CAPE TOWN – After a busy Super Rugby weekend, rugby analyst Mark Keohane has a lot to say and ask as he shares his rants and raves this Monday.
1. Damian Willemse glowed at No 15 for the Stormers in Auckland. He is the best back at the Stormers and hopefully he will be used accordingly. He was huge defensively against a physical and imposing Blues backline. I much prefer Willemse at No 10, as I feel he asks so many questions closer to the gainline.
We all know how naturally talented Willemse is on attack but it is his defence that is so underrated. He is one of the more physical No 10s in Super Rugby, but he showed his pace and defensive acumen on several occasions. He simply has to go to the World Cup.
2. Blues and All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams, as he so regularly has done in rugby union in the last decade, produced a sensational offload to break the Stormers in Auckland. Williams has no equal when it comes to effective offloads and against the Stormers his angled run, in which he took out four defenders and still made the try-scoring offload, was the gamebreaker.
Williams, be it as the starting No 12 or off the bench, in that one moment emphasised just why he will be so influential for the All Blacks at this year’s World Cup.
3. You have to applaud the Sunwolves 31-29 win against the Waratahs in Sydney. In the week that the franchise got the news they would be booted from the competition in 2020, the players produced the most sensational finish to win for the first time ever in Australia.
The Sunwolves are mostly made up of expat players and hardly speak to the greater cause of Japenese rugby, but in the context of a rugby game, this was a pretty remarkable comeback and special win.
1. The Stormers leadership botched it in Auckland with a decision to kick for posts with less than 10 minutes to go. All the possession was with the Stormers. All the momentum was with the Stormers. The Blues were a man down. Field position pressure was critical at this juncture. The Stormers trailed 17-9 but a seven pointer at that stage would have made it a one-point game.
Inexplicably, they chose to kick for posts. Not only did the kick from in front miss but it also allowed the Blues field position relief from which the Stormers never recovered.
2. How the hell was Schalk Brits ever given a red card in Durban? Shame on you (referee) Mike Fraser. The inadequate and clearly inferior Akker van der Merwe clearly headbutted Brits, who took exception to the cowardly act of thuggery.
Both players were given a red card on the 65th minute and kudos to the veteran Brits who spent the rest of the match sitting among the home Sharks crowd. Van der Merwe hasn’t earned the right to lace Brits’s boots; let alone take to him with the head.
3. Speaking of mistake, to borrow from colleague Mike Greenaway, there was a howler from TMO Christy du Preez that cost the Sharks a try early in the match. Referee Mike Fraser referred an initial try to the TMO with an instruction ‘I believe it is a try see if there is clear evidence that it is not ’ There was no clear evidence. Christy confirmed his doubts and in doing so Fraser changed his decision.
What a disgusting indictment of the incompetence of officiating in Super Rugby. Don’t expect a reprimand, though, such is the nature of protection among officials that both Christy and Fraser will be lauded for their bravery in getting it wrong.