Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after the Super Rugby quarter-finals:
1. Brumbies right to feel aggrieved
The Brumbies were right to feel aggrieved after their 15-9 home loss to the Highlanders in Canberra on Friday.
Stephen Larkham’s men thought they had scored the winning try late in the game when reserve wing Lausii Taliauli powered over.
Referee Angus Gardner referred the decision to TMO George Ayoub, who said he could not see the ball being grounded.
Fair enough, technically Ayoub made the right call because he could not see a clear grounding.
But it was one of those cases where you clearly know it’s a try, despite the grounding not visible on television replays.
In this scenario, referee Gardner should be blamed for asking the TMO the wrong question. He asked Ayoub ‘try or no try?’ but instead should have asked ‘can you give me a reason not to award the try?’.
In the latter instance, Ayoub would not have been able to give any reason not to award the try and the Brumbies would have been in the semi-finals.
Sometimes a little common sense from referees would suffice...
2. Plumtree comes back to bite Sharks
Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree would have been a happy man after his side demolished his former team, the Sharks, 41-0 in Wellington on Saturday.
Plumtree was given the boot when John Smit arrived at the Sharks three years ago. Now Smit is on his way and the Sharks are worse for wear.
Not only are they struggling on the field, but reports have also surfaced about financial woes.
The Hurricanes’ mastery of the wet conditions was a sight to behold, while the Sharks looked inept and quite frankly lacked any intensity.
New CEO Gary Teichmann has a tough task at hand and some big decisions need to be made...
3. Stormers lack BMT
The Stormers again showed their inability to ‘pitch’ when it really mattered when they were pummelled 60-21 by the Chiefs at Newlands.
Remarkably, the Stormers have now lost seven of eight Super Rugby playoff games over the years.
What’s even worse is that five of those losses have been at their home ‘fortress’ Newlands.
Even more alarming is that the five losses were all comfortable, the closest being a 26-19 reverse to the Sharks in 2012 when a late Stormers comeback proved in vain.
Something is wrong at Newlands. It has been for a long time.
Coach Robbie Fleck has been talking about improving the team’s culture on numerous occasions this season.
He’s failed. The culture remains a losing one when it really matters.
Stormers’ Super rugby playoff record:
1999 - lost to Otago Highlanders (33-18 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2004 - lost to Crusaders (27-16 in semi-finals, Christchurch)
2010 - beat Waratahs (25-6 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2010 - lost to Bulls (25-17 in final, Soweto)
2011 - lost to Crusaders (29-10 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2012 - lost to Sharks (26-19 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2015 - lost to Brumbies (39-19 in qualifier, Cape Town)
2016 - lost Chiefs (60-21 in quarter-finals, Cape Town)
4. Super Rugby needs change in format
After the weekend’s horror shows by the Stormers and Sharks, it’s clear to me that the Super Rugby conference system needs to be scrapped.
The Stormers did not face any New Zealand teams until they ran into a Chiefs steam train on Saturday night.
They were not ready for it and would never have made the playoffs had the competition been contested in a round-robin format where all teams face each other once.
Teams are already playing 15 regular season matches so two more would hardly make a massive difference.
Get all 18 teams to play in a single group and face each other once. The top two should earn automatic home semi-final berths, with teams ranked No 3-No 6 to duel in playoffs.
In the above-mentioned scenario, I doubt that the Stormers and Sharks would have made the playoffs.
No wait, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have...
5. Lions have real shot at title
What was most pleasing about the Lions’ 42-25 dismantling of the Crusaders was that they beat the Kiwis at their own game.
The Lions look simply sublime with ball in hand and they complimented that with staunch defence.
I’ll put my money on them beating the Highlanders at home and also don’t bet against the Chiefs upsetting the Hurricanes in Wellington - which would see the Lions host the final.
It would be a real tough ask on the Chiefs, who played in Cape Town this past weekend, to fly back to New Zealand to win a semi-final and again return to South Africa for a Highveld final.
Even if the Lions have to travel to Wellington for the final, Johan Ackermann’s men should have enough belief that they stand a chance. They proved it with their win over the Chiefs in New Zealand earlier in the season...