CAPE TOWN - Mark Keohane has looked at all the positives and negatives from the second-last weekend of Super Rugby as the Lions beat the Waratahs 44-26 and the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 30-12 in the semi-finals.
1: Fijian and Montpelier power wing Nemani Nadolo tweeted: “Kwagga Smith is a machine. He reminds (me) of that kids that play in an Under-7s game. The Smallest guy on the field, but always aim for the big islander kid! No fear! #nofear”. Smith scored two tries, made 99 metres, eight tackles and forced two turnovers. He may just have played himself into the Springboks’ Rugby Championship squad.
2: Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo’unga has been likened to a young Dan Carter and on Saturday we saw why. Mo’unga beat 10 defenders, scored a try and set up two others; one with a pass and one with a cross kick. He also nailed nearly every goalkick on the night.
3: All Black and Blues centre Sonny Bill Williams made an off-field impact on social media as telling as any on-field offload. In a month where rugby’s headlines have been about players beating up teammates and one testosterone fighting incident after another, Williams tweeted (to his 800 000 followers) about being able to show his emotions and how it was okay for men to cry. He quoted the following: “We teach our sons to strangle their emotions, to be ashamed of tears, and ignore their emotional needs at a young age, then wonder why so many of them do not know how to control their rage or how to define their feelings, when they have wounds from childhood that still need love and healing.” What a player; what an ambassador for the sport.
Kwagga Smith is a machine. he reminds of that kids that play in an under 7s game. The Smallest guy on the field but always aim for the big islander kid!. No fear!. #nofear— nemzy (@nemani_nadolo) July 28, 2018
1: In 23 years of Super Rugby, only the Crusaders have travelled to South Africa and won a final. They are also the only team to have travelled to Australia and won a final. A final should be about a contest for the paying spectator. When it comes to Super Rugby, it simply isn’t because of what is effectively a five-day turnaround for the team travelling 12 000 miles. The Crusaders, in 2017, were the exception, but they also played with 15 against 14 for the final 45 minutes. The Lions, to have any chance in Christchurch, would need a similar numerical advantage. If it stays 15 on 15 the Lions will lose by 20-plus points, and they aren’t a 20-points worse team.
2: The Lions, consistently the most potent team on attack, can’t afford the slow starts of the semi-final and the two previous matches in New Zealand this year. Already everything is factored against them for the final, but to give up 14 points in the opening quarter, as they did against the Waratahs and earlier this season against the Highlanders and Hurricanes, will turn the potential of a 20-point defeat into a horror show in Christchurch. The Lions have to find greater balance in their game management, and there has to be more emphasis on defence.
3: Western Province rugby’s bosses continue to instill absolutely no confidence. WP President Thelo Wakefield produced an ill-advised open letter to former captain Corne Krige because of the latter’s justified criticism of a team and union he so proudly led as a player. Wakefield’s purple prose about the world class squad for 2019 was also ill-placed when a fortnight ago the Stormers limped out of Super Rugby with six wins from 16 and only a week ago assistant coach Paul Treu stormed out of a coach’s review because of the failings within the review process.