Not-so-Super season for SA teams

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Cheetahs

Final standing: 5 wins, 11 defeats, 12th with 26 points

Attack: The men from Bloemfontein scored 44 tries, by far the best of the South African teams and sixth in the rankings overall, so one cannot fault their intent to play attractive, winning rugby. But, with only 1346 ball carries from 16 matches, they ranked lowest of all the teams; an indication that they battled to hang onto possession in their matches.

Defence: They tightened up this area of their game a few seasons ago, but failed to build on it and paid a heavy price in 2015. The Cheetahs let in a whopping 65 tries and it’s something new coach Franco Smith will have to address in the months ahead.

The good: They registered some impressive wins, not least in their final game against the Bulls, under Smith, but it was a campaign best forgotten. The change of coach can probably be regarded as a positive, while the consistently good performances of Boom Prinsloo and Francois Venter were highlights among otherwise ordinary showings by the Cheetahs players.

The bad: Naka Drotske it now appears carried on for one season too many. His team looked stale and without vision or plan and it showed on the field. Defensively the Cheetahs were woeful, while the depth in the franchise was also badly exposed. Injuries to several key players, including Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Heinrich Brüssow and Willie le Roux, cost the team big-time.

Player to watch: Boom Prinsloo

Mark: 3/10

Sharks

Final standing: 7 wins, 9 defeats, 11th with 34 points

Attack: For all the quality and depth in the side, scoring just 37 tries was a poor performance. They got bonus points for try-scoring on only three occasions. They battled in the possession stakes, carrying the ball on only 1410 occasions – the second worst statistic in this department of all the teams. They also made the least number of metres with ball in hand – only 5498m. Thethe table-topping Hurricanes made 8965m.

Defence: They let in 43 tries – the fourth worst effort in the competition – and whoever’s in charge next season will have to take a serious look at correcting the problems that cropped up this year. In the final standings Gary Gold’s men were successful with just 83percent of their tackles – the worst of all 15 teams.

The good: They will feel somewhat better after finishing with a flourish by beating a weakened Stormers, but overall there is not much to be happy about. The good news is the Sharks can’t surely get any worse than they were over the last four months and while they’ve lost a few players, others will, hope-fully, come back stronger and fitter next year.

The bad: Firstly, their ill-discipline was something that left a bad taste in the mouth. Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Steyn and Jean Deysel all copped bans, while a big injury toll hurt them throughout their campaign. They played an ugly brand of rugby, they battled to score tries and were generally way off the standard they’ve set over the years.

Player to watch: S’bura Sithole

Mark: 4/10

Bulls

Final standing: 7 wins, 9 defeats, 9th with 38 points

Attack: They scored 37 tries, managing a try bonus point on four occasions. In a shocking statistic, Frans Ludeke’s men made a paltry 94 off-loads in 16 games; an indication they “died” with the ball on a regular basis, rather than keeping it alive and building phases. The Chiefs, by contrast, made a staggering 280 off-loads. Ludeke’s men also only made 84 clean breaks – the joint worst in the competition. For the record, the Hurricanes made 186.

Defence: They conceded 39 tries to finish in mid-table in this department, not too bad an effort, but many of those were conceded in tight games where they had to be stronger in defence. It’s an area that will require greater attention next season.

The good: There is not much to be positive about regarding their season. The emergence of Jesse Kriel as an attacking fullback was a highlight and so, too, the performances of Trevor Nyakane, Lappies Labuschagne and Rudy Paige. Francois Hougaard also showed why he is such a dangerous player on the wing, but overall it was a disappointing season for the once mighty Bulls.

The bad: Where does one start? They were one dimensional and very predictable at times, they failed to use their backs often enough and they lost all four of their games on tour. Loftus has also lost its aura of invincibility and right now there are questions around the coaching team and a ton of players have opted to move elsewhere. These are trying times for the Bulls.

Player to watch: Jesse Kriel

Mark: 4/10

Lions:

Final standing: 9 wins, 6 defeats, 1 draw; 8th with 42 points

Attack: With 33 tries – just over two per game, on average – the Lions let themselves down in this department. They played the most attractive rugby of the local sides – beating 312 defenders, third best overall – and used the full width of the field, and were never afraid to have a go at the opposition, but for all their effort they should have scored more five-pointers. On only two occasions did they bag the four-try bonus point. They could have been in the play-offs with a few more tries.

Defence: The Lions won three out of four games on tour only because they tackled like men possessed. It’s a part of their game that’s improved dramatically this year, with Warren Whiteley by far the leading defender in the competition. They ranked fourth for tackle success – with 87.6percent.

The good: They registered their most number of wins, including three out of four overseas, and turned Ellis Park into a venue visiting teams will fear in future. They played sparkling rugby and ticked most boxes. Several players emerged as genuine contenders for higher honours, among them Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Faf de Klerk, Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Warwick Tecklenburg and Franco Mostert.

The bad: They’ll be kicking themselves for losing to the Hurricanes and Stormers early on; games they should have won. There will also be concern about the regression of Marnitz Boshoff, a player who promised so much in 2014 but failed to kick on this season.

Player to watch: Harold Vorster

Mark: 7/10

Stormers:

Final standing: 10 wins, 5 defeats, 1 draw, 3rd with 45 points

Attack: With just 32 five-pointers the Stormers were the least successful of the SA sides in crossing the whitewash. They only managed two bonus points for try-scoring – a disgrace considering the class and experience of the side. They made the fifth most clean breaks of all the teams – 143 – but remained way down in the scoring charts.

Defence: They were the fourth best defensive outfit, letting in 35 tries, and their tackle success rate was at an impressive 87percent, fifth best overall. They remain a tough side to break down.

The good: Allister Coetzee’s team maintained a consistently high standard throughout and were tough to break down. Their scrumming was a highlight, with Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch dominating most comers. Defensively they were again powerful and, looking to the future, the signs are positive.

The bad: Their inability to score more tries remains a problem and the fact they made it into the play-offs with less points than the seventh-placed Crusaders is worrying. They can thank their lucky stars there’s a conference system and they happened to win it (but that’s another matter and no fault of theirs).

They’re in dire need though of a new voice, with fresh ideas, and hopefully Jano Vermaak’s arrival will solve the scrumhalf problems.

Player to watch: Cheslin Kolbe

Mark: 7/10

Original source: Not-so-Super season for SA teams

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