Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after Round 15's action of Super Rugby:
1. Bulls not taking 3 points
When the Bulls won a kickable penalty in the 76th minute of their clash against the Chiefs in Rotorua, I was critical of their decision to kick for touch instead of taking three points.
They were trailing 29-20 at the time and kicking the penalty would have left them in bonus point territory. There would also have been enough time to perhaps snatch a win with a late try.
But they opted for a lineout, only to lose possession there and effectively end their chances of getting anything from the match. To rub salt in their wounds, the Chiefs scored a try after the hooter to claim a 34-20 win.
The Stormers made a similar error earlier in the season when they lost at home to the Chiefs. They also had a chance to get within seven points and, crucially, in bonus point territory, but skipper Duane Vermeulen decided to go for a try. In the end the Stormers also got nothing from the game.
The wise move is to first get within reach and then go for the win. Captains and coaches need to start realising this...
2. Lions hooker lucky not to see red
The Lions no doubt produced their best performance of the season when they thumped the Cheetahs 40-17 in Bloemfontein at the weekend.
They were a bit lucky though not to lose Robbie Coetzee to a red card in the 49th minute after the hooker performed a dangerous tip-tackle on Cheetahs replacement wing Rayno Benjamin.
The referee, Jaco van Heerden, referred the decision upstairs to Television Match Official Marius Jonker. Both officials bizarrely opted for a yellow card despite replays showing Coetzee clearly lifting his opponent above the horizontal and driving him into the ground.
That decision aside, the Lions were 30-3 ahead at that stage and the game was already in the bag.
Sanity did prevail afterwards though when Coetzee was cited for the incident. He is likely to be banned for a number of weeks.
But the ineptness of the officials at Free State Stadium needs to be questioned. Sharks back Frans Steyn received a red card for exactly the same incident earlier in the season as well as a subsequent five-week ban.
3. Stormers’ inability to score four tries
The Stormers’ inability to bag a vital four-try bonus point in their win over the Rebels at Newlands was another big talking point this past weekend.
After wing Dillyn Leyds completed his brace in the 45th minute, the Stormers were leading 28-10 with three tries in the bag.
It was the perfect launch-pad for them to hunt a bonus point try as well as a big win, but they again crept into their shells before grounding out a 31-15 win. Several promising attacking opportunities were squandered by poor handling and a lack of urgency on attack needs to be highlighted.
The victory saw the Stormers claim their ninth win from 13 outings and they are now favourites to top the SA Conference at season’s end, which will assure them of a playoffs spot.
However, much improvement is needed if they are to mount a serious challenge in the knockout phases.
4. Aussie bloopers
The Rebels learnt a harsh lesson in their defeat to the Stormers at Newlands when they opted to run from deep on the stroke of half-time. The hooter had already sounded and all the visitors needed to do was boot out and take a six-point deficit into the half-time break.
But they opted to run from deep, only to see an alert Leyds intercept and score to give the Stormers an 18-7 lead at the interval. They will surely kick out in similar scenarios in future!
Reds fullback James O’Connor’s howler against the Sharks will also be a fondly remembered by South African rugby fans in the next while.
O’Connor’s shocking clearance kick from behind his own goal-line landed in the hands of Sharks scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer, who scored the simplest of tries.
So surprised was Ungerer, that he injured a muscle in the process and was forced to leave the field afterwards.
5. Bismarck back to his best
Sharks hooker Bismarck du Plessis is back to his best and being relieved of the captaincy duties seems to have done wonders for his game.
He was a key figure in his side’s 21-14 win in Brisbane, proving to be a menace at the breakdown and imposing himself physically on the Reds.
He has also shied away from off the ball niggles of late and maybe, just maybe, has learnt his lesson after his disciplinary embarrassment earlier in the season.
An in-form Du Plessis spells danger for the Springboks’ opponents later in the year…