Johannesburg - The South African franchises finally achieved a clean sweep in the United Rugby Championship against their European rivals over the weekend. It wasn't always pretty, but it was certainly necessary. Here, IOL, takes a look at what we learnt from this past weekend's action.
Bulls: Players deserve a shade of green
Marcell Coetzee might not have made the best xv in all the teams this week, but it must be by mere fractions.
He was immense for the Bulls in their ultimately narrow 29-24 victory over Munster at Loftus. He was physical and imposing in both attack and defence and was arguably one of the main reasons the Bulls enjoyed their dominance, especially in the first half.
Another player that is arguably not getting as much recognition he deserves, is wing Madosh Tambwe. He was the Man of the Match in the win, scoring the opening try, while his work-rate on and off the ball was notable.
Both should at least get a Springbok squad call-up.
Lions: Altitude kept a low profile
There was big talk that the European sides would struggle in Pretoria and Johannesburg because of the elevation above sea level.
Cardiff head coach Dia Young admitted after his team's 37-20 defeat to the Lions that it did affect his players to a degree, but on the initial viewing of the match by how much is debatable. Both Munster (against the Bulls) and Cardiff seemed to get stronger as their matches progressed, when the opposite was expected.
The Lions were also sucking in the big ones by the end at Emirates Airline Park, so they will do well to remember this weekend against Munster that although the altitude is an ally, it is more like an ally that watches on from the side-lines with encouraging words.
Sharks: The "Weekend Special" is all good
Aphelele Fassi gave a fullback masterclass in the Sharks' win over Scarlets. Whether it was under the high ball, smashing metres, stopping a try or having a hand in the Durban side’s scores, he was all-action at Kings Park.
And how was that try he scored himself?
Fassi’s abilities need no introduction. In fact, just about the only thing he reintroduces with every eye-catching performance is the unenviable dilemma that the Springboks face at 15. With him, Damian Willemse and Warrick Gelant, the candidates for the Boks’ last line of defence, can there be a more talent-packed queue?
Stormers: Let the ball do the talking
While it wasn’t a juggernaut of a team they faced, the Stormers have every reason to smile following their 55-7 drubbing of Zebre Parma at the Danie Craven Stadium.
The best part of that game was the superb tries they scored, and the fact that they moved the ball around a lot of course played a big part in that. There were long passes and quick, shorter ones, while their use of space was also a good sight.
It wasn’t so much something learnt as something reaffirmed - when the Stormers let the ball do the work, they get things done in style.
Morgan Bolton’s best XV: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Reinhard Nothnagel, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Wynona Louw’s best XV: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Scarra Ntubeni 1, Ox Nche
Ashfak Mohamed’s best XV: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ox Nche