia.
Jags in danger of becoming their own worst enemy
The men from Argentina have lost their second game on tour in South Africa and are propping up the bottom of the South African conference and they’ve only got themselves to blame.
Against the Stormers this weekend they looked good in the opening exchanges and their opening try after less than five minutes was crisp and effective.
If they kept playing with that precision and clear headed decision making then the Stormers could be in trouble.
However just over 10 minutes later and the Jags showed the defensive issues that is going to haunt their season if they don’t fix them.
The Stormers had the ball from a scrum just outside the Jags 22 and for some reason the home side decide to chip straight away even though the space in behind the front line defence was very well covered.
Four (yup, four!) Jaguares players were within a metre of the ball as it came down and two of them jumped to defuse the bomb.
However those two took each other out and the other two were just watching as du Plessis gathered the bouncing ball and dived over.
On the 60 minute mark the Argentinian defence again showed how quickly they can lose shape and structure as they sprinted out from a ruck to cover the field but left a massive hole just by the breakdown that Herschel Jantjies took full advantage of as he screamed through for the try.
The Jaguares had a bad day out for sure and this doesn’t make them a bad side. But they made things so hard for themselves throughout that it could well become a tactic of opposition teams to just stand back and let the Jags cause their own demise.
The men from Argentina cannot just be good at home – they have to learn how to win on the road if they want to challenge for the finals and at the moment they are just not a threat overseas.