CAPE TOWN - Mark Keohane has looked at the positives and negatives from the past weekend's round of Super Rugby fixtures.
One: Stormers wing Raymond Rhule’s defensive vulnerability makes him a liability. He is just not good enough for any team with championship aspirations. Take the engaging personality out of the equation and look at the harsh realities of the professional performance. Rhule is not up to standard under the high ball, as again illustrated against Highlanders and All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo. His one-on-one defence remains terrible. Rhule is not an investment and neither is Stormers coach Robbie Fleck, who three years into his tenure simply has not delivered.
Two: It gets my blood boiling the ease with which so many rugby supporters on social media hate on Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies and readily talk up anything half decent about Handre Pollard and Robert du Preez. I rate Pollard and Du Preez highly, but it’s a case of Jantjies being judged on one mistake and the others being endorsed for the potential of what they may do. Give Jantjies his due, for goodness sake. It screams prejudice. Jantjies is the form flyhalf in South Africa at the moment and to quote legendary Springbok No 10 Naas Botha, Pollard and Du Preez aren’t in his (Jantjies’s) class when it comes to out of hand line kicking and controlling a game.
Three: There should have been on average two yellow cards a match at the weekend for tackles around the neck/head area. Yet, on my count there weren’t even penalties given in at least five instances a match. The vigilance among referees of the opening two weekends was absent. It simply can’t be fashionable as to when to enforce a law aimed at player protection. The Bulls, thanks to the indifference of New Zealand referee Jamie Nutbrown, were among the biggest beneficiaries. Sports Scientist Ross Tucker’s research on high tackles should be mandatory reading for every referee. Only if there is consistent enforcement of the yellow card and a tangible sanction, will it change the tackle technique and behaviour of players to make rugby a safer game.
One: Bulls and Springboks centre Jesse Kriel is finally starting to play like an international midfielder, who is being coached. The influence of former All Blacks and Lions coach John Mitchell on the development of Kriel has been obvious. Kriel’s electric pace has always been a feature of his game; not so has been the attacking or defensive subtleties associated with the game’s best midfielders. It’s changing for Kriel and the timing of his drift and acceleration to take a flat bullet pass from (Handre) Pollard to set up Warrick Gelant’s try was done to perfection.
Two: Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira celebrated becoming the most capped Sharks Super Rugby player of all time with a performance characterised by his work ethic on defence and on attack and some big moments at the set piece. Mtawarira, in his 139th appearance, surpassed 2007 Springbok World Cup winner JP Pietersen’s record. Mtawarira on this form will certainly play for the Springboks in 2018 and join the elite 100-Test club.
Three: The game’s biggest players are renowned for their ability to show their playing pedigree and class in a game’s biggest moments and Sonny Bill Williams did just that against the Lions in creating the break and offload that led to the Blues dramatic last movement match winning try. Williams had an indifferent start to the game but his offloading genius proved telling in securing a 38-35 win that seemed more impossible than improbable when the Blues trailed by 18 points with 15 minutes left.
What a game last night, always proud to wear these colours 💙💙 see you soon Capetown 🏉❤️ pic.twitter.com/ddqLgGWJuJ