It’s time for Planet Rugby’s weekly round-up of who has their name in lights at the moment… and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!
Fiji: There’s no better way to prove you’re the best side in the world than by doing it in on the big stage, and Ben Ryan’s Fiji were outstanding, obliterating Great Britain in the Gold Medal match in Rio. It wasn’t even close, and now Fiji have their first ever Olympic medal. Phenomenal skill levels from the back-to-back World Series champions, who were worthy winners.
Sevens in the Olympics: The general verdict seems to be that adding Sevens to the games has been a roaring success, and we couldn’t agree more. The Men’s competition produced upsets, none more so than Japan, along with extra-time drama in the quarter-finals. Now we can sit back and see how the sport’s participation numbers grow over the next few years with real interest.
Charlotte Caslick and Portia Woodman: Both outstanding throughout the Women’s competition in Rio, with Caslick playing a heavy hand in guiding Australia to Gold. Woodman meanwhile ended up on the losing side but was outstanding throughout for New Zealand, showing all her speed and power. Both women are fantastic ambassadors for the sport and can inspire thousands more to participate.
Golden Lions: The defending champions made a superb start to their Currie Cup campaign, running in 10 tries during a one-sided home victory over the Pumas. Although several of the players who guided them to a runners-up spot in Super Rugby were not in action, the men from Johannesburg showed that they have plenty of depth in their ranks and it will take a special effort to wrestle the Currie Cup from their grasp.
Lourens Erasmus: The Golden Lions lock got his name into the record books when he scored a try after just 8.5 seconds against the Pumas. This is the fastest-ever try in Currie Cup history and breaks the record which was previously held by Leopards wing Bertie Visser, who scored after nine seconds in Potchefstroom in 2012.
Retshegofaditswe Nche: It might be difficult to pronounce, but remember that name. Nche won the official man of the match award after his team’s demolition of the Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein thanks to a superb all-round performance. Nickamed “Ox”, the burly Cheetahs front-row stood his man in the scrums, put his body on the line in defence and raced a full 50 metres before scoring a memorable try.
Cold as ice!
New Zealand: Yikes, that did not go well. Even after a patchy 2015/2016 Series it was still a shock to watch Sir Gordon Tietjens’ men struggle as much as they did in the Olympics. Early injuries to Sonny Bill Williams and Joe Webber didn’t help, but New Zealand’s defence was the big problem, not forgetting that historic win for Japan. We expected more.
EP Kings: After all the drama surrounding their participation in this year’s Currie Cup, the men from Port Elizabeth finaly made their bow in the competition against Boland in front of rows of empty seats at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The Kings hardly troubled their visitors – who are considered minnows in the Currie Cup’s Premier Division – and eventually suffered a humiliating 28-10 defeat.
Top 14 scheduling: That’s right – the French top flight returns this Saturday exactly 57 days since the 2015/2016 season came to an end in Barcelona. The gap between the Premiership and PRO12 seasons? 97 days. You can bet those Racing and Toulon players in particular really enjoyed their “off”-season.