'Game of Thorns' a double-edged sword

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 05:26
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SUPER RUGBY TALKING POINTS: The Queensland Reds and coach Brad Thorn were understandably chuffed with an upset 18-7 win over Jaguares in Argentina, the first time they have strung together three wins in almost five years.

So much so that after the match the team posed in the dressing room with a banner proclaiming "Game of Thorns - Saviour of the Reds Kingdom."

Styled on the hit TV show "Game of Thrones", it featured Thorn holding a sword while sitting on the spikey Iron Throne.

One can only hope Thorn, currently in his first year coaching at the Reds, lasts longer than some of the throne's previous occupants.

As fans of the show can attest, it does not end well for most of them, who tend to end up poisoned or stabbed in the back.

The Reds will face the Stormers at Newlands in Round Six on Saturday.

Israel on a wing and a prayer

Israel Folau's electrifying performance under the high ball in the Waratahs' 51-27 win over Melbourne Rebels had pundits declaring he has finally found his ideal position.

Coach Daryl Gibson put Folau on the wing instead of fullback where he usually plays for both the 'Tahs and Wallabies.

The gamble paid off spectacularly as rained down attacking kicks, with the Sydney Morning Herald declaring Folau as "unstoppable" in the subsequent aerial battle during a second-half comeback.

Folau's prowess in the air was honed during a stint playing Australian Rules with Greater Western Sydney, although he struggled at times in the unfamiliar code.

AFL great Cam Mooney famously questioned Folau's ability with a rather poetic put-down shortly after he had switched to Aussie Rules from rugby league.

"He doesn't know how to compete. He doesn't know what to do out there," Mooney said. "Right now, again, he is a statue watching the birds."

Sunwolves show a bit of mongrel

Long regarded as Super Rugby's easybeats, Japan's Sunwolves won over some sceptics during a gutsy 38-40 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.

The Tokyo-based outfit laid to rest the ghosts of a 7-94 humiliation at the same ground last year and coach Jamie Joseph was confident of further improvement.

He said the Sunwolves had no pre-season because Japan's domestic league only ended in mid-January, meaning his players were only now coming up to speed.

"The thing I like about our team is that they're not giving up," Joseph said, praising a "spirited, energetic" performance from the team who joined the competition in 2016.

"I felt we played some good rugby but the tries we conceded were a little soft and that seems to be our Achilles' heel," he added.

Mauger still on dream run

Once a favourite son of the Crusaders, Aaron Mauger returned to haunt his old team and maintain a perfect start as coach of Highlanders.

Mauger's Highlanders are the only unbeaten team in the competition and top the New Zealand conference with three wins after a 25-17 victory over the reigning champions.

Former All Black centre Mauger, who played 89 games for the Crusaders, is quietly making a success of his first head coaching role since he was sacked by Leicester Tigers in 2015.

A quirk of the draw means his Highlanders have played all three of their opening games in front of enthusiastic support at home under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Mauger was unfazed at the prospect of hitting the road and facing the Hurricanes in the New Zealand capital next weekend. 

"At the end of the day, a game is a game. Four white lines on the outside and 15 guys in the opposition," he said.

Bulls' Brazil inspiration

Spectators watching the Bulls take on the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday could be forgiven for trying to pick out Neymar or Philippe Coutinho among the visitors.

A few remarked that the Bulls' away strip had a familiar look - canary yellow jersey, blue shorts and white socks - identical, in fact, to the Brazil football team's famous kit.

Turns out its no accident, with the Bulls' strip reflecting the colours of Pretoria's Mamelodi Sundowns football team, who in turn were inspired by the Selecao.

It's part of an effort to deepen ties between the Bulls and Sundowns, who share a home ground, encouraging fans to attend each others' games.

AFP

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 27 April 2018
Hurricanes v Sunwolves 07h35 Wellington
Stormers v Rebels 13h00 Newlands
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons 18h45 Welford Road
Sat, 28 April 2018
Reds v Lions 05h05 Suncorp Stadium
Blues v Jaguares 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Crusaders 09h45 Canberra
Kings v Cheetahs 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 14h00 Sandy Park
Worcester Warriors v Harlequins 14h00 Sixways
Gloucester v Bath 14h00 Kingsholm
Connacht v Leinster 14h05 Sportsground
Dragons v Scarlets 14h05 Rodney Parade
Bulls v Highlanders 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Treviso v Zebre 16h00 Stadio Monigo
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys 16h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Ulster 16h35 Thomond Park
Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 Myreside
Sun, 29 April 2018
London Irish v Saracens 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Wasps v Northampton Saints 14h00 Ricoh Arena
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 22 April 2018
Racing Metro v Munster 27 | 22
Brumbies v Jaguares 20 | 25
Sat, 21 April 2018
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 36 | 15
Zebre v Ospreys 37 | 14
Sharks v Stormers 24 | 17
Leinster v Scarlets 38 | 16
Bulls v Rebels 28 | 10
Reds v Chiefs 12 | 36
Crusaders v Sunwolves 33 | 11
Fri, 20 April 2018
Waratahs v Lions 0 | 29
Blues v Highlanders 16 | 34
Sun, 15 April 2018
Saracens v Bath 41 | 6
London Irish v Exeter Chiefs 5 | 45
Sat, 14 April 2018
Leinster v Treviso 15 | 17
Kings v Cardiff Blues 12 | 45
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 8 5 1 2 24
Rebels 7 4 0 3 21
Brumbies 8 3 0 5 15
Reds 8 3 0 5 13
Sunwolves 8 0 0 8 2
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 8 6 0 2 29
Hurricanes 7 6 0 1 27
Highlanders 7 5 0 2 24
Chiefs 8 6 0 2 26
Blues 7 2 0 5 12
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 9 6 0 3 30
Bulls 8 4 0 4 19
Sharks 9 3 1 5 18
Stormers 9 3 0 6 14
Jaguares 7 3 0 4 12