5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 3
Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after the third weekend's action of Super Rugby:
1. Joe Pietersen key to Cheetahs success
Joe Pietersen has been a revelation at flyhalf for the Cheetahs in his two games for the Bloemfontein franchise. Pietersen was recruited in the off-season from France to fill the void left by Johan Goosen, and the former Stormers player played a key role in the Cheetahs' first two victories of the competition. He kicked a 79th minute penalty to help his team beat the Blues 25-24 last Friday. He was again tactically astute, while his clever-cross kick led to a spectacular try scored by wing Cornal Hendricks.
2. Healthy conundrum for Bok coach
Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard are the two flyhalf incumbents for the Springboks and their performances in the clash between the Bulls and Sharks at Loftus Versfeld would have pleased Bok coach Heyneke Meyer. Despite the Bulls winning 43-35, both players performed adequately with neither overshadowing the other. Tactically, the decision making of both players was impressive. However, Meyer may be scratching his head and is probably still not sure who his No 1 flyhalf would be at the Rugby World Cup later this year.
3. Contentious TMO decisions
There were two contentious decisions made by television match official Johan Greeff in the Bulls v Sharks game at Loftus Versfeld. Bulls wing Francois Hougaard scored the first try of the game after receiving what looked like a forward pass. However, Greeff allowed the try to stand. He told referee Jaco van Heerden that it "was not conclusive whether the ball was thrown forward although it drifted forward". Rugby's regulations state that if a ball is passed backwards or sideways from a player's hands and then drifts forward, that it's not a forward pass. That was the decision made by Greeff, although it remains debatable that the ball did not go forward from Kriel's hands. Commentators Robbie Kempson and Gcobani Bobo were in agreement that is was a forward pass. "That's definitely forward," said Kempson, while Bobo replied: "It's a definite forward (pass). His hands are moving forward."
The second contentious call was made right at the end of the game when Bulls centre Jan Serfontein was awarded a try. Serfontein appeared to lose control of the ball, with Bobo saying: "There's a bit of separation between the ball and hand". But Greeff awarded the try, saying: "There was no separation from the blue player as he was pushed back by the white player. Therefore, you may award the try."
4. Lions not opting for a draw
The Lions had a chance to share the spoils with the Stormers when they received a penalty right in front of the posts deep into stoppage of their match at Emirates Airline Park. They had set up numerous attacking phases but couldn't breach the resolute Stormers defence. Instead of settling for a draw, they went for the win, but fell agonisingly short. However, questions need to be asked why the Lions - via replacement flyhalf Jaco van der Walt - had earlier on the stroke of full-time opted for a drop goal to draw the match, but then moments later decided otherwise. When asked about the decision in the post-match interview, captain Warren Whiteley responded: "Look, it's just the nature of the side. Before I looked up, they went." Perhaps Whitely should have taken charge and opted for the safe route. The Lions have lost their first three games and getting anywhere near the playoffs now look a very long shot...
5. Stormers need to improve
The Stormers may have won their first three games this season, but they need to markedly improve in a few areas if they are to mount a serious challenge later in the competition. Their lineouts were a shambles against the Lions, and their finishing on attack needs drastic improvement. Despite having enough possession and territory, the Cape side could only score via a driving maul from a lineout. The previous week they struggled to score four tries against a 14-man Blues outfit and seldom looked like crossing the whitewash against the Lions.