DURBAN - Independent Media rugby writer, Darryn Pollock, has looked the five biggest talking points from round 11 of Super Rugby this past weekend.
The Sharks know how to nullify Kiwis
While the Sharks have been up and down all season, they certainly proved they know how to crack the Kiwi code. An attacking extravaganza against at the Blues, an unlucky loss off a dominant display against the Hurricanes, and now, one of their best performances against the Highlanders prove that coach Rob du Preez knows how to nullify the New Zealand style of play. Perhaps, for this reason alone, it would be worth seeing the Durban-based outfit in a play-off spot as they seem to get truly fired up in the big games, which the Kiwis always take centre stage in.
The Lions are too up and down
Having made the final on two occasions previously, and lost out, many would have hoped that third time’s the charm, but the Lions, in their sporadic nature this year, have proved they are not the championship winning side many in South Africa hoped they would be. They have shown this year that they can be incredible one week and downright dour the next. Against the Hurricanes, they were the latter and probably deserved to lose by more. Key areas of their game have been exposed as the target has come upon their back, and this will need fixing before they even conceive of lifting the trophy.
Jaguares are the real deal
Through three years of Super Rugby, the Jaguares have shown glimpses of their Latin pride and ability to compete with the best in the world, but little things have often stymied them, such as discipline. Now, however, they have announced themselves as the real deal with their four week tour against the Brumbies, Rebels, Blues and Chiefs being a complete success. The Jaguares are suddenly knocking down the door of a play-off spot for the first time, and should they wangle a home quarter-final, they could go on to be a real surprise package in as far as the final goes.
The Rebellion is over
Rewind to the beginning of the season, just far enough into it to see who was making an early charge, and the Rebels would have been top of the list. However, that push for unexpected higher honours seems to have fallen away quite swiftly. The Rebels won a few games that not many would have picked, but more recently, they have been hammered by the traditional powerhouses, putting the order right again. The Australian surge again looks weak as even the Waratahs lost to the Blues to make it 38 losses for the Wallaby sides to the Kiwi ones.
Fortress Newlands stands strong
It was pleasing to see Newlands again heaving with spectators as the Bulls arrived in town; and they were greeted with yet another win as the fortress of Newlands stands strong. But, winning all your home games, and losing most of your way games, does not make a championship side, and the Stormers need to realise that quickly. The French club sides all are known for their ability to win at home and not on the road, which evens the playing field, but in Super Rugby, when you have the Jaguares winning four from four on tour, you have a problem if you are only aiming at being just a home-side hit.