5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 6
Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after Round 6 action of Super Rugby.
1. Spear tackles
In Saturday’s clash between the Bulls and Force at Loftus Versfeld, the Bulls won a late penalty when flyhalf Handre Pollard was tip-tackled by a Force forward. Pollard stepped up to slot the penalty and hand the Bulls a narrow 25-24 win.
In the later game at Kings Park, Sharks centre Frans Steyn was rightly sent off for a tip tackle on Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden.
Why is it that so often in modern rugby you see players committing these dangerous tip tackles by driving the head of opponents into the ground? Surely they cannot be coached in this way? This writer though is led to believe that wrestling-type training regimes have brought this negative aspect into the modern game. The sooner it gets stopped, the better. Surely it’s not so tough to realise that you’re about to dump a player’s head into the ground if you lift him in a tackle?!
2. Bismarck du Plessis’s moment of madness
The Sharks captain fully deserved to be sent off when he kicked Chiefs No 8 Michael Leitch in the face. He also deserves his four-game ban and will be lucky to retain the Sharks captaincy in the long run. Du Plessis’s behaviour is the reason he will not be considered for the Springbok captaincy if Jean de Villiers fails to recover in time for the World Cup. Let’s hope this ban serves as a deterrent for the player. The incident reminds one of when Du Plessis was allowed to face Western Province in the 2013 Currie Cup final, despite stamping on Cheetahs loose forward Lappies Labuschagne in the semi-finals the previous week. He was cited, but was inexplicably not banned for the incident and allowed to face WP in the final, which the Sharks won. Had Du Plessis been properly punished then, perhaps he would have learnt his lesson earlier...
3. Bulls backline play
The Bulls backline's lack of impetus on attack was again evident in their stuttering 25-24 win over the lowly Western Force at Loftus Versfeld. The players are not running straight, while their distribution leaves much to be desired. Centre JJ Engelbrecht is a big culprit. Apart from knocking the ball on with an open tryline begging, he struggled with his running lines and passing.
Nick Mallett rightly noted in his half-time analysis on SuperSport: "We go on and on about JJ Engelbrecht not running straight. There was a three-on-two overlap (in the 10th minute). All he has to do is run at the inside shoulder of the second last defender and pass (instead he ran across-field to negate the overlap). He's a winger playing outside centre... honestly, he frustrates me no end. It (not running straight) is a sickness in our rugby."
Pieter Rossouw has been the Bulls backline coach for the past six years now, and has done some good work, but a change in strategy and execution is badly needed.
4. Warren Whiteley's star continues to shine
The Lions captain was again a shining light in his team's comeback win over the Melbourne Rebels last Friday. Trailing 13-0 at one stage, the Lions dug deep to earn a 20-16 victory. Whiteley not only leads by example in his play, but appears to be a great leader. He conducts himself well on the park and speaks with aplomb in post-match interviews - characteristic of a future Springbok captain. Whiteley currently leads the competition's stats for most tackles made - a mammoth 94 from six matches!
5. Silly TMO decisions
The performance of television match officials must be becoming somewhat of an embarrassment for referee bosses. In Saturday night's match between the Sharks and Chiefs, TMO Marius Jonker was consulted after Frans Steyn's clear tip tackle on Aaron Cruden. Jonker suggested only a yellow card to referee Angus Gardner, implying the fact that other tacklers involved impacted on Cruden being dumped on his head. It was however clear that Steyn was the lifting player and it's his responsibility to bring the opponent down safely. Luckily sanity prevailed when Gardner, as well as assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen, disagreed with Jonker and gave Steyn a red card. Just a few weeks ago, a lot was written about Johan Greeff's controversial decisions from the TMO booth in the Sharks v Bulls clash at Loftus Versfeld. I remain dumbfounded how easily television match officials get calls wrong...