DURBAN - Independent Media rugby writer Mike Greenaway has looked at the biggest talking points from the seventh round of the Super Rugby this past weekend.
Sharks click at last
The Durbanites had been much hyped in pre season but went into this match having won just once - against the struggling Sunwolves. Robert du Preez promised midweek that if his team started well and gained some confidence, they would win comfortably. That is exactly what happened. It has to be said that the Blues were woeful. How could they be the same team that beat the Lions at Ellis Park in round 4? The same venue where the Lions beat the Sharks in round one ... Still, putting 63 points past a Kiwi team at Eden Park is an accomplishment to be applauded.
Aussies are all over the place
The Aussie teams have been underwhelming to say the least in 2018. The Waratahs v Brumbies game was of worrying quality. But the game that said it all for the Aussie challenge was the 50-point hiding the Rebels were given by the Hurricanes in Melbourne. The Rebels have been Australia’s best team and easily top their conference with a six-point cushion over the second-placed Waratahs. It must be of concern to the Aussie rugby bosses that their best team after seven rounds conceded 50 points at home.
Beware the running of the Bulls
From a local point of view it is pleasing to see the Bulls using the ball instead of kicking it, as has been the case since John Mitchell took over. And the Bulls are only going to get better as the competition progresses and Mitchell’s influence deepens. Also encouraging in the big derby with the Stormers was the form of flyhalf Handre Pollard, who is now living up to the hype that has been around him since he was a teenager. It has certainly helped that this season he has shaken off his injury bogey. It did not help the Stormers that Pieter-Steph du Toit was erroneously sin-binned.
Master classes from Du Preez and Strauss
Naas Botha would have been grinning from ear to ear as he watched the Sharks take every point on offer when they received penalties in goal-kicking range. Flyhalf Robert du Preez was successful with every one of his 13 attempts at posts - six conversions and seven penalties. It was a significant difference between the sides in that each scored six tries, but the Blues kicked their penalties to the corners and not at posts. At Loftus Versfeld, Adriaan Strauss memorably scored three tries in his SA record-breaking 149th Super Rugby appearance, which took him past Victor Matfield’s 148. It was a fitting hat-trick for one of the country’s true rugby gentlemen.
Has the Lions’ bubble burst?
Three defeats in four games is “not the end of the world” according to coach Swys de Bruin, who highlighted that his team is still leading the SA Conference. But he may start changing his tune before long. The Lions are seven points ahead of the Sharks and the Stormers, who they meet at Ellis Park on Saturday in a crunch derby. While some will praise the Lions for holding the Crusaders scoreless in the first half of their 14-8 defeat, the reality is that the Lions are not playing with the same confidence that took them to two Super Rugby finals. The obstinacy shown in kicking penalties to the corner instead of taking the points on offer was a flawed tactic.