Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 15 of the 2018 Super Rugby competition:
1. Moment of madness from Sharks skipper
Sharks captain Ruan Botha set a poor example when he shoulder-charged a Jaguares player at a ruck in the 74th minute of their clash in Buenos Aires.
Botha's red card put paid to any hopes the Sharks may have harboured of claiming a win over the high-flying Jaguares.
The Sharks had clawed their way back into the contest after trailing 17-0 in the first half, but in the end deserved to lose.
The Sharks have been too inconsistent this season to be considered title contenders.
Botha's moment of madness saw him banned for four weeks on Monday, however the punishment is nothing more than a slap on the wrist as the player won't miss any matches.
2. 14-man Brumbies silence Loftus
It would have taken a brave man to bet on the Brumbies when their hooker Folau Fainga’a was sent off in the final quarter of their match against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls were leading 25-24 with 20 minutes remaining and when Handre Pollard extended their lead to 28-24 with a few minutes remaining, the Brumbies looked down and out.
However, the visitors responded with two spectacular tries to claim a 38-28 win - and deny the Bulls a bonus-point.
The Bulls’ capitulation against 14 men is inexcusable.
3. Red card costs Stormers
The big talking point from the Stormers v Lions match at Newlands was the red card to home winger Raymond Rhule.
With the Stormers leading 17-7 in the 51st minute, Rhule received his marching orders from New Zealand referee Nick Briant, who said the Stormers flyer was guilty of “reckless play”.
Rhule leapt in the air as Lions wing Ruan Combrinck executed a chip-kick before running into the air-borne Stormers winger.
Rhule’s elbow made contact with Combrinck’s head but it was clearly unintentional.
The referee will argue he acted according to the letter of the law, but World Rugby needs to realise that this is a contact sport and incidents like these are bound to happen.
Where could Rhule go?
There’s no doubt the Stormers were in the ascendancy when Rhule was sent off and it changed the complexion of the game.
4. Refereeing inconsistency
Before I get castigated by Lions fans, I will highlight two other incidents where I felt the officials incorrectly ruled in favour of the Stormers.
Shortly after the Rhule incident, I felt Briant had erred when he failed to give Stormers centre JJ Engelbrecht a yellow card for taking out a Lions player around the neck at a ruck.
Engelbrecht had already received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle earlier in the game. He should have received a second yellow which would have left the Stormers permanently down to 13 men.
There was also a clear knock-on by Stormers captain Siya Kolisi in the build-up to Rhule’s try in the first half.
But the Kiwi referee awarded the Stormers a scrum near the Lions tryline - from which Rhule scored in the corner.
It’s these sorts of inconsistencies by the officials that continue to blight the Super Rugby product...
5. Unlikely SA winner in 2018
As the South African Conference enters a break, local rugby fans won't be too confident about their teams' prospects.
The Lions are clinging to top spot in the conference by the skin of their teeth - largely due to their opponents seeing red over the past fortnight - while the ever-impressing Jaguares are lurking.
In my view, the Lions do not appear to be the same team from the past two seasons and the inconsistency of the other SA teams rules them out the reckoning.
The tournament structure remains unfair, with the Lions second overall only because they top the SA Conference - despite having five log points less than the fourth-placed Hurricanes.
To make matters worse, the Hurricanes have played two fewer games than the Lions!
Last year’s champions, the Crusaders, are currently 10 points clear at the top and have also played one less game than the Lions.
It will take some effort to stop the Crusaders claiming a ninth Super Rugby crown this season...