Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 5 of the 2017 Super Rugby competition:
1. Bulls in a world of hurt
My tune on the Bulls is similar to last week.
Following a 38-14 reverse to the Blues - in recent years New Zealand’s weakest side - the men from Pretoria appear down and out after only four matches.
Three losses and a narrow win over the lowly Sunwolves are all the Bulls have to show. They are already 12 points behind the Stormers in the Africa 1 Conference.
It doesn’t get any easier with a clash against the impressive Chiefs in Hamilton this weekend and with the Stormers expected to beat the Cheetahs at Newlands, the difference between the old rivals could grow up to 17 points after Round 6.
There is no cohesion in the Bulls’ play, with the team seemingly unable to find a balance between attack and defence.
During Saturday’s match at North Harbour Stadium, I posted a tweet which perhaps best summed up the Bulls’ outing:
2. Stormers defence a massive concern
As coach Robbie Fleck was quick to point out, the Stormers showed character in coming from behind to subdue the Sunwolves 44-31 in Singapore.
The Japanese team led 24-10 in the first half and were also 31-20 up early in the second period, before the Stormers instilled some structure into their game to grind out a win.
However - and this has been mentioned on a few occasions - the Stormers defence is a massive concern.
The ease with which the Sunwolves broke the line - the Japanese team crossed the whitewash four times - should be alarming for Fleck and his coaching staff.
Gone are the days when the Stormers had the best defence in the competition with Jacques Nienaber as defence guru.
Finding the right balance between attack and defence is vital, especially with games against the trend-setting New Zealand sides lying in wait.
The Kiwi teams, like the Chiefs did at Newlands last year, will rip this current Stormers defensive system to shreds.
3. TMO woes
There was a comical situation late in the Sunwolves v Stormers game when the Cape side’s centre EW Viljoen seemingly scored a spectacular try after collecting a chip-kick behind the Sunwolves defence.
Argentine referee Federico Anselmi went upstairs to Japanese television match official Minoru Fuji to check whether Viljoen was offside when he collected Robert du Preez’s chip-kick.
On replays, it was touch and go, but Viljoen seemed on-side and he had also legitimately grounded the ball.
The TMO told the referee “no clear evidence of offside, you may award the try".
Anselmi, whose first language in Spanish, misunderstood Fuji and when he heard “no” he thought it was "no try" and promptly disallowed the score.
Luckily for the Stormers, it had no influence on the result and they scored soon afterwards, but this is an issue SANZAAR needs to take note of - you don’t want a similar scenario in a knockout match!
The TMO also needs to be taken to task for not again communicating with the referee after he saw what transpired.
There was also an incident in the Cheetahs v Sharks match in Bloemfontein when referee Jaco Peyper awarded Sharks prop Coenie Oosthuizen a yellow card for a high tackle on Cheetahs wing JW Jonker.
Interestingly, TMO Johan Greeff instructed Peyper that the tackle was around the shoulder and did not warrant a yellow card, only a penalty.
However, Peyper decided he saw enough in real time that it was around the neck and sent Oosthuizen off for 10 minutes.
In this scenario, I thought Peyper’s call was the right one...
4. Cheetahs not thinking clearly
The Cheetahs had me fuming late in their game against the Sharks when they were awarded a penalty after the hooter had sounded.
The Sharks had just collapsed the Cheetahs' attempted driving maul close to the tryline and the referee had sent Sharks lock Etienne Oosthuizen to the sin-bin.
This would normally be the perfect opportunity for a team to again set up a lineout to try and drive over.
The only problem was that the Cheetahs were trailing by eight points - just outside the losing bonus point range.
They couldn't win the game, yet still opted for a lineout drive.
Had they kicked for goal it would have earned them a bonus point for losing by fewer than seven points.
They were held up at their second attempt as the referee blew an end to proceedings, leaving the Cheetahs with zero points for their efforts.
I’m sorry, but this was just bad captaincy. It would not have been a difficult kick for an on-song Fred Zeilinga to give them a losing bonus point.
The excuse that they were chasing a fourth try - and possibly two bonus points - is also not invalid as the system no longer awards a bonus point for scoring four tries.
This was another example where the Cheetahs’ intentions to attack at all costs cost them a point.
5. Curwin Bosch continues to impress
The Sharks flyhalf’s man-of-the-match display in his side’s 38-30 win over the Cheetahs again caught the eye.
The 19-year-old appears to boast maturity beyond his years and produced a flawless goal-kicking performance, contributing 18 points.
Last weekend, he slotted a long-range penalty to subdue the Kings and was again spot on in Bloemfontein.
Former Springbok Braam van Straaten is working with the Sharks on a consultancy basis and he has clearly done some good work with Bosch, who credited the former Stormers sharp-shooter in his post-match interview.
With Pat Lambie again sidelined with injury, the Sharks may have some issues at flyhalf when Bosch is called into the Junior Springbok camp over the next few months for the tournament starting in late-May...