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Stuttering South Africans look for change of fortune in Super Rugby

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By Mark Gleeson

CAPETOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s Super Rugby teams will be expected to pull their socks up after a dismal weekend where their commitment and character came in for harsh criticism.

Home defeats for the Bulls and Lions were unexpected and the nature of the Stormers’ loss in Brisbane to the Queensland Reds brought stinging censure, not least from their within own camp.

The Lions, runners-up in the last two years in the southern hemisphere competition, were mauled 42-5 at home by the Sharks on Friday and this week departed for three matches in Australia and New Zealand hoping time on tour will forge new bonds.

“It’s a good thing we go on tour now to take the pressure off and get to know better some of the new guys,” said coach Swys de Bruin, who watched his charges capitulate against the Sharks just days after he had signed an extension to his contract with the Johannesburg-based franchise.

“I’m not here for the winning or losing,” he said after the Lions defeat at Ellis Park. “I’m here for effort and guts and I didn’t see that.”

The Lions meet the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday while the Bulls host the Reds in Pretoria later that day.

Last week at Loftus Versfeld, the Bulls lost again, a surprise 22-20 defeat by the Jaguares from Argentina.

“They had one opportunity in the first half and scored while we had so many, right through the match, that we didn’t use,” said coach Pote Human, who on Wednesday made six changes for Saturday’s clash against the Queenslanders.

“We will need to look at our discipline. The guys had white line fever – they’d be two metres from the line and drop the ball and there were funny kicks inside the 22.”

The Stormers are away at the Melbourne Rebels on Friday in the last of their four-match tour Down Under in which they have suffered three disappointing defeats.

The latest in Brisbane came after captain Siya Kolisi was needlessly yellow carded just before halftime, allowing the Reds to surge into a 14-point lead while he spent 10 minutes in the sin bin.

“Discipline let our team down, including the yellow card to myself, which was probably the turning point in the game,” said Kolisi, who has returned home as he is being rested this weekend.

All of which led former Springbok coach Andre Markgraaff to suggest South African rugby players did not have the requisite character at the highest level.

“It’s been a problem in our rugby for years. Our teams will deliver a fantastic performance one Saturday but can’t keep it up.

“After so many years of professional rugby we’re still not over the mental barrier. I have no doubt that overall our players are mentally soft,” Markgraaff told the Rapport newspaper.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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