Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 8 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:
1. Sharks season derailing
After a promising start to 2016, the Sharks’ season is starting to derail, seemingly at a rate of knots as they have now lost three games in a row since sharing the spoils with the Bulls on March 18.
Following two home losses to the Crusaders and Lions, the Durbanites needed to beat the Blues in their first tour game in New Zealand to regain some much-needed momentum.
They now face games against the defending champion Highlanders and the in-form Chiefs - both matches in which they will start as underdogs.
By the time they return to South Africa, the Sharks could easily have lost five games on the trot.
The game against the Blues probably the ‘easiest’ of their tour games and it looked for large parts that the Sharks would sneak a win.
But to be quite frank, they didn’t deserve a victory. They spent most of a match defending, with the Blues enjoying 72% possession.
According to statistics derived from SANZAAR’s official website, the Sharks had to make 195 tackles - compared to the Blues' 67 - and missed 39 tackles.
Director of rugby Gary Gold needs to realise his playing style will not reap benefits, and he needs to realise that fast...
2. Lions halfbacks show Bok credentials
With Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard still out injured, Elton Jantjies is doing a good job of staking a claim for the Springbok No 10 jersey.
Jantjies was again instrumental in plotting the demise of the Stormers, kicking 19 points with the boot as the Lions won 29-22 on Saturday night.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was equally impressive when he came on in the second half. De Klerk injected pace into the Lions' attack and scored a try after taking a quick tap close to the Stormers goal-line, barging straight through tackle attempts from Nizaam Carr and Jean-Luc du Plessis. He also won a brilliant turnover after the hooter had sounded when the Stormers were attacking near the red zone.
Nick Mallett was right to point out afterwards: “Jantjies had an unhappy period with the Stormers under Allister Coetzee, who expected the flyhalf to play a game which was foreign to him. Now Allister is the Springbok coach and should by all accounts be looking at Elton and Faf, who’ve played together for four years in a very attacking, well-organised system. It’s my hope that the national coach will show confidence in them and even Pat Lambie to continue with his game plan.”
3. Stormers played their part
They may have gone down to the Lions, but the Stormers played their part in making the game at Ellis Park a spectacle.
They themselves scored a spectacular try through loose forward Siya Kolisi, who side-stepped Jantjies in spectacular fashion.
After some good interplay from the Stormers backs, Kolisi received the ball inside the Lions 22m area, first stepping to the right, then left, then right and left again, leaving Jantjies for dead.
While there was great enterprise shown in the clash at Ellis Park, the defences of both teams remained sound and Mallett was right to highlight the quality of the encounter.
“The people who showed up at Ellis Park to watch this game were royally entertained. The best thing in sport is to see a game going right down to the final few moments and everyone intensely involved until the end. There was no slowing down of the pace or intensity of this match. The defence was as physical right until the end as it had been from the first moment, and it didn’t discourage either team from trying to hold on to the ball.
“This was such a good advertisement for South African rugby. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a local derby as much as I did today. I was as excited watching this as I am watching any New Zealand derby.”
4. Bulls deserve more loyal fans
The Bulls are slowly but surely building into a formidable outfit. They were impressive in their 41-22 demolition of the Reds at Loftus Versfeld and without many people noticing, are now unbeaten in their last six matches since losing to the Stormers in Round 1.
The most pleasing aspect is their intent to attack and it was again evident on Saturday.
They dominated the Reds on attack, bossing the metres made (540-282), carries (137-88), defenders beaten (29-15), clean breaks (15-4), passes (164-141) and offloads (16-5) statistics.
However, it was again notable how small the crowd was at Loftus Versfeld and the Bulls really deserve more loyal supporters.
5. Flying Cheetah(s)
Cheetahs wing Sergeal Petersen impressed me in their 92-17 mauling of the Sunwolves in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
The former Baby Bok star bagged a hat-trick as the Cheetahs humiliated the Japanese team in a 14-try romp.
Yes, it was achieved against mediocre opponents, but Petersen's star has shone brightly all season and he is certainly a star for the future.
He would have scored four tries on the night had he not passed the ball back to No 8 Paul Schoeman while already over the tryline.
Schoeman would eventually also grab a hat-trick of tries and I wonder if Petersen is now having second thoughts about giving a try away...