Super Rugby Round 1: 5 talking points
Cape Town - Sport24 highlights 5 talking points after the first weekend's action of Super Rugby:
1. Bumbling Bulls
After a promising pre-season, it was the same old Bulls in their clash against the Stormers on Saturday night. The men from Pretoria were fancied to beat their Cape rivals in the opening round of Super Rugby action. But the Stormers were simply sublime and showed why they are at their most dangerous when written off. They out-muscled the Bulls, employed superior skills, and their scrum was dominant. The Bulls didn't show anything different from seasons gone by, with their only try not surprisingly coming from a driving maul. It was again evident how the Bulls players mostly opt to attack the man, instead of the space. Coach Frans Ludeke, in his half-time chat with SuperSport, said: "There's a lot of space available out there." Pity his players didn't get the message...
2. Crusaders slow out the blocks
The Crusaders just can't seem to start a Super Rugby season on a high note. Year after year now, the seven-times champions start the season off on the back foot and last Friday was no different when they were upset 20-10 by the Rebels at home. The warning signs were there after the men from Christchurch performed poorly in pre-season, which included a heavy 35-12 loss to the Reds, who themselves were hammered 47-3 by the Brumbies at the weekend. Don't write off the Crusaders just yet though...
3. Strong Stormers scrum
The Stormers pack set the platform for their 29-17 victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, hammering their hosts at scrum time in what was arguably their most dominant scrummaging display against the Bulls in many a year. Tighthead prop Vincent Koch, who was recruited from the Pumas in off-season, was the star for the Capetonians. Ironically, Koch was once on the Bulls' books, but he left them for the Pumas after not getting much game time.
4. Never write off the Cheetahs in Durban
Over the years, the Cheetahs have developed a tendency to go and upset the Sharks in Durban and last Saturday was no different. The men from Bloemfontein were deserved 35-29 winners, making better use of their opportunities, committing less errors, and as Nick Mallett noted in the SuperSport studio, the Cheetahs were simply more "enthusiastic and thoroughly deserved their victory". The performance of flyhalf Joe Pietersen also caught the eye of this writer. Pietersen was recruited in the off season from France to fill the void left by Johan Goosen and his contribution at Kings Park was of utmost importance. He kicked 13 points with the boot in a game in which his side scored four tries. He made two errors late in the game when he missed a relatively simple conversion before failing to find touch with a penalty kick. However, his performance up to that point was enough to show that he will be vital to the Cheetahs' cause in 2015.
5. Lions squandering opportunities
The Lions should have beaten the Hurricanes in their match at Emirates Airline Park on Friday. However, several missed chances and wrong decision making cost the men from Johannesburg dearly as they went down 22-8, despite enjoying the lion's share of territory and possession. After his goal-kicking horror show in last year's Currie Cup final, Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff appears to have lost confidence in lining up for goal, missing several crucial kicks in the first half. Captain Warren Whiteley also inexplicably opted not to go for goal later in the game, which proved costly. The Lions must know that this is Super Rugby, not Currie Cup. Make use of your opportunities when they arise, or else pay the consequences...