Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 6 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:
1. What a match!
Friday’s night’s match at Ellis Park between the Lions and Crusaders reminded me of the early days of the Super 12.
High-scoring games were the order of the day in the late 1990s and seeing a scoreline of 43-37, with 10 tries scored, was certainly eye-catching.
Yes, the Lions missed some crucial tackles which cost them the game, but the skill level on display from both teams was simply sublime at times.
It’s no wonder Nick Mallett had this to say about the game in the SuperSport studio: “If anyone didn’t come out of this game feeling 'Wow, that’s great entertainment' then I don’t know. We’ve been properly treated to a spectacle of rugby that will make you want to go back and watch it again.”
2. Time for neutral referees?
Despite their win over the Lions, the Crusaders were not happy by the refereeing of South Africa's Stuart Berry.
Berry awarded the Lions 12 penalties against the visitors’ six, with Crusaders forwards coach Dave Hewett calling for a return to neutral referees.
“The problem that you have is when you get a referee from the city you’re playing in, there’s a massive crowd influence that comes in,” he was quoted as saying in New Zealand media.
“They do affect it, it does happen. So neutral referees would take that out of any discussions post-match essentially. It’s something that is frustrating from a coaching point of view and can have a massive influence on the game.”
Berry copped severe criticism after a game he refereed between the Lions and Reds two years ago, and who knows, perhaps subconsciously he was awarding some 50/50 calls in favour of the home side?
I feel neutral referees is the way to go, but then again the home crowd could still influence a referee’s decision in making those not so clear-cut decisions...
3. Courageous Kings
They won’t win many games this year, but the efforts of the Kings against the Sunwolves need to be applauded.
As predicted, the Kings dominated largely at set-pieces, but they were vulnerable on defence against their enterprising opponents.
After leading 15-3 early in the game, I thought the Kings had perhaps blown it when they only led 23-20 at the break.
They had to play against a stiff breeze in the second half and spent the majority of the final 40 minutes defending.
Yes, they did slip 22 tackles on the day, but there was also some heroic defence late in the game which somehow kept the Sunwolves at bay.
In the end, the Kings made a whopping 158 tackles compared to their opponents’ 75, but they made better use of their chances and deserved their first win of the season.
4. Bulls, Cheetahs a work in progress
Saturday’s South African derby between the Bulls and Cheetahs was in stark contrast to the previous evening’s game in Johannesburg.
The Bulls won an ugly encounter 23-18 at Loftus Versfeld, but both teams have lots to work on as the skill level on display was at times appalling.
There were simply too many basic handling errors to make the game pleasing on the eye and Nick Mallett was right to criticise both teams afterwards.
“This was a very error-ridden game,” said Mallett. “There were just too many handling errors, mistakes and poor decision-making. Both teams are trying to play attractive rugby, but it doesn’t appear as if the whole team is properly focused on what the ball-carrier is trying to do.
“It was an exciting game only because it was quite close, but the quality of it didn't compare to the Lions-Crusaders game. I’d say the Bulls and the Cheetahs are reasonably close as two teams and I don’t think they’ll be challenging for the playoff spots.”
5. Ominous form from Kiwi teams
As things currently stand, it will take a brave man to bet against a New Zealand team winning this year’s tournament.
After losing to the Lions in Round 2, the Chiefs have won four on the trot, scoring 58, 30, 53 and 48 points respectively in those matches, with this past weekend’s 48-23 mauling of the Brumbies in Canberra the most impressive performance of any team this season .
The Crusaders have also not lost since going down at home to the Chiefs in Round 1 and ended their South African tour with wins over good Sharks and Lions teams.
Defending champions, the Highlanders, have perhaps not yet reached the heights of last season, but the stats show they have won five out of six games, so don’t count them out...