5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 15
Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 15 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:
1. Powerful Stormers set pieces
The Stormers’ set pieces laid the foundation for their 57-31 triumph against the Rebels in Melbourne.
The Cape side pummelled the Rebels at scrum time, with props Oli Kebble and Vincent Koch hitting form at the right time of the season.
The Bok duo of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth also proved to be menaces at lineout time and it provided the Stormers with ample go-forward ball to notch their highest ever Super Rugby tally.
2. Lions are title contenders
The Lions’ impressive 37-10 annihilation of the Sharks not only put them top overall in the competition but in all likelihood confirmed that they are serious title contenders.
I had my doubts when news broke that they had lost skipper Warren Whiteley for the remainder of the tournament, but Jaco Kriel filled the captaincy role with aplomb and all the Lions’ newly-capped Boks proved their worth.
It’s going to take some effort to beat the Lions in a knockout game at Ellis Park... - READ: Super Rugby final at Ellis Park?
3. Bulls have blown it
After looking promising early on, the Bulls’ season has taken a turn for the worse and they are unlikely to reach the playoffs.
After losing their opening game against the Stormers, the men from Pretoria went unbeaten for seven games, but have lost four of their last five encounters.
With only two rounds remaining, the Bulls are three points behind the Sharks who currently occupy the final wildcard playoff berth.
But when one looks at both teams’ final two games, it seems unlikely that the Bulls will overhaul the Sharks.
The Bulls host the Sunwolves this weekend, while the Sharks entertain the Cheetahs. In the final round, the Sharks face the Sunwolves at home, with the Bulls travelling to Bloemfontein to face the Cheetahs.
Despite their recent woes, the Sharks are unlikely to lose their final two home games which would leave the Bulls eliminated.
4. Sharks need Lambie fit
Garth April had a bit of a shocker at flyhalf for the Sharks against the Lions and the men from Durban would hope that Pat Lambie’s concussion woes are a thing of the past as they head into the final stretch of the competition.
April lacked a bit of composure playing against Bok flyhalf Elton Jantjies on the big stage at Ellis Park and one can understand Allister Coetzee’s reluctance to throw him into the deep end during the Ireland Test series.
Nick Mallett was right to note in the SuperSport studio afterwards:
“Garth April showed in this game that he lacks experience and calmness in the face of a determined attack and a determined defence. His kicking game and tackling wasn’t good and I think it was a bit early to get him in the Springbok set-up. Look at Elton Jantjies, who has had the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and is playing great rugby.”
April is very talented though and let’s hope he learns from these experiences.
5. Schalk Burger should captain the Stormers
For me it was no coincidence that the Stormers thrived under the leadership of Schalk Burger this past weekend.
They showed composure to close the game out after the Rebels had pulled level at 31-all after 59 minutes.
I have not been a fan of the dual-captaincy role of Frans Malherbe and Juan de Jongh and coach Robbie Fleck must wonder whether he missed a trick when he made this decision earlier in the year.
Colleague Rob Houwing noted on Twitter after Saturday’s game: