Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 7 of the 2018 Super Rugby competition:
1. A throwback to the early days of Super 12
The Sharks got their season back on track with a 63-40 win over the Blues in a try-fest in Auckland.
Both teams’ defence coaches will look away at Monday morning’s review session, but the enterprise shown with ball in hand was welcome to see.
It reminded me of the early days of Super 12 in the mid and late 1990s when high-scoring affairs were the order of the day.
A match involving the Sharks that springs to mind was when the Durbanites beat the Otago Highlanders 75-43 at Kings Park in 1997.
On that day, Sharks fullback Gavin Lawless contributed 50 points to his side’s cause - a record that stands to this day.
At Eden Park on Saturday, Sharks pivot Robert du Preez was also no slouch with his 38-point contribution.
2. Bulls’ record-breaking hat-trick hero
Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss made history at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday when he became South Africa’s highest-capped player in Super Rugby, surpassing Victor Matfield.
Strauss, who was playing his 149th Super Rugby match, capped the occasion with a hat-trick of tries as his side ended a four-game losing streak by beating the Stormers 33-23.
It was the first ever Super Rugby hat-trick for the 32-year-old, who appears a reinvigorated player without the added burden of the captaincy.
He could prove to be a vital asset for the Pretoria franchise in 2018.
3. Incidents involving Pieter-Steph
Two interesting refereeing decisions, both involving Stormers lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, occurred during the clash at Loftus Versfeld.
The first one occurred in the first half when Stormers lock Jan de Klerk barged over for the Cape side’s first try.
Before awarding the try, referee Marius van der Westhuizen called on the assistance of television match official (TMO) Marius Jonker to review a possible earlier indiscretion by Du Toit on the Bulls goal-line.
Replays showed Du Toit losing possession while on the ground, before playing the ball back for his team, who subsequently went on to score as De Klerk rounded off.
Du Toit was perhaps lucky not to have been penalised as you’re not allowed to play the ball on the ground.
The second incident involving Du Toit occurred early in the second half and came at a crucial juncture in the match.
The Stormers, trailing just 19-18 at the time, were awarded a penalty within kicking range.
However, the referee went upstairs to check possible foul play by Du Toit.
Replays showed Du Toit stamping on Bulls lock Hendre Stassen, who ended up under the Stormers pack busy executing a driving maul.
It was clear that Du Toit could not see the Bulls player on the ground but Van der Westhuizen gave him a yellow card as he deemed the action to be reckless.
It’s true that Du Toit was driving forward with his legs and with his face also pointing in a forward direction, there was no way he could have seen the Bulls player on the ground who had attempted to sack the maul.
But I’ll agree that Du Toit’s use of the boot was reckless - there’s no way he couldn’t feel that he was stepping on a player and perhaps the yellow card sanction was warranted.
Many will argue that it was a point in the game where momentum permanently swayed towards the home side.
4. Forward pass dilemma
After trailing 5-0 at half-time against the Lions at Ellis Park on Sunday, the Crusaders rebounded to claim a scrappy 14-8 win.
However, they could have been ahead at the break were it not for two forward passes.
Crusaders left wing George Bridge thought he had scored to level matters early in the game only for the TMO Willie Vos to determine that the pass from flyhalf Mitchell Hunt was forward.
Referee Jaco Peyper’s on-field decision was a try but the TMO deemed the pass to be forward.
While the pass did drift forward, on replays it appeared as though the ball may not have gone forward out of Hunt's hands.
The TMO, however, determined otherwise and cancelled the try.
A few moments later, Bridge went over near the same corner only for the referee to call the players back for another forward pass.
On this occasion it was clear that the ball had gone forward out of Hunt’s hands.
In my view, in the first scenario the try should have stood and I thought commentator Joel Stransky’s explanation summed it up perfectly: “If you pass a ball backwards out of a car going 80km/h, then it will still travel forward...”
A lack of consistency in the application of this law remains a frustration.
5. Lions hard done by at the death?
Another contentious decision late in the game at Ellis Park again involved Crusaders wing George Bridge, who was perhaps lucky not to have received a yellow card when he made contact in the air with Lions replacement loose forward Marnus Schoeman.
Replays showed Bridge make contact in the air with Schoeman, who had caught a high ball, with the Lions loosie falling badly.
Bridge was the approaching player and normally the onus is on this player not to make contact in the air.
One would have expected to see at least a yellow card in this scenario.
But Peyper gave the following explanation: “For me, both players jumped at the ball and then after that the chaser does make contact... but for me he (Schoeman) comes down on his bum, so it’s a penalty only.”
The TMO responded with: “That’s correct”.
We have however seen similar incidents like these punished with yellow or red cards.
Former Springbok lock Kobus Wiese was not happy with the decision and shared his views on Twitter:
Playing against 14 men in the dying stages could have aided the Lions in sneaking a victory.