Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after Round 18's action of Super Rugby:
1. TMO decisions in Sharks tries
The Sharks’ first two tries in their game against the Stormers at Kings Park were contentious to say the least.
The first try scored by Lionel Cronje was awarded after TMO Marius Jonker decided the Sharks pivot had touched down before Stormers wing Pat Howard, despite replays clearly showing both players had dotted down simultaneously. What does the law state if two players dot down at the same time? Does the advantage go to the attacking team? If so, then the call was correct, otherwise it was another TMO blunder...
The Sharks’ second try by scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer was also debatable. Ungerer appeared to lose control of the ball, but because he still made contact with the ball when it touched the ground, the try was awarded. It appears the right call was made, but more clarity regarding the laws in this regard is needed. Should a try really stand if player loses control of it?
2. Bulls need change in strategy
As Nick Mallett stated on Saturday, Frans Ludeke did the “honourable” thing to step down as Bulls coach.
Change was badly needed for the under-performing, one dimensional Bulls.
They promised a more expansive game pre-season, but nothing came of those promises.
Whoever is appointed as new head coach for 2016 needs to change the way the game is being played in Pretoria.
Their strategy is outdated and it limits players from fulfilling their true potential.
Take a player like Jurgen Visser for example. He promised much earlier in his career, but was so inhibited by their kick-at-all costs approach, that he appeared to lose his zest as a player. He was not offered a new contract by the union last week and now faces an uncertain future in game...
3. Tip tackles
Rugby's tip tackle reared its ugly head again during the Sharks v Stormers game in Durban. Sharks centre Andre Esterhuizen and Stormers fullback Robert du Preez both received yellow cards for dangerous lifting tackles.
Esterhuizen dumped Stormers flank Michael Rhodes early in the game and the only thing that saved him from seeing red was the fact that Rhodes’ head was not driven into the ground.
Du Preez’s ugly tackle on Lwazi Mvovo appeared even worse and he was lucky to only see yellow late in the game.
Both players were cited afterwards and should cop lengthy bans. It’s the only way this ‘sickness’ will be eliminated from the game.
4. Bismarck leaves Sharks with head held high
Bismarck du Plessis left the Sharks on a high note at the weekend, turning in a man-of-the-match performance as his side beat the Stormers 34-12.
Following his disciplinary embarrassment earlier in the season, it appears the old Bismarck is back and he has established himself as the country’s No 1 hooker again.
I’ve noted in recent times that he has shown greater composure, not allowing himself to be drawn into off-the-ball niggles, despite being provoked at times.
He is not captaincy material and did the right thing by stepping down earlier in the season.
Just playing his normal game has allowed him to impose himself in the right manner again and he’ll be a key figure for the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup later this year.
5. New coach, new approach
It was pleasing to witness the enterprising, attacking approach the Cheetahs adopted in their 42-29 win over the Bulls in Pretoria.
Since taking over as head coach a fortnight ago, Franco Smith said he wanted to rekindle the players’ enthusiasm for the game.
They responded with 11 tries in two matches, with the six they scored against the Bulls helping them to their first ever win over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld and only their second ever win over the men from Pretoria in Super Rugby.
Smith did well to help Shimlas win the Varsity Cup earlier this year and it shows that a new coach is sometimes needed to reinvigorate a team.
Hard work though still lies ahead, especially on defence, and Smith acknowledged as much afterwards:
“Defensively we made a step up from last week, but I think there is a lot work to be done,” Smith said afterwards.
“I was disappointed with two or three of the tries we gave away, one-on-one we missed tackles which is not acceptable.
“The pace with which we played the game was different than the guys are used to, so I can maybe excuse them.”