Planet Rugby

Who's hot...and who's not!

28th April 2014 07:53

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jacques burger saracens

Immense: Jacques Burger

It is time for our weekly wrap 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!

Brumbies: A 41-23 thrashing of the defending champions in a rematch of 2013's Super Rugby final underlined the Brumbies' status as title contenders. There is life after Jake White after all as the likes of Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani and Stephen Moore all stood out at GIO Stadium.

Hurricanes: The form team in Super Rugby, the 'Canes are red hot at the moment. Saturday's five-try victory over the Reds means they have now won four in a row and lead the New Zealand Conference. Not only this, but they've done it playing fantastic rugby, with a backline that is - so far - backing up boss Mark Hammett's claim that they are a match for any opposition. Those four victories have yielded fifteen tries.

Highlanders: No one expected the men from Dunedin to win in Durban, never mind score four unanswered tries against the Super Rugby leaders. Jamie Joseph's team totally outplayed the Sharks in one of the performances of the season as Malakai Fekitoa's bonus-point try from long range was rich icing on the cake. Like the 'Canes, the Highlanders are playing structured yet entertaining rugby that is resulting in wins. Others take note.

Cyprus: The Moufflons extended their world-record winning run to 22 international games after they beat Bulgaria 46-15 in Sofia. Next month they face Hungary, looking to make it 23.

Cory Jane: There is no shortage of candidates for the All Blacks wing berths but a hat-trick against the Reds reminded everyone what a class act the Hurricanes speedster is. He was first to thank full-back Andre Taylor for being a provider as Jane and the 'Canes march on.

Kahn Fotuali'i: The Samoan scrum-half produced two fine pieces of skill as Northampton defeated Harlequins 18-10 on Friday to keep alive hopes of an Amlin Challenge Cup and Aviva Premiership double. Fotuali'i set up one try with a cross-kick and scored another.

Saracens, Schalk Brits and Jacques Burger: Cast aside the controversies, refereeing errors and fortuitous off-the-knee ricochets at Twickenham, and laid bare is a performance that will live long in the memory of Sarries fans, and dose those who derided their status as Heineken Cup contenders with a bitter pill to swallow. Saracens were relentless in defence from the first minute to the 80th, with a feverish drive to tackle, tackle, tackle reflected in a blistering line speed and on the midriffs of the Clermont players chopped and battered to ground time and again. Then with the ball in their grasp, the Premiership leaders were merciless - to score 46 points in a showcase semi-final is a massive achievement, to do so against an outfit as talented, physical and dangerous as Les Jaunards is astonishing. Jonny Wilkinson added on Sunday that such a margin is usually in favour of Clermont.

Glasgow: Dispatched their inter-city rivals and secured a bonus-point win that puts them in pole position for a home semi-final. Just what the doctor ordered for Scottish rugby - if the Warriors close out the season, a bumper match and a lift north of Hadrian's Wall beckons.

Toulon: Back-to-back Heineken Cup finals for the French side as they edged Munster with an assured performance that while not flashy, showed they can grind out wins. Against Saracens, they will need to be at their very best as a battle royal awaits on May 24.


Broken Thermostat:

Nigel Owens: It is very rare to see the man most of us tout as rugby's top referee slip up, but Owens didn't have his best game in Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final at Twickenham. The Welshman incorrectly awarded an early penalty try against Clermont as Brock James sent the ball over his own dead-ball line, missed an apparent forward pass in the build-up to Owen Farrell's score, and wasn't his usual eagle-eyed self at the breakdown. But, unlike many of his counterparts in the world of elite officiating, Owens is decisive, referees with empathy and doesn't waste time - for that, we applaud him. Let's hope Saturday was a blip.


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

South African Super Rugby teams: After eleven rounds, the Sharks are the only South African team in the top ten. The Durbanites hold the overall lead but have yet to go overseas and will now do so with a serious dent in their confidence having been hammered four tries to nil at home on Friday. A team from the Republic is yet to win in Australasia this season as the other four franchises sit in the bottom six spots, with a lack of attacking skills scary.

Clermont: It's tough to recall a Clermont side that appeared so utterly bereft of attacking inspiration, penetration and nous than that which laboured its way round Twickenham. Though a large chunk of that owed to excellent Sarries defence, Les Jaunards' usually devastating backline was posted missing with ball in hand - Wesley Fofana and Sitiveni Sivivatu, perhaps their most creative gamebreakers, made a total of fifteen metres between them. With the game beyond them, Clermont surrendered, giving up the ghost in a pathetic show of capitulation. As Vern Cotter departs for Edinburgh in a little over a month, and many of their squad now advancing in years, it felt not unlike the end of an era in the Auvergne.

Force versus Bulls: One of the longest 80 minutes for a while, this was arguably the worst game of the season to date as Sias Ebersohn and Jacques-Louis Potgieter took the aerial route while handling errors in the rain from direct runners saw no tries scored. Awful.

Kyle Eastmond: We saw something in the Wasps versus Bath game on Sunday which did not show the England centre in the best light. The youngster who was in the news earlier this season for an apparent walk out of the club at half-time in a game, on Sunday lifted the legs of a Wasps player and was promptly shown a yellow card by referee Romain Poite. What followed a mouthful of expletives, some of which seemed to be aimed at Poite.

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