Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 6 of the 2018 Super Rugby competition:
1. South African horror show abroad
After away losses by the Bulls, Sharks and Lions, South Africa is still waiting for an overseas victory in the competition this year.
On a weekly basis we’re forced to listen how the Bulls are on the road to recovery under the coaching tutelage of John Mitchell.
But the fact of the matter remains that the men from Pretoria have returned home with three straight losses from their Australasian tour and boast a 1-5 win-loss record on the season.
The Sharks were nothing short of atrocious in their first two outings in Australia and now face the daunting task of two games in New Zealand - against the Blues and Hurricanes.
As good as the Sharks look on paper, their on-field performances suggest they will return home to South Africa with a 0-4 record in Australasia.
The Lions also lost their first game overseas - bowing 49-35 to a struggling Jaguares side in Buenos Aires.
With the Stormers earlier also losing all three of their matches in Australasia, the South African sides are now 0-9 abroad in 2018.
2. Sharks winger lucky not to be carded
There was more bad news for the Sharks when loose forward Jacques Vermeulen was suspended for two weeks on Sunday for dangerously charging into a ruck in their 46-14 defeat to the Rebels in Melbourne.
But another incident from the game that appeared to go under the radar occurred early in the second half when Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo was perhaps lucky not have been sanctioned.
Mvovo, while contesting a high ball, made contact in the air with Rebels scrumhalf Will Genia.
Mvovo’s failure to catch the ball meant he effectively took Genia out in mid-air - which normally translates to a red card.
Several similar incidents have yielded red cards in recent years.
However, Japanese referee Shuhei Kubo and television match official (TMO) Ian Smith somehow concluded that not even a yellow card was warranted.
Mvovo, who was the approaching player, should have known that he would be in trouble if he made contact in the air without catching the ball.
I’ll agree that this is complicated rule in a contact sport but the lack of consistency in how referees apply the law remains frustrating.
3. More ref woes, upset Stormers coach
Another refereeing error occurred early in the game between the Stormers and Reds at Newlands on Saturday.
Reds prop Taniela Tupou executed a terrible no-arms tackle on Stormers wing Craig Barry - an incident that remarkably went unpunished by referee Marius van der Westhuizen.
TMO Christie du Preez also failed to step in and alert the officials of what was clearly a red card offence (WATCH the incident in the tweet below).
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck was also not happy with the manner in which the Reds went about their business and expressed disappointment at the performance of Van der Westhuizen.
"We are disappointed about cheap shots they dished out early in the game that were not recognised by the referee," Fleck said afterwards.
"There were at least four incidents that were not dealt with and that frustrated us. We were the dominant team but poor execution let us down."
It was welcome to see Tupou cited afterwards and the player will certainly spend a week or two on the sidelines.
4. Is this the best SA has to offer…?
The Lions’ 49-35 defeat to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires was disappointing to say the least.
After sending understrength teams to Argentina in the last two seasons, the Lions on this occasion were intent on picking their strongest available side.
Unfortunately, another lacklustre performance saw them lose their third straight game away to the Jaguares.
Ever since bungling a 28-10 second half lead to the Blues a couple of weeks ago, the Lions have appeared below par.
They scraped past the lowly Sunwolves at home last week before conceding six tries in a disappointing defeat on Saturday night.
If this is South Africa’s best side then Bok coach Rassie Erasmus should be a worried man...
5. What is wrong at the Sharks?
Before the season, several pundits - myself included - were of the opinion that the Sharks may prove South Africa’s strongest contingent in Super Rugby this year.
On paper they appeared a good bet with vast strength in depth.
Head coach Robert du Preez was seemingly building the team into a special unit - and with Dick Muir added as attack guru - the 2018 season looked set to be an exciting one.
Rugby is however played on grass, not paper, and at this level reputation often doesn’t mean much.
The past two weeks’ performances against the Brumbies and Rebels were just about as bad as I’ve ever witnessed a Sharks team and as mentioned above, they’ll have to improve markedly if they are to avoid a 4-0 overseas drubbing.
The Sharks appear to have major issues at scrum time, while their defence and discipline also leave much to be desired.