It’s been a glorious June for South African rugby and the sunshine continued into July with the resumption of Super Rugby.
The Lions were ruthless in disposing of the Sunwolves 94-7 in Johannesburg and made a statement that the international break had done little to stall their Super Rugby momentum.
The Lions, to be Super Rugby champions for the first time, would in all likelihood have to beat two New Zealand franchises in the play-offs. Crucial to this is that the Lions play these matches in Johannesburg, and for this to happen the Crusaders would have to stumble against the Hurricanes when the New Zealanders restart Super Rugby.
The route of the New Zealand teams is a discussion for another day. For now the focus is on what the Lions are doing – and each time they play they put themselves in a stronger position to host a final.
The Lions were always going to beat the Sunwolves at home, but it’s the manner in which they dismantled and destroyed Super Rugby’s newest franchise.
The Sunwolves have taken numerous beatings over the last two seasons but none compares to the whipping of this past weekend.
The Lions were the big winners in terms of league positioning but the Kings were once again the biggest winners of hearts with yet another away victory.
Kings coach Deon Davids has done a remarkable job with the Kings in getting five wins this season, including a first ever triumph against a South African franchise.
The Kings travelled superbly to Australia and they looked equally comfortable in Argentina. It all bodes well for when the franchise plays in the expanded northern hemisphere Pro12. It’s going to happen and it’s a good thing for South African rugby.
Don’t bemoan the Kings’s departure from Super Rugby; rather be excited at what they, alongside the Cheetahs, can produce in the northern hemisphere.
The Cheetahs so nearly completed a remarkable comeback to beat the Stormers in Bloemfontein. The hosts turned a 26-10 deficit into a 34-33 lead. Ultimately they couldn’t contain the potent Stormers attack and lost 40-34.
The match was full of tries and wonderful attacking skill but it lacked intensity and the Stormers will have to find balance in their all-round game if they are to progress beyond the quarter-finals.
The Bulls were surprise winners in Durban against the Sharks, and the most encouraging national aspect was the game-changing influence of Bulls centre Jan Serfontein.
Finally, a long distance away from South Africa, All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams did the walk of shame in getting red carded against the British and Irish Lions.
Williams is a brilliant player and I’d pay every time to watch his skills. This time he made a rare sporting mistake with a reckless challenge and he (and the All Blacks) got punished.
The vitriol aimed at Williams on social media was disgusting. That off my chest here’s to a grand finale in Auckland and to more South African Super Rugby cheer.
*This article appeared in Business Day Newspaper