Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after Round 17's action of Super Rugby.
1. Standard of officiating
Surprise, surprise - another debatable call by a Television Match Official (TMO)! This appears to be an ongoing trend in Super Rugby 2015, and it’s getting pretty annoying having to write about the ineptness of officials every week.
In Saturday’s clash between the Rebels and Bulls in Melbourne, Bulls inside centre Burger Odendaal crashed over the line for what appeared to be a try.
New Zealand referee, Nick Briant, opted to refer the decision upstairs to the TMO, Australia’s Ian Smith.
Somehow Smith found grounds to suggest there was enough doubt to rule it out - despite replays only appearing to confirm to most viewers that the try was fine.
As our chief writer Rob Houwing wrote, Briant should have had the “balls” to award the try himself, or at least ask the TMO “can you give me a reason not to award the try” - as Stuart Berry did when the Lions crashed over in the first half of their draw against the Stormers at Newlands.
Referees need to take some responsibility on the field of play, because the TMOs seem incapable to make at least a logical decision, despite having the advantage of TV replays.
2. Stormers can’t afford to lose Catrakilis
The Stormers have secured a spot in the Super Rugby playoffs, but they will hold their breath that flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is not ruled out.
Catrakilis left the field injured early in last Saturday’s 19-all draw to the Lions after he was knocked out attempting to tackle Lions enforcer Jaco Kriel.
Catrakilis was concussed and more about the extent of his injury will be known later on Monday.
The Stormers will be holding thumbs for a good prognosis as his replacement - Kurt Coleman - lacks confidence at present.
Coleman again missed easy kicks at goal against the Lions and the lack of success in this department appears to have filtered through to the rest of his game. His costly, nonchalant forward pass to Cheslin Kolbe late in the game at Newlands on Saturday nearly cost his team when it gave the Lions a scrum in a promising position.
Catrakilis is the competition’s most accurate goal-kicker and had he stayed on the park, they would in all likelihood have beaten the Lions.
In the pressures of a knockout game, Catrakilis’ presence is of essence for the Cape side.
3. Rugby's worst rule
It was perhaps ironic that all the Lions’ tries against the Stormers this past weekend came after dominant driving mauls off lineouts, while the Stormers scored all their tries through enterprising play out wide. The Lions have been the most enterprising South African team on attack this year, but they showed their prowess up front at Newlands as well.
However, I feel it’s time for World Rugby to change the rules regarding the driving maul. It’s clear obstruction and there appears no legal way to stop it. The game would be better off without it.
4. Scrums a total mess
This writer is no scrum expert, but it was disappointing to note the number of scrum resets in Saturday’s Stormers v Lions game at Newlands.
I was doing live updates on the game and counted as many as 10 scrum resets.
It’s simply frustrating to see so much time being occupied by this part of the game.
I understand that the force at impact is incredible, but it is a prop’s main job to scrum properly and they just seem to get things wrong too often.
Perhaps a rethink in the engagement laws is needed?
5. Franco Smith has a tough task at hand
New Cheetahs coach Franco Smith will soon realise that it’s much tougher coaching in Super Rugby than the Varsity Cup.
Smith performed wonders earlier this year when he led Shimlas to a maiden Varsity Cup title, but he will find the going tough in charge of the Cheetahs.
The Cheetahs defence has been woeful this year, with the men from Bloemfontein averaging 21 missed tackles per game. In Saturday’s heavy 58-33 home defeat to the Waratahs, they missed no fewer than 23 tackles and it’s an issue that Smith will need to address urgently.
The Cheetahs are already losing key playmakers Willie le Roux and Joe Pietersen to the Sharks, while Heinrich Brussow has indicated he won’t be returning to play Super Rugby from Japan next year.
The union is not financially strong enough to hold onto its top players and Smith will find - as Naka Drotske did - that things get extremely tough at Super Rugby level once you pick up injuries.
Depth is key and the Cheetahs do not appear to have enough of it, which will be a real challenge for Smith...