Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 7 of the 2017 Super Rugby competition:
1. ‘Junk status’ Bulls
Following their 21-20 reverse to the lowly Sunwolves in Tokyo, the Bulls are now one from six in 2017 - their worst start since the 2002 season when they lost all 11 of their matches in the then-Super 12.
It has prompted some fans on social media to label the Bulls as having been downgraded to “junk status”.
There have been calls for coach Nollis Marais to step down and while that notion is perhaps coming too soon, the Bulls mentor needs to change the way his team plays.
Marais showed promise with the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup, taking them to last year’s final, but they have seemingly reverted to a more one-dimensional conservative game style in Super Rugby.
The Bulls’ tactics against the Sunwolves had their fans cringing. It was woefully one-dimensional and the sooner the top brass at Loftus realise that a kick-and-chase at all costs method will no longer win you matches at this level, the better...
2. What a difference a year makes!
Last year, the Stormers embarrassed themselves when they got pummelled 60-21 in a home quarter-final by the Chiefs.
Therefore, not many gave them a chance heading into Saturday’s encounter at Newlands, but Robbie Fleck’s men turned the tables in spectacular fashion, beating the Kiwis at their own game.
Fleck’s attacking game style is reaping rewards, but it was other aspects - defence and fitness - that proved just as vital to their cause.
The Capetonians had a few defensive lapses - which is perhaps understandable against the quality of attack they were up against - but overall it was a much improved effort in that department.
Kiwi teams are renowned for playing the full 80 minutes and on Saturday the Stormers matched them until the final whistle.
The fitness levels of the South African teams have copped criticism in recent times, but the Stormers showed they have improved in that regard.
3. Two tries of the season!
The encounter between the Stormers and Chiefs at Newlands was a great advertisement for the tournament, with both teams impressing with their ball-in-hand approach.
More than 30 000 fans also witnessed arguably the two best tries of the season.
Chiefs wing Toni Pulu’s first try was started when the Chiefs - via fullback Damian McKenzie - ran from their own goal-line to score.
Great hands, vision and pace saw the Newlands crowd acknowledge a sublime try.
Then, in the second half, the Stormers matched the Chiefs when SP Marais rounded off.
With the Chiefs hot on the attack, Cheslin Kolbe intercepted a pass, before booting up-field. Dillyn Leyds chased it down and got to it first, before spectacularly throwing a back-flip pass to Marais on his outside, with the fullback rounding off in the corner.
It would take something special to eclipse these two efforts for try of the season...
CLICK HERE to watch replays of the two tries
4. Scrappy encounter in Durban
Saturday’s earlier encounter between the Sharks and Jaguares at Kings Park was a stark contrast to the heroics dished up at Newlands.
But the Sharks will be pleased for grinding out a win against what is essentially Argentina’s national side.
It saw them leapfrog the Jaguares into second place in the Africa 2 conference - and into a qualifier playoff spot.
However, the match wasn’t easy on the eye, with 34 handling errors - 17 apiece - painting a pretty bleak picture.
The excuse that the game was played in the normal humid Durban conditions is getting old...
5. Super Rugby axe wielded
The inevitable was confirmed on Sunday morning when SANZAAR organisers announced that Super Rugby will lose three teams next year and revert back to a 15-team competition.
South Africa will lose two teams, with Australia one.
From a local perspective, it’s pretty hard to see it not being the Cheetahs and Kings, while talks from Australia are that the Force will be dropped.
Personally, I’d like to see the Rebels go but powerful ownership looks likely to save the Melbourne-based tournament also-rans.
SA Rugby may be left with no other option than to bring back to life the Cats franchise where the Cheetahs and Lions join forces, with the Kings re-joining the Sharks.