Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 14 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:
1. Faf de Klerk can inject vigour in Bok attack
Lions scrumhalf Faf de Klerk’s man-of-the-match performance in his side’s 56-20 demolition of the Bulls in Pretoria has surely secured him a starting spot in the Springbok team for the first Test against Ireland.
De Klerk’s speedy service fits in handy with the Lions’ game plan and it will also work if the Boks are to employ a more enterprising playing style under new coach Allister Coetzee.
But it’s De Klerk’s ability to take gaps and get his team on the front foot - which was evident on a few occasions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday - that sets him apart from the other two scrumhalves in the Bok squad.
Rudy Paige and Nic Groom have hardly set the playing field alight this year and should play second fiddle behind De Klerk.
2. Poor kick-off retrieving
This is an important aspect of the game that’s being bothering me for a while now. The Stormers appear a team incapable of retrieving kick-offs and they were again well below standard in this aspect against the Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday.
I’m not sure if it’s an area that coaches do not pay enough attention to, but it’s a really important part of the game as it puts a team under pressure immediately after scoring points themselves.
Even the Lions, who were sublime in their annihilation of the Bulls, made one crucial kick-off error. After the Lions had taken a 13-0 lead in the 19th minute, they knocked on from the subsequent kick-off, which allowed Bulls centre Jesse Kriel to poach and score in the corner. It didn’t matter in the outcome of the match, but on another day it could have proved costly at Loftus...
3. No love lost at Newlands
The Stormers v Cheetahs clash was not the best in terms of quality but one incident which had many talking afterwards was the incident between Springbok lock enforcers Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, who lightened up Newlands with their off-the-ball scuffle.
Television match official Shaun Veldsman said there was not much in it, “just a bit of pushing and shoving” and instructed Kiwi referee Glen Jackson to just have a talk with the players.
But to me it looked more like a wrestling battle between two giants of the South African game, the one 6ft8 (Etzebeth) and the other 6ft9 (De Jager).
The fierce and aggressive nature of the tussle made it clear that there is no love lost between these two Springbok competitors. There was also no conciliatory handshake between the two after the referee had given them a stern talking to and I would like to be a fly on the wall when the two meet up as team-mates in the Bok camp this week...
4. Not much to shout about for Kings
The Kings won their second match of the Super Rugby season when they beat an ill-disciplined Jaguares outfit 29-22 in Port Elizabeth on Friday night.
But Kings fans shouldn’t get too excited about their team’s win.
The men from Argentina were reduced to 13 men after lock Tomás Lavanini and prop Ramiro Herrera both saw red in the 25th and 37th minute, respectively.
The Kings however struggled to utilise their two-man advantage and it was only in the last 10 minutes, when the Jaguares went down to 12 men when they also lost Tomas Lezana to a yellow card, that the dam wall broke.
The Kings were trailing 22-10 with 10 minutes left but scored three tries when they had three more players on the park.
The Kings’ inability to assert themselves against 13 men was alarming to see and their efforts this season are not a good advertisement for South African rugby.
5. Lions Boks deserve their call-ups
Following their impressive performance against the Bulls in Pretoria, the Lions proved that they are without doubt South Africa’s best team this year and in all likelihood our only hope at Super Rugby glory.
Their playing style is a joy to watch and the seven players selected for higher honours fully deserved their Springbok call-ups.
De Klerk has been mentioned above, but all of Ruan Combrinck, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Julian Redelinghuys, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel were justly rewarded.
If it wasn’t for Duane Vermeulen, Whiteley would surely have been named Springbok captain by now and Mapoe and Kriel have been the best in their positions in the country in 2016.