Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 9 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:
1. Willie le Roux miraculously escapes unscathed
It’s remarkable that Sharks fullback Willie le Roux escaped unscathed after a mid-air collision with Highlanders centre Jason Emery in their clash in Dunedin.
In the 12th minute of the match at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Le Roux went up to field an up-and-under and was taken out by Emery.
Le Roux fell on his neck but remarkable continued to play.
While I don’t believe that Emery intended to take Le Roux out, referee Ben O’Keeffe needs to be applauded for dishing out a red card.
TMO Shane McDermott, seemingly trying to convince that only a yellow card was warranted, told O'Keeffe he did not believe it was ‘deliberate foul play’.
But the Kiwi referee correctly ruled that intent was not the primary factor, and that the ‘dangerous act of foul play’ warranted a red card.
The Sharks made heavy weather of their one-man advantage, but did well to sneak a 15-14 win.
2. Cheetahs have only themselves to blame
The Cheetahs 36-14 reverse to the Rebels in Melbourne was perhaps not a true reflection of the contest, but the men from Bloemfontein have only themselves to blame for losing.
They led 14-10 at half-time, but there were several chances before and after the break which they didn’t turn into points.
They opted not taking shots at goal on several occasions and could easily have had a 20-10 lead in the second period.
That would have made it a completely different ball-game.
The Cheetahs need to learn that rugby is not always just about attacking and running from everywhere. Building on a lead away from home is critical. There was also one bizarre incident when fullback Clayton Blommetjies opted for a drop goal - when mere moments before his team had turned down the option of three points at goal.
In the end, the Cheetahs’ weak defence again proved their undoing. Slipping 16 tackles won’t win you Super Rugby games Down Under...
3. Pivotal moment for Stormers
The Stormers started their game against the Reds well and quickly raced to a 14-3 lead. However, the men from Queensland slowly got themselves back into the contest and when they led 22-17 in the second half, an upset was on the cards.
But the Stormers showed composure to close the game out and one moment in particular caught the eye of this writer.
As soon as the Reds scored to go in front, veteran flank Schalk Burger - who was a replacement - got his young troops together in a huddle, seemingly prepping them for what’s to come and how they should go about things.
The Stormers subs played a key role in the last 20 minutes, in particular reserve flyhalf Brandon Thomson, as they eventually won comfortably.
Burger’s leadership capabilities were evident for all to see and also may have caught the eye of new Bok coach Allister Coetzee…
4. Beast should quieten down
Sharks captain Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira’s constant complaining to referees in recent weeks is becoming a bit of an issue.
The Springbok’s behaviour was not acceptable in last Friday’s clash against the Highlanders when he constantly had an issue with O'Keeffe’s decisions.
The Highlanders had Jason Emery sent off with a red card, but two yellow cards against Sharks players (Stephan Lewies and JP Pietersen) helped the home side’s cause.
As captain, Mtawarira is right to consult with the referee, but the way he is going about it is not the right manner.
Nick Mallett was right to point out in the SuperSport studio afterwards:
“The way in which Beast Mtawarira approached the ref was completely incorrect. In one instance he actually said: ‘It’s not fair, it’s not fair. You’re just trying to even things up’. Which is in a way saying that the referee is cheating and not officiating with objectivity. You cannot, as a captain, make accusations like that. When I saw where the chat originated from, the scrum had collapsed and Beast’s head was in the grass, a penalty was given and a yellow card for JP Pietersen. He didn’t even see that JP cynically grabbed a guy’s foot and deserved a card. So he comes in and harasses the referee. It’s not right.
“The same thing happened with their coach (Gary Gold), who went up to the TMO (during the match against the Crusaders) and had a full go at him. My concern with the Sharks is that there’s a culture of blame which I don’t think we need in South African rugby teams. I want our captains to handle officials better than what we saw from Beast this week and against the Crusaders a few weeks ago.”
5. Rusty performance from Bok centre
Springbok centre Damian de Allende only recently returned to full fitness but was forced to lead the Stormers when Frans Malherbe withdrew with illness on Saturday.
It's fair to say it wasn't De Allende's best outing. His handling let him down several times, while the one Reds try was directly due to him missing a tackle in midfield. I have no doubt De Allende will soon return to his best form, but perhaps the captaincy role thrust upon him was not the right call.
It was interesting to note Mallett say afterwards:
“I don’t think Damian de Allende has captaincy potential,” said Mallett. “It was interesting to see once Schalk Burger got on, how he was talking to the team, calmed them down when they wanted to take a quick tap and forced them to take the three points on offer to stretch the Stormers’ lead to more than seven.
“And just generally how he pulled it together when the score was a little too close for comfort. I just wonder why Nizaam Carr wasn’t made captain for this game instead of De Allende. He has led the team before. It doesn't make sense just to appoint a guy as captain because he is a Springbok but has no leadership skills.”