5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 17
Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 17 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:
1. Have the Lions blown it?
The Lions’ decision to send a second-string outfit to Argentina for their clash against the Jaguares could yet cost them dearly.
After some surprising results earlier in the day which saw the Hurricanes win the New Zealand Conference, all the Lions needed was a losing bonus point to finish atop the standings.
They looked good for it when they led 22-12 early in the second half, but the youngsters were unable to hold on and were eventually beaten 34-22, leaving empty-handed.
It saw the Lions finish second on the overall standings which could possibly cost them a home final. It also means they now have a significantly tougher quarter-final against seven-time champions the Crusaders, compared to a match against the struggling Sharks who must now travel to New Zealand to face the ‘Canes.
2. Stormers’ four-try hero
Stormers centre Huw Jones lit up Newlands with his four tries against the Southern Kings on Saturday.
According to AFP, Jones equalled the record for most tries scored by an individual in a Super Rugby match.
Twelve other players have achieved the feat, and Jones was the second to do so this season after Chiefs centre Charlie Ngatai crossed the whitewash four times against the Western Force.
Jones is the third player from a South African side to score four tries in a Super Rugby game after now retired Sharks duo Gavin Lawless and Stefan Terblanche.
The statistics show Jones also had an all-round good game.
He made 100m with ball in hand, beat six defenders, made six clean breaks and executed three off-loads.
It’s a pity though that the Edinburgh-born Jones cannot become a Springbok, having made his Test debut for Scotland against Japan last month.
3. Kiwi teams show class
Saturday morning’s two New Zealand derbies set the tone for an exciting ending weekend of regular season action.
Who would have predicted that the Hurricanes - who started the weekend fourth in the New Zealand Conference - would end up winning it and also finish atop the standings?
Their stunning 35-10 upset over the Crusaders in Christchurch sent a warning to fellow title challengers.
But in all honesty, there’s not much to choose between the top four New Zealand teams and it would take a brave man to bet on a South African or Australian team to win the competition.
4. Too many also-rans in Super Rugby
I’ll have to admit, this year’s 18-team competition had me longing for the days of Super 12 rugby. There were simply too many teams of substandard quality and the weak Australian Conference also put a dampener on proceedings.
From a South African perspective, the Cheetahs and Kings do not deserve to be in the competition, while the Jaguares were well below par for a team with so many internationals.
The brittle Sunwolves pack never gave their exciting outside backs a chance to compete and let’s hope the Japanese rugby union would allow all their top players to compete next season.
Their inclusion in Super Rugby is supposed to strengthen the Japan national team ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which they will host.
5. Sharks need Lambie
A rather silly rule looks set to prevent the Sharks from picking Pat Lambie for the playoffs. Lambie missed the first half of the season due to a shoulder injury and has been sidelined with concussion in recent weeks. As such, he has fallen one game short of playing in the necessary four regular season matches to be eligible for the playoffs.
It's a silly rule from SANZAAR, especially given the fact that Lambie was the Sharks' designated skipper for the season and has been on their books for several seasons.
I understand SANZAAR's intention in that they want to prevent teams from signing new players shortly before the playoffs, but surely common sense should prevail to allow Lambie to face the Hurricanes. Garth April's defensive frailties were again exposed at the weekend and the Sharks could do with Lambie's experience and leadership in a knockout game.