Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 12 of the 2018 Super Rugby competition:
1. Jaguares unbeaten Down Under!
The Jaguares’ 23-19 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton saw them finish their Australasian tour with four wins from four.
Earlier wins over the Blues (20-13, Auckland), Brumbies (25-20, Canberra) and Rebels (25-22, Melbourne) have lifted the Argentines to second in the South African Conference.
The Jaguares were disappointing in their first two seasons in the competition - they finished 13th in 2016 and 10th in 2017 - and earned a reputation of being ill-disciplined.
They started 2018 with only two wins from their first seven games, but an unexpected win-streak abroad has seen them move into playoff contention.
The South African teams now find themselves in a scrap with the gritty South Americans...
2. Lions, Boks fret over superstar hooker
The Lions suffered a blow early in their 28-19 loss to the Hurricanes when arguably their best player, hooker Malcolm Marx, left the field injured.
The injury was initially thought to be a hamstring strain but was later confirmed as a groin injury.
It was severe enough for Marx to fly back to South Africa where he will undergo scans on Tuesday.
Marx’s unavailability would be a hammer blow for the Lions, who lost their fifth game of the season on Saturday.
A long stint on the sidelines would also prove a headache for Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus as Marx is comfortably the best hooker in the country.
Bismarck du Plessis’s name immediately springs to mind in the absence of Marx but it's still unsure for how many - if any - Tests he'll be available.
A long injury layoff for Marx could also force Erasmus to try lure Bulls No 2 Adriaan Strauss out of retirement...
3. Super Rugby has a pulse...
The Super Rugby tournament has copped heaps of criticism in recent months.
Crowd attendances have been dismal, the standard of refereeing leaves much to be desired and the number of teams participating remains in issue.
However, the Stormers v Bulls derby at Newlands showed that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Around 30 000 fans flocked to Newlands as the Stormers got the better of the Bulls in an intensely physical encounter.
It also showed that the North-South derby still has some sort of appeal.
The Stormers appear a different team when playing at home and are now unbeaten in five games at Newlands this year.
It was also their seventh straight home win over the Bulls, with the Pretoria side’s last triumph at the famous old ground coming back in 2011.
4. Intense scrum battle at Newlands!
Earlier in the season, the Bulls caught the Stormers off guard in the first scrum of their encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
It set the tone for the remainder of the match which the Bulls eventually won 33-23.
At Newlands the tables were turned when the Stormers, spearheaded by props Steven Kitshoff and Wilco Louw, destroyed the Bulls at the game’s first scrum.
The Stormers had the upper hand at scrum time early in the game and they also bossed the contact situations to put the Bulls under severe pressure.
It laid the platform for their 29-17 victory.
The Bulls will however be buoyed by the fact that their scrum improved as the match wore on and they rebounded by winning a few scrum penalties late in the game.
In the end the penalty count at scrum time was even at 4-apiece...
5. Esterhuizen overcomes early blunder to bully Highlanders
Sharks centre Andre Esterhuizen was impressive in their 38-12 annihilation of the Highlanders in Durban.
The burly midfielder produced several barnstorming runs as the Sharks ran in five tries to claim a bonus point win.
Post-game statistics revealed that Esterhuizen beat seven defenders and also made eight tackles which earned him the man-of-the-match accolade.
Esterhuizen has been a star performance in an inconsistent Sharks team this year and his performances would surely have caught the eye of the Springbok coach.
On Saturday, the 24-year-old also recovered well after an early blunder when he butchered a try.
With the Sharks leading 7-0 in the fifth minute, Esterhuizen looked to be in for a certain try next to the posts, only to lose the ball as he attempted to run over Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo.
All Esterhuizen had to do was change his angle of run slightly to the left or right and his momentum would have carried him over the line.
But, and in rather silly fashion, he attempted to run straight over Naholo, only to lose possession.
Luckily for the Sharks it didn’t prove costly as they scored soon afterwards.
In future, Esterhuizen should avoid incidents like these at all costs, especially if he gets a chance in the green and gold...