Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after Round 8's action of Super Rugby.
1. Sharks discipline
It appears the Sharks are doing their level best to gain the tag of bully boys of South African rugby.
They currently have their captain, Bismarck du Plessis, suspended for kicking an opponent in the face, while utility back Frans Steyn is banned for five weeks for a tip tackle.
That should serve as enough deterrent for the rest to keep their cool for the remainder of the season.
However, Jean Deysel thought otherwise against the Crusaders last Saturday when he kneed Matt Todd in the back of the head.
At that stage the Crusaders were down to 12 men.
Deysel’s brain freeze has deservedly cost him seven weeks on the sidelines.
To make matters worse, the Sharks also suffered an embarrassing 52-10 home loss.
Director of Rugby Gary Gold has a lot of work on his hands to resurrect matters at Kings Park, and also change a few negative perceptions about his charges...
2. Errors from officials
The standard of refereeing was again a big discussion point after Friday’s match between the Hurricanes and Stormers in Wellington.
Australian referee Rohan Hoffmann had to apologise to the Stormers for missing a knock-on from Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith when the visitors were 5m out from their opponents' tryline. The Hurricanes countered up-field and went on to score.
Julian Savea’s try was also debatable as it looked like fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder’s pass to the wing went forward, but New Zealand TMO Chris Wratt disagreed. There were also illegalities leading up to lock Jeremy Thrush’s length-of-field try just before half-time. Reggie Goodes won a turnover but his hands were clearly on the deck in his attempt to steal, while Thrush was also offside at the ruck.
In the second half, Stormers centre Huw Jones was denied a try when the TMO ruled that he had played the ball from an offside position, while referee Hoffmann penalised the Capetonians for 'changing lanes' when they looked set to score from a lineout driving maul.
The Hurricanes no doubt deserve plaudits for displaying great impetus on attack - much more than their Cape opponents - but questions need to be raised why contentious decisions from officials become a heated topic of discussion on a weekly basis.
3. Cheetahs defence needs improvement
The Cheetahs need to improve their defence if they are to mount any challenge in the competition going forward. Too many man-on-man tackles are being slipped by the men from Bloemfontein, who were lucky to lose by only 17 points to the Brumbies in Canberra. Flyhalf Joe Pietersen missed two early tackles, with his second one leading to a try for centre Christian Lealiifano in the third minute. The ease with which he bumped off the Cheetahs pivot was inexcusable.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie admitted that they were lucky not to concede more tries against the Brumbies.
“The Brumbies lost the ball on the goal-line on four occasions. We missed far too many one-on-one tackles, especially in the first half," Fourie was quoted as saying.
4. SA Rugby needs the Lions’ spirit
When the Lions won a penalty late in their clash against the Bulls, they opted for a quick tap instead of settling for a draw, with replacement hooker Armand van der Merwe barging over for the winning score.
It all started after they caught the Bulls cold with a quick restart, before Howard Mnisi pounced on a loose ball to set up the attack.
A few weeks ago the Lions also had the option of sharing the spoils with the Stormers, but they opted to tap it and go for the win.
On that night things didn’t go their way, but the team’s willingness to have a go should be lauded.
In fact, South African rugby needs more of their enterprise. They are a team playing without fear of failure, which makes them dangerous.
5. Lions finding right balance
Unlike the Cheetahs, the Lions have proved that you can play enterprising rugby and at the same time maintain a solid defensive structure.
On their recent Australasian tour they eked out three wins with a markedly improved defensive structure, while also keeping the Bulls scoreless at the weekend.
No wonder the competition’s two leading tacklers ply their trade in Johannesburg. Lions captain Warren Whiteley currently tops the charts for most tackles in the competition (121), while team-mate and fellow loose forward Warwick Tecklenburg is second on the list with 102 tackles.
The Hurricanes’ Brad Shields is a distant third with 82 tackles.