Hurricanes vs Stormers
In the first half the Hurricanes enjoyed a golden period of less than twenty minutes, which eventually won the game for them but for most of the rest of the match, in particular the second half, they were dreadful and could barely string two phases together. Down 25-3 at half time, the Stormers never gave up and produced solid, ball retaining rugby in the second half, scoring 17 points to nil and completely dominating the match during that period. For the Hurricanes, Milner-Skudder was superb in the first half and Brad Shields turned in an excellent all round performance. By contrast, Beauden Barrett produced the worst performance of his super rugby career and Conrad Smith showed that he is nearing the end of a stellar career. It was a good team effort by the Stormers in the latter half, Etzebeth and Vermeulen doing great work in the forwards and de Allende constantly threatening in the backs. Hurricanes 25 Stormers 20.
Rebels vs Reds
After their best start of the season, with two quick tries, a foolish swinging arm from James Horwill, which led to a red card, ensured that the Reds could not maintain the impetus and although they battled hard, the Rebels finally achieved sufficient dominance late in the second half to close out the match. For the Reds, Gill was magnificent and is a superior loose forward to Pocock at the moment. Thomson and Slipper were untiring in the forwards, while for the Rebels, Debreczeni, McMahon and Timani all enjoyed good outings. Rebels 23 Reds 15.
Chiefs vs Blues
This was a well contested match between teams at either end of the table. Although the winless Blues showed courage and a definite improvement, there is a still a lack of game plan or structure in both backs and forwards. The Chiefs enjoyed superiority at scrums, lineouts were shoddy on both sides and although the Blues had their moments at the back, there are still players employed out of position, which is costly, both defensively and on attacking occasions when overlaps were spurned in favour of cutting back and making contact. Sam Cane for the Chiefs and Braid for the Blues were excellent at the breakdown and Cane is now the best No 7 in New Zealand. Mckenzie and Cruden had disappointing games for the Chiefs in the backline but Marshall and Lowe played with verve and were always dangerous. Chiefs 23 Blues 16
Brumbies vs Cheetahs
There was a soft opening try to the Brumbies and for a time it appeared that the flood gates would open. However, a combination of a scrambling defence and uncharacteristic inaccuracy from the Brumbies enabled the Cheetahs to stay in the match for most of the first half. The Brumbies did not give the opposition enough respect and paid the price in that they did not gain the bonus point they should have. Elusive Robbie Coleman continues to impress, Sio was powerful in the scrum and around the field and Speight, in the new position of centre, was always dangerous. On his arrival, Sarel Pretorius had impact for the Cheetahs and Brussow tried hard, as always. Brumbies 20 Cheetahs 3.
Sharks vs Crusaders
This was probably the worst advertisement for South African rugby in a decade. As favourites to top the franchise, the Sharks were abysmal. The standard of their play was simply beyond belief and more than that, the spirit of the side appears to have been destroyed by what has happened in Durban in the past two years, beginning with the untimely and cruel sacking of John Plumtree. As for referee Stuart Berry, if it were possible to turn in a worse performance than that of last year in the Lions vs Reds game, then this was it. Suffice to say he makes Marius Jonker appear objective. There were eleven penalties to one in the first half in favour of the team that was being soundly thrashed. Had the refereeing been remotely unbiased, the Crusaders would have won by at least 80 points. It is difficult to evaluate player performance in a game so one sided but Dagg certainly enjoyed the freedom offered him and Taufua was very good. For the Sharks, Reinach was a livewire and Zeilinga, when replacing Lambie, showed once again how good a player he is. Sharks 10 Crusaders 52.
Lions vs Bulls
The Lions began this important match playing some of the rugby they employed during the Currie Cup last season, with plenty of interpassing and good support play. However, they deteriorated in the latter stages of the first half and the Bulls appeared to gain the ascendancy, playing typical attritional Bulls rugby, utilizing close passing and efficient ball retention. The Lions suffer from a lack of class at the back but their forwards were at their combative best, Whiteley and Tecklenberg leading the way, as usual. Once Cronje had been replaced by de Klerk and Akker ‘angry warthog’ van der Merwe took over at hooker, the Lions went up a gear. It was only in the last minute that the Lions, once again spurning the chance of a draw, took the tap and van der Merwe smashed his way through for the deserved winning try. With few stars, the Lions are an admirable side. The excellence of referee van Heerden was refreshing after what had come before in the Sharks match. Lions 22 Bulls 18.