Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 14 of the 2017 Super Rugby competition:
1. Better from Bulls, but...
The Bulls showed improvements in their 34-20 reverse to the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld.
The home side made most of the play and looked good with ball in hand at times.
They were superior in several key statistics derived post-game, beating the Hurricanes in the metres made (672m-559m), carries (138-99), defenders beaten (26-21), clean breaks (14-13) and offloads (19-17) categories.
The Bulls also conceded only 5 penalties to the Hurricanes’ 14, yet still lost comfortably.
Twenty-two turnovers conceded (compared to 13) cost the Bulls dearly against a side renowned for their finishing abilities.
The defending champions took advantage of most of the opportunities that came their way and displayed greater finishing touch.
Composure on attack is something the ‘Canes have in abundance and something clearly still lacking in Pretoria.
2. Defence wins the day for Sharks
A staunch defensive effort from the Sharks enabled them to beat the Stormers 22-10 in Durban on Saturday.
Several attacking forays from the Capetonians were snuffed out in impressive fashion.
The Stormers gained more metres on attack (517m compared 380m) and made more carries (156-125) but were outscored three tries to one.
The Sharks made 179 tackles compared to the 144 made by the visitors and it’s no wonder the Durbanites are the joint top-ranked side (along with the Brumbies) for tackle success this season (86.7%).
The Stormers’ lack of composure with ball in hand should be a worry for coach Robbie Fleck.
3. Red card no issue for rampant Lions
Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee saw red in the first half of their encounter against the Southern Kings in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Replays showed he had kneed Kings flank Chris Cloete in the face.
Coetzee deservedly received his marching orders, while Cloete was also handed a yellow card for an earlier indiscretion.
The Lions, leading 12-3 at the time, were down to 14 men for the best part of 50 minutes and one would have expected that the Kings would sniff blood, sensing an opportunity to upset the odds.
But what followed was the complete opposite as the Lions played the rest of the match like they had a one-man advantage.
Coetzee’s replacement, Malcolm Marx, played a blinder as the Lions ran in eight tries to win 54-10.
The Kings failed to rise to the occasion and their recent resurgence - which saw them beat some hapless Australian outfits - perhaps need to be taken for what it was...
4. Kwagga steals the show at Ellis Park
In an opinion piece written last week, I lamented the lack of an out-and-out ‘fetcher’ in the Springbok squad and Kwagga Smith’s recent performances at flank for the Lions have added fuel to that argument.
On Sunday, the former Blitzboks star produced a man-of-the-match performance against the Kings which included two tries.
As always, Smith proved a menace on the ground, while his work-rate was second to none.
He beat no fewer than seven Kings defenders, made 12 carries and proved his worth on defence as well by making 15 tackles.
Cloete had some disciplinary issues on Sunday, but he along with Smith, is the type of industrious player the Boks may struggle without in the upcoming France series.
5. Jaguares underachieving
The Jaguares’ comprehensive home loss to the Brumbies was their seventh in a season they were expected to prove playoff contenders.
The Argentines had made a promising start to the season when they won four out of their first five matches, but have since bagged only one win out of seven.
Their only win came against the lowly Sunwolves earlier this month - a game in which they were forced to overturn a 12-point deficit 14 minutes from time.
That was followed by a 16-6 home reverse to the Western Force, before this past weekend’s 39-15 thumping at home.
This team is not very far from being Argentina’s national team and more was expected of them in their second season in the competition.