Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 1 of the 2017 Super Rugby competition:
1. Sweet and sour for Sharks skipper
Springbok fans will be happy by the performance of Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie, who performed adequately in their 28-26 loss to the Reds in Brisbane.
But it was Lambie's goal-kicking which stood out.
He was flawless for most of the game, converting his first six attempts at goal.
He was so impressive that I noted a scribe on Twitter quip that Lambie may have taken Jonny Wilkinson pills in the off-season.
However, when it really mattered in the 78th minute, Lambie missed a tough penalty from the corner which would have given his side victory.
It was a tough kick, but stepping up when it really matters is what the national coach will be looking for...
2. Lions lucky to escape with win
I felt the Lions were a tad lucky to win their game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs had several chances to close the game out and were in the lead for most parts of the second half.
For me, the turning point came in the 52nd minute when Rohan Janse van Rensburg finished off a long-range try which was started from inside their 22m area.
I felt the try swung the momentum of the game. The Lions, trailing 6-16 at the time, looked under pressure after a stray pass from Elton Jantjies was intercepted by Clayton Blommetjies, who kicked deep up-field into Lions territory... only to see the men from Johannesburg counter.
Had the Cheetahs scored in that situation, the game would likely have been out of the Lions' reach.
Nevertheless, the Lions deserve credit for scoring the long-range try and showing composure afterwards when a loss looked more likely.
The men from Johannesburg will nevertheless be relieved with their win.
But as Nick Mallett noted in the SuperSport studio afterwards, several of the Lions’ stars who had returned from Japan did not cover themselves in glory.
Captain Warren Whiteley admitted as much in his post-match interview.
Let’s hope it was just a bit of early season rust.
3. Gutsy Kings, but...
As many pundits were again quick to point out, the Kings were gutsy in their 39-26 home reverse to the Jaguares.
But in all reality, the Kings were second best by some distance in this game.
Last year, the Kings beat the Jaguares after the Argentines copped two red cards.
Despite conceding two late yellow cards in Saturday’s game, the Jaguares were much more disciplined in their 2017 season opener, scoring some spectacular long-distance tries to bag a convincing win.
The Kings however need to sort out their own discipline in a tournament in which they are sure to be up against it.
Early in the game, prop Ross Geldenhuys received a silly yellow card for kneeing a player in the back - a punishment which ultimately cost the Kings dearly.
The Kings’ decision-making also needs to improve.
Lock Mzwanele Zito’s decision to kick the ball away in an attacking position was a point in case. The Kings, down 25-12 in the 53rd minute, were hot on the attack when the big forward decided to boot the ball away. It saw the Kings lose possession before conceding a long-range try scored by No 8 Leonardo Senatore.
The try scored by fullback Joaquin Tuculet in 57th minute also came after the Kings gave possession away unnecessarily.
Flank Anidisa Ntsila threw the ball in-field without looking before it was intercepted by speedy wing Santiago Cordero.
Kings coach Deon Davids no doubt has lots to discuss at Monday morning's team meeting!
4. Massive statement from Stormers pack
The Bulls came to Newlands with a massive 921kg forward pack, but took a heavy beating against the Stormers on Saturday night.
They destroyed the Bulls at scrum-time, particularly in the first half, with props Wilco Louw and JC Janse van Rensburg proving highly effective. The latter’s dominance of Trevor Nyakane was an embarrassment for the Springbok prop.
The lock duo of Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit also reigned supreme, with the Stormers dominating the collisions early on.
The Cape side’s physicality had the Bulls on the back foot from the word go and forced the Pretoria side into several errors.
5. Tough night at the office for Handre Pollard
Bulls captain Handre Pollard’s return to action after a year on the sidelines was less than spectacular. I wrote a column last week indicating that a fit and firing Pollard would be vital to the Springbok cause in 2017, possibly even as captain.
But on Saturday, Pollard played like a man who has been sidelined for more than a year. He’s goal-kicking was well below par, while his distribution was less than spectacular.
It has to be noted though that he was playing under extreme pressure, as the Stormers pack pummelled the Bulls in the first half.
Most flyhalves would have struggled behind a pack of forwards going back at a rate of knots.
* Bonus talking point:
Cape rugby fans deserve a round of applause for turning out in their numbers for the Stormers-Bulls derby at Newlands. That was not the case in Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth, unfortunately...