CAPE TOWN – Mark Keohane looks back at all the action and picks out the highs and lows from the weekend's Super Rugby matches.
1: Siya Kolisi emphatically announced himself good enough to lead the Springboks against England. Kolisi was colossal.
His counter ruck clean out of Blues scrumhalf Sam Nock in the 14th minute was brutal and his defensive hit on Sonny Bill Williams was legal, controlled and made a massive statement. Kolisi all week talked the biggest of games and then went out and played the biggest of games. It is exactly what you want from a Bok captain.
2: Damian Willemse was a wizard at Newlands.
This was his best all-round performance in a professional career only in its second year. His physicality and defensive strength in the flyhalf channel was a feature of his performance. I’ve watched Willemse since his Under-16 days at Paul Roos and his attacking game among schoolboys was without comparison. Defensively he answered the sceptics, and if you can compete physically against the Blues then you can compete against any team physically in world rugby.
3: The Bulls’ back play in the first 40 minutes against the Chiefs was the best I’ve seen from a South African team in a decade.
There was such intelligent rugby decision-making in knowing when to go, when to hold, when to offload and when to play the support runner into space. Warrick Gelant at fullback is the best attacking No 15 in SA, Jesse Kriel is finally delivering on the hype of the last five years, Handre Pollard is regaining form and the Bulls have two wonderful talents at scrumhalf in Andre Warner and Embrose Papier.
1: The blue versus blue jersey debacle at Newlands riled me throughout the 80 minutes.
If it annoyed and confused me as a viewer, then what about the players going into the collisions who had to make instant decisions in passing or offloading? It was a mess and it affected the quality of the game, with many mistakes attributed to confusion about which blue was which blue. How the hell did the officials allow for a situation where both teams played in a similar blue jersey and blue shorts? Even more damning is that there wasn’t a change made at halftime.
2: It was embarrassing to listen to TMO Christie du Preez give Australian referee Nic Berry an education in the laws when reversing the on-field decision to award Nizaam Carr’s try.
Japan’s Shuhei Kubo was out of his depth in Hamilton. Kubo awarded the Bulls eight successive penalties in the first 20 minutes, but never once felt it necessary to card a Chiefs player. Equally when he did get it right to red card the maliciously late and high tackle from the disgraceful Conraad van Vuuren, he allowed the TMO Shane McDermott to overrule his on-field decision and reduce it to a yellow.
3: The Lions were terrible in winning by two points against the Sunwolves, a side they beat 94-7 a year ago.
In the last two weeks they have looked more championship pretender than contender. Talented wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, exceptional on attack in recent weeks, was awful on defence and fullback Andries Coetzee was even worse when it came to insightful decision-making. Those who wanted to make Dyantyi a Bok a fortnight ago would have had a rethink on Saturday night. Coetzee also showed why he should never have been a Bok in 2017 and should never be one again.
Mark Keohane is an award-winning rugby journalist, former Bok communications manager, founder of Keo.co.za and the author of five best-selling rugby books.