Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Week 4 of the 2018 Super Rugby competition:
1. Stormers 0/10 in New Zealand
The Stormers’ 33-15 loss to the Highlanders was their 10th straight defeat in New Zealand.
An 18-16 win over the Hurricanes in Palmerston North in 2013 was the last time the Capetonians notched a win over Kiwi opposition abroad.
Even more alarmingly, since Robbie Fleck took over as coach, the Stormers have conceded 36 tries and 233 points in their last five matches in New Zealand.
READ: Stormers' last 10 results in New Zealand
2. Confusion over coaching roles?
The Stormers' defensive frailties - especially in the wider channels where they’ve leaked several tries - have been badly exposed thus far in 2018.
This got me thinking: Perhaps there is confusion among the respective coaching roles, especially since reported role changes at the start of the season.
It was said in February that the role of Paul Treu, formerly the team's defence coach, would be changed to assistant coach for structural play.
Treu is now believed to coach the team until the third phase on attack, while on defence he takes charge from the first phase until the set-pieces.
Paul Feeney, last season’s backline and skills coach, is now officially in charge of attack and defence from unstructured play, while Russell Winter, last season’s forwards coach, is the assistant coach for forwards and contact situations - this area includes the breakdown scenarios.
One would be forgiven for being somewhat confused at the above-mentioned explanation... just imagine how the players must feel!
3. Mitchell, Bulls will find the going tough
John Mitchell is expected to bring about a change in fortunes at the Bulls who have struggled in recent years to replicate the successes of their predecessors.
Mitchell has pleaded patience with fans, urging them to not expect too much too soon and Saturday’s 20-14 defeat to the Reds proved as much.
After racing to a 14-3 lead, the men from Pretoria lacked composure when it mattered most as they fell by the wayside in the second half.
Mitchell is now 1 from 3 (33%) at the Bulls and ironically it matches his overall win percentage as a head coach in Super Rugby - he previously coached the Chiefs (2001), Western Force (2006-2010) and Lions (2011-2012) with limited success.
With better player resources at a union like the Bulls, Mitchell is expected to do better but it won’t get any easier in the immediate future as away matches against the Chiefs and Crusaders lie in wait.
4. SA’s best fall to New Zealand’s worst
The Lions’ 38-35 defeat to the Blues in Johannesburg was not a good result for South African rugby.
It was South Africa’s best side losing at home to New Zealand’s weakest side.
It was however a game the Lions should never have lost - having led comfortably - 21-3 and 28-10 - at different periods of the game.
The Lions’ decision to stick to a high-risk, attacking approach in the latter stages played right into the hands of the dangerous counter-attacking Blues.
Opting for a high percentage approach when the situation demands is a lesson the Lions can take from Saturday’s defeat.
5. Sharks can hit hot streak
The Sharks got their season back on track with a commanding 50-22 win over the Sunwolves in Durban.
It was not the best opposition but the Sharks impressed with their off-loading skills (they completed 14 off-loads on Saturday - sanzarrugby.com) as they ran in seven tries to claim a bonus-point win.
The Sharks are now off to Australasia for a month-long tour where they’ll be confident of notching a few wins.
Compared to the Stormers and Bulls, the Sharks have a slightly easier tour.
It starts with a clash against the Brumbies in Canberra this weekend, before dates with the Rebels, Blues and Hurricanes.
The Sharks will fancy their chances against the Brumbies, who have looked below-par thus far, and one - or perhaps two - more wins on tour may be a realistic goal...