Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 11 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:
1. Lambie back with a bang
Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold made a big call when he replaced flyhalf Garth April with fit-again Springbok Pat Lambie in the 53rd minute of their clash against the Hurricanes in Durban.
The Sharks had just scored to go up 22-8 when Lambie entered the fray. It was his first Super Rugby appearance this year having picked up a shoulder injury in pre-season.
April was playing well and Gold risked halting the Sharks' momentum, but the decision was vindicated.
Lambie showed no signs of rustiness and slotted in seamlessly, looking sharp on attack and kicking well.
He also showed no signs of the injury still proving troublesome and Springbok coach Allister Coetzee would have welcomed Lambie’s return to action.
Gold now faces a tough task, considering how well April has performed in recent weeks.
2. Error-prone Cheetahs
The Cheetahs just aren’t the complete package this season. I’ve ranted about their weak defence all season, but it was other aspects of their game that proved troublesome in their 21-6 defeat to the Waratahs in Sydney.
Their scrum was again atrocious and an all-new front row picked for the ‘Tahs game showed no improvement.
They conceded four penalties in this set-piece in the first half alone, while the men from Bloemfontein also conceded 23 turnovers, 13 penalties and committed 17 handling errors.
Coach Franco Smith can’t keep using the excuse that this is a young team that will learn...
3. Put your money on the Crusaders
After 11 rounds of action, it’s no secret that the New Zealand teams are bossing this year’s event.
Their fourth-placed team, the Hurricanes, boast more points (31) than the top Australian team, the Brumbies on 25 points.
However, due to the complex nature of the competition structure, the Brumbies are second in the Australasian Group due to their No 1 ranking in the Australian Conference.
But come playoff time I fear for the Aussie teams, as well as some South African sides.
The Kiwi teams are dominating, but I’ve got a sneaky feeling that this is the Crusaders’ year. There’s something different about them in 2016 and they look unstoppable at home.
They are seven-times champions but haven’t won Super Rugby since 2008 and I’m feeling inclined to place a bet on them winning this year’s event.
4. Ugly day at the office for Bulls
I felt the Bulls had a chance to extend their six-match unbeaten run when they faced the Brumbies in Canberra, but their performance was lacklustre and error-prone.
In the end, the 23-6 scoreline flattered the Bulls, who quite frankly deserved to go down by more.
They never looked like mounting a challenge and the statistics paint a bleak picture.
The Brumbies dominated the metres made statistic (442-225), carries (128-71), passes (185-85), turnovers won (18-13).
The Bulls spent the best part of the game on the back foot, illustrated by the fact that they were forced to make 152 tackles, compared to a meagre 72 by the Brumbies.
The Bulls’ defence was actually quite good, considering they missed the same amount of tackles (9) to that of their opponents.
However, when you spend most of the game defending, you have to make better use of your opportunities and the Bulls didn’t do that as they forced offloads and conceded possession too readily.
It wasn’t their best day at the office, but the Bulls’ season is still looking promising and their fans shouldn’t be too despondent.
5. SA's worst v NZ's worst
It was a case of South Afirca's worst team against New Zealand's worst team when the Southern Kings hosted the Blues in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Kings were hammered 73-27 by the Jaguares in Argentina the previous week, but gave a good account of themselves against the men from Auckland.
They led the game for a period and one feels the 34-18 scoreline flattered the Blues a bit.
The Kings enjoyed 49% possession and held their own at the set pieces.
They made 336m on attack, compared to to the Blues’ 387m, while they only made 12 less carries (101). The hosts completed 142 passes compared to 162.
These statistics prove the Kings were competitive but it was their defence which cost them big-time.
They slipped a mammoth 37 tackles and that simply won’t win you games at this level.