CAPE TOWN – With Super Rugby heading into the June international window break, rugby columnist Mark Keohane has one more look at the highs and lows from the weekend's fixtures.
1. Rassie’s Rainbow Boks is the most definite national squad selection made in the game’s history in South Africa. Previous Springbok coaches have played a numbers game when it comes to black players and boosted squad numbers, yet never played the black players.
Rassie Erasmus has picked a record 20 black players out of 43, and given the assurance that all 20 will play in the season’s opening two Tests.
Indications are also that the starting XV against England could feature four black forwards and four black backline players. If so, it will be the most poignant selection in shaping a transformed future for the Boks.
2. Schalk Brits’ final match for Saracens finished with a glorious English Premiership gold medal at Twickenham. Brits played just 10 Tests for SA, but has been sensational for Saracens. Opta released these numbers to emphasise his impact since 2009-10.
Tries: Brits 31. Next best 20
Carries: Brits: 1 249. Next best 830
Metres: Brits: 5 164. Next best 1 347
Breaks: Brits 77. Next best 24
Defenders beaten: Brits 231. Next best 101
Offloads: Brits 204. Next best 61
Try assists: Brits 20. Next best 6
Tackles: Brits 1 069. Next best 1 003
Lineout throws: Brits 1 294. Next best 1 153
Throw %: Brits 90.7. Next best 90.2
Renowned London Sunday Times rugby writer Stephen Jones described Brits as the most amazing rugby player he has ever seen. Those numbers would support such a view.
3. Hurricanes and All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett may be the best rugby player in the world, but there is an argument to be made that he isn’t the best in his family. Younger brother Jordie Barrett is something extraordinary, in terms of skill set and also versatility.
Jordie, who made his Super Rugby and Test debuts in 2017 as a 19 year-old, can play flyhalf, centre, wing and fullback. He can also land 55-metre penalty kicks and is 1.96m tall. He was brilliant against the Crusaders.
1. Rugby’s lawmakers need to rule that players can no longer compete for the ball in a kick-chase situation. Too much is down to referee and TMO interpretation of what constitutes red, yellow, penalty or a fair contest. Every match presents a similar situation and every match presents a different sanction. It’s become farcical and the only way to stop it is to outlaw the contest.
2. Sanzaar a fortnight ago refused to address any referee-related complaints, telling the media there was no need to, and that the refereeing in Super Rugby was of the highest standard.
Nick Bryant’s refereeing in the Lions’ win against the Stormers was the latest example of Sanzaar’s leadership again being embarrassed. Bryant, among his many mistakes, missed the most obvious knock on from Siya Kolisi, gave the scrum to the Stormers and they scored.
He had the chance to change his decision, but refused to. Surely, the aim is to use the TMO to get the right call made. The game’s integrity suffers with such incompetence.
3. This week’s rants are all aimed at the essence of custodianship of Super Rugby, who remain idle to the obvious ills when it comes to the judiciary and the sanctions given to players for foul play.
All Blacks and Crusaders prop Owen Franks got a slap on the wrists for the most blatant, late and head high hit on Blues captain James Parsons. Franks got two weeks.
All the talk is about player safety, yet thuggish and cowardly assaults, in the form of tackling, get excused every weekend, more so when the culprits are Kiwis.