CAPE TOWN – Rugby scribe Mark Keohane shares some of his Super Rugby rants and raves following all the weekend's action. Today's column has a strong Kiwi flavour (Keohane explains why) while he also dishes it out to the referees, even South Africa's own Rasta Rasivhenge.
1. The Crusaders are the most successful franchise in Super Rugby history with eight titles, but it’s their ability to continue to create the right kind of history that defines them. The champions were 29-0 down after 29 minutes against the Waratahs and won 31-29. It was an incredible comeback.
They are the symbol of Super Rugby excellence. In South Africa we get so high on one-off triumphs and the inconsistency of SA’s best teams means that the good is often reflected as very good and the very good as great.
It was also a New Zealand team’s 39th successive Super Rugby win against an Australian team - and every time an Aussie team loses it demands me raving about it.
2. There’s a New Zealand flavour to my raves because individually and collectively the very best in rugby tends to come from New Zealand. And they don’t come much better than Chiefs and All Black lock Brodie Retallick.
The best players stand tallest when everyone else around appears stunted.
Retallick against the Stormers was a head taller in everything he did. When Retallick plays the Chiefs are a better team. The Sharks will be relieved that he won’t be in Durban this weekend because of All Black camp commitments.
3. I am a huge admirer of Lukhanyo Am and I’ve been consistent in promoting his claims to the Springbok No 13 jersey. But there is no doubting the immense improvement in Bulls and Springbok outside centre Jesse Kriel in 2018, who every weekend has made a telling statement that his belongs in the Boks.
Kriel was the full package against the Sharks. He created tries, he scored tries and he made tackles. His passing has improved and his grubber kick for Warrick Gelant’s try was sublime.
1. The inconsistency of the Stormers gets my blood boiling. One week up and the very next down. The intensity of the local derby against the Bulls wasn’t replicated and any prospect of a win against the Chiefs required mongrel, intensity and an edge in the collisions.
The Stormers are 11th on the overall log, with just five wins from 12 matches. The squad has too many quality players to be an also-ran in the competition by the second week of May.
There has to be accountability, and it has to start with the head coach.
2. Curwin Bosch’s brain explosion in tripping Gelant cost his team 19 points. Bosch’s try, from a turnover after the trip, was cancelled and the Bulls scored two tries during his 10-minute absence. The player scored eight points on his return, but his minus 11 proved definitive in a six-point defeat.
Am’s reckless, thoughtless and dangerous in-the-air challenge resulted in a yellow card, but it should have been red. Am is too good a player not to learn from this horror show.
3. I am not suggesting that the referee was the reason the Lions lost against the Highlanders or that the Stormers lost against the Chiefs. That would be too easy a cop out for the failings of both SA teams. But the standard of refereeing in Super Rugby is just unacceptable in a professional sport.
The interpretations (at Newlands) of Kiwi referee Mike Fraser, especially at scrum time, were contentious and baffling.
SA teams get the short end of the stick when it comes to referees, and they even get it when the referee is South African! I thought Rasta Rasivhenge (at Loftus) was as poor as any Kiwi or Aussie.
* Mark Keohane is an award-winning rugby journalist, former Springbok communications manager, founder of www.keo.co.za and the author of five best-selling rugby books.@Mark_Keohane