CAPE TOWN - Mark Keohane has looked at the positives and negatives from round ten of Super Rugby this past weekend.
1: The Lions were history makers in Sydney against the Waratahs. Celebrate it, enjoy it and revel in the achievement. South African rugby supporters simply don’t know how to enjoy the good days. There are no ifs and butts about the Lions 29-0 win against the Waratahs. They scored a four-try bonus point victory and didn’t let in a point. Never before have the Tahs been kept scoreless. Never before have the Lions kept a team scoreless in Super Rugby. Never before have the Lions beaten the Waratahs in Sydney. This was a South African team making the right kind of history. It is worthy of a cheerleading roar.
2: The Bulls players finally are being coached. What a difference a world-class coach makes to the skill set of players. Adriaan Strauss is playing with the enthusiasm, energy and freedom of a youngster in his first season. He has scored five tries this season, which is more than he had scored in his Super Rugby career. The attacking skill level of Lood de Jager and RG Snyman in the build-up to Strauss’s try was something we usually associate with All Black locks. The two are making the strongest of cases to be the Springbok starting locks, especially if injured Eben Etzebeth is not available for the England series in June.
3: Damian Willemse is going to be one of those ‘once in a generation’ players. In one breathtaking phase of play he showed just why he will be worth every international investment. Willemse, super quick over 50-plus metres, turned a long kick into a great kick with a chase and a tackle that forced the turnover for the Stormers. He was then back in position to produce the significant pass to set up a try for his brother Ramon Samuels.
1: The Stormers as a collective were again woeful on the road. Someone tweeted that they think the Stormers only focus for away matches is to have an extended bath or shower where there are no water restrictions. They collectively show nothing else when playing away from home. The first 35 minutes were among the most impotent the Stormers have produced this season - and there have been some pretty limp displays. Questions have to be asked of the leadership, from the coach to the senior players, as to why a team, so strong at home, can play with absolutely no conviction away from home.
2: Pieter-Steph du Toit is one of the best locks in world rugby. Why play him at flank, especially when (Eben) Etzebeth is still injured? Du Toit’s impact at lock would be even greater than it is as a loose-forward. Du Toit has been very good as a flank but the Stormers pack would be even better if he was leading the tight five in his best position. Bloody hell, pick the best players in their best positions and give yourself the best possible chance to win. Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is rightfully under serious pressure in his third season in charge - a season that is proving to be his worst.
3: Never again should South African rugby compromise for the sake of another nation’s development. Grant Hattingh and Lappies Labuschagne, as just two examples, should be playing Super Rugby in South Africa and not adding muscle to the Japanese Sunwolves. The Sunwolves had players from seven different nationalities in their starting XV against the Crusaders, at a time when South Africa’s Super Rugby resources are so stretched. It is just wrong.