CAPE TOWN - Mark Keohane has looked at the positives and negatives from the past weekend's round of Super Rugby fixtures.
1. The officiating in round two was shocking. These guys call themselves professionals. They are the on-field custodians of the game, but on reflection they are the court jesters. There was inconsistency in the application of so many laws and there was confusion about the law, given this contrasting application. It didn’t matter whether the game was in Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, the officials ruled differently on the same circumstance. What constitutes a penalty, a red card, a yellow card or a friendly chat? I don’t know because where one referee gives a penalty or a caution the other is asking the Television Match Official for several different angles to decide on the colour of the card. It was embarrassing for the game.
2. Still with the referees and iin particular, the Rebels versus Reds in Melbourne. In Melbourne the Reds should have been reduced to two reds cards within the first 25 minutes because of foul play, through a strike to the head and a tip tackle where the player landed on his head. Safety is a paramount to the application of the law, but now referees and the assistants are becoming medical experts in determining what is force and what can cause damage. Anything to the head can cause damage and who are the referees to determine one blow is more dangerous than the other? The law is clear, a blow to the head has a sanction. Referees have become coaches, would be shrinks in applying game management and now they’re doctors. For God’s sake could they just be referees, who know the law and apply it consistently.
3. Why is mediocrity of so many white South African rugby players never questioned when it comes to the topic of merit? Results in Super Rugby for last 20 years with 90% white squad selections have been abysmal, yet transformation gets blamed ahead of white player mediocrity. I will not apologise for challenging the outrageous belief in this country among so many people that white equals merit & black equals development. It is simply unacceptable that the Lions and Bulls run on teams remain so white. SARU’s leadership needs to act because the franchises up north refuse to embrace transformation.
1. The Highlanders versus Blues is the game of the tournament so far and it will take something spectacular in the next six months to surpass the entertainment value of this 80-minute rugby spectacle that had everything in skills, pace, intensity and competitiveness. The attack was awe-inspiring and the defence was brutal.The passage of play that involved the Sonny Bill Williams offload to Matt Duffie to Rieko Ioane and back to Duffie for a try was the stuff of coaching manuals when it comes to how to offload in the tackle and the effectiveness of understanding the offload is more than just getting a pass away in the tackle. It is about understanding the consequence of why the offload is being made. It was magical.
2. My forward star performer of the week was Steven Kitshoff in Sydney. He ended the 2017 season as the form loosehead prop in South Africa and he is setting the standard among frontrankers in the tournament. His stint in France added to his presence as a strength in the scrum but it’s his work rate in open play, skills with the ball and defence that make him the number one No 1.
3. The Lions needed a player to shake them out of their slumber and apply the blowtorch to the Jaguares. The youngest member of the squad, Aphiwe Dyantyi, did this. His attacking game is incredible. His defensive game, back three expertise under the high ball and all the other nuances of what makes a player a Test prospect will be examined in the course of the season but for now I am celebrating what he does when he gets the ball. He was my star South African back performer.
Keohane is an award-winning rugby journalist, former Springbok Communications Manager, founder of Keo.co.za and the author of five best selling rugby books