This was the Vodacom United Rugby Championship weekend the South African teams have been looking for.
That’s the view of former Springbok captain and respected rugby pundit Bob Skinstad who sat in London and watched with absolute delight the South African derbies this past weekend, saying he loved every minute of what he described as “a try fest and just a highly enjoyable spectacle of rugby”.
The two Vodacom United Rugby Championship matches involving the Emirates Lions against the Cell C Sharks and then the Vodacom Bulls up against the DHL Stormers yielded 19 tries between them and enough to suggest they’re on the right track according to Skinstad.
“It was a celebration of rugby,” Skinstad said on Monday as he reflected on the weekend’s action.
“Both matches were exciting, high-paced games where we saw some incredible offloads, one-handed passes, passes through the legs, and attacks. It was great to see the Springbok players performing so well. I think this weekend showed that the South African teams will be able to score tries against any side from the Northern Hemisphere, which is what they’re going to need to do to be successful in this competition. I think the teams will all be happy that they’re on the right track on attack. They can maybe shore up a bit on defence, but if they score enough tries they’re going to be right in it. I’d give both matches an 8 out of 10 for attack and a 7 out of 10 for defence. I really enjoyed every minute of watching it. It was just fantastic to sit back and watch a true spectacle of South African derbies.”
Starting with the Cell C Sharks’ 47-37 victory over the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg, Skinstad said he was once again in awe of Springbok Lukhanyo Am’s ability to control a match.
“Am was the best on field by a long way, but he was well supported by his front rankers and some lovely offloads. Am’s ability to put a chip over the top at the right time, or a long pass to Aphelele Fassi and a long kick for Makazole Mapimpi really kept control of the game for the Sharks. The Lions came back into it at one stage, but Am just kept enough control of that contest and it was wonderful to watch him. The outside backs in general really impressed me. It was enough to show that our players have the skills, speed and pace but also the ability to make those quality decisions at the right time.”
As a devoted DHL Stormers man, Skinstad said even he was surprised by their 30-26 victory over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.
“The Bulls have just been better for longer, but I think the Stormers will be absolutely delighted with that win. They really showed the wherewithal to handle the Bulls comeback when they scored those 19 unanswered points. I thought Manie Libbok was good, and Steven Kitshoff and his chargers worked really hard upfront.”
Skinstad said this match also showcased the value of experience in a team.
“I want the young players to come through and do well, but it’s also amazing to see the experienced players and how their rugby smarts makes a difference. The evergreen Morné Steyn comes on and immediately makes a difference for the Bulls with a kick across field.”
In Skinstad’s opinion, this wasn’t just the right weekend at the right time for South Africa’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship teams, but also a valuable advert for South African rugby as a whole.
“All of those matches were on TV here in the United Kingdom. The Vodacom United Rugby Championship is a wonderful international showcase of our South African talent. It was just such a feel-good rugby weekend for me.”