Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after the 2017 Super Rugby quarter-finals:
1. Ruan Combrinck has BMT!
Springbok wing Ruan Combrinck was the Lions’ hero when he slotted a monster 55m penalty late in the game to help his side to a comeback 23-21 win over the Sharks at Ellis Park.
It seems as though the Lions’ chance had gone when Combrinck missed a relatively easy shot in the 70th minute, but he stepped up when it really mattered a few minutes later.
Big match temperament is what is needed and Combrinck showed what he’s made of...
2. Fuming Sharks coach
Sharks coach Robert du Preez was not a happy camper following his side’s narrow defeat.
Reports indicated that Du Preez had initially refused to attend the post-match press-conference, presumably because he was upset at the officiating.
When Du Preez eventually arrived for the presser, he stayed for about 90 seconds.
“I can't comment on bad officiating, you know that,” Du Preez said.
While I do not condone Du Preez's attitude, I reckon he had reason to feel aggrieved.
The Sharks were unlucky to lose lock Stephan Lewies to a yellow card early in the second half.
Referee Marius van der Westhuizen had warned Sharks prop Thomas du Toit over his scrummaging but there was no team warning and Lewies was unlucky and understandably looked puzzled as he left the field.
The Lions scored two tries during that period and there’s no doubt it changed the momentum of the match.
Five minutes from time, it was also clear that Courtnall Skosan had tackled Kobus van Wyk without the ball. The referee’s excuse was that Van Wyk had not gone for the ball... but unfortunately this is not American Football where you can tackle a player without the ball...
Right at the death the Sharks could also feel hard done by for not being awarded a penalty at ruck time - it appeared as though the Lions were holding on and had it been a different time of the match, a penalty would likely have been the order of the day.
3. Jantjies worry for Boks?
Elton Jantjies’ performance at Ellis Park would be a concern for Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
Jantjies’ goal-kicking was horribly out of sorts - so much so that it started to affect the rest of his game.
By the time he was subbed in the 61st minute, it was clear that his confidence was shot.
Jantjies is a player who thrives on confidence but once he loses it, he struggles under pressure.
He’s had a terrific season - for the Lions and Boks - but Coetzee will be hoping that Saturday was just a once-off hiccup.
Last year, one bad performance in the Super Rugby final adversely affected the rest of Jantjies’ season.
4. Stormers lack BMT
The Stormers again showed that they just don’t have it when it really matters.
Saturday’s 17-11 reverse to the Chiefs at Newlands was a far cry from last season’s 60-21 humiliation at the same stage - but the harsh reality is that it was the Stormers’ eighth defeat in a Super Rugby playoff game in nine attempts.
SP Marais had the chance to put his side ahead in the final 10 minutes but failed with his penalty attempt.
These are the moments the Stormers clearly aren’t capable of handling.
They are now in the same boat as the Proteas cricket team who have shown over the years just how tough it is once you’ve been labelled as underachievers when it really matters.
5. Stormers have closed the gap, but...
Yes, there was marked improvement from last year when the Stormers were humiliated in a home quarter-final by the Chiefs, but there were enough flaws in their game this season to suggest they will remain also-rans in this competition.
Defence was a major weakness - evidenced by the 62 tries they conceded in 16 matches - while the lack of a proper fetcher, the limitations of a small back-three and poor decision-making under pressure continued to haunt the Cape side.
Another worrying aspect is the Stormers’ recruitment.
There are talks that the Cheetahs wing duo of Raymond Rhule and Sergeal Petersen are heading to the Cape.
These are two great attacking players but will add nothing more than what the Stormers had this season - neither Rhule nor Petersen are particularly renowned for their defensive and tactical prowess.
There were also reports linking Cheetahs flank Oupa Mohoje and former Bulls centre/wing JJ Engelbrecht to the Stormers.
These signings would be decent, but unlikely to turn the team in championship contenders...