‘April mustn’t defend No 10 channel’

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the past weekend's Super Rugby matches involving South African teams.

Sharks vs Sunwolves

‘We are always talking about the Sharks’ defence, but 29 points by the Sunwolves wasn’t a great defensive effort, was it? You can’t defend like that when you’re in the playoffs.

‘Garth April, like Coenie Oosthuizen, is an outstanding player going forward, but he has defensive weaknesses that need a lot of work. It is unfair to let him defend the flyhalf channel; he should be at blindside wing and JP Pietersen at No 10 when they defend.

‘I honestly don’t think the Sharks will go much further [in the competition]. They desperately need Pat Lambie at 10. It is incredible that he is not eligible. How can a guy who has been appointed as captain of his franchise at the start of the season not be allowed to play? He played three games and got concussed in a game for the Springboks. Surely Sanzaar has to come up with a flexible plan. They can’t be rigid and say four games or you can’t play in the playoffs.

‘There were some wonderful linebreaks in this game by the Sunwolves. Their handling of the ball and variation on attack put the Sharks under severe pressure. I’ve said all along, their front five isn’t strong enough for this competition, they don’t have enough depth, their preparation prior to the season wasn’t long enough and the Japanese Rugby Union hasn’t invested enough effort in this team that should supposedly prepare Japan for the 2019 World Cup. Next season there should be fewer Viljoens in this team and more Kawasakes.'

Stormers vs Kings

‘Huw Jones had a super game, it was just his day. He ran good, straight lines, showed strength with ball in hand and passed well. I also want to complement Damian de Allende today. We saw many more passes from him than we usually see, even though there were occasions when he did hang on to the ball. It was really good to see him actually passing the ball and give space to the outside centre.

'Schalk Burger has developed his game immensely. I know people talk about him taking up the flyhalf position, but clearly he has got good ball skills. He is passing and making sure that other players are getting the ball on the outside and he hasn’t lost his physicality in the tackle. He is an extraordinary player, who has done wonderful things for South African rugby and I wouldn’t wish for anything more than the Stormers to win their quarter-final at Newlands so he can finish his career here on a high note.

‘The first two scrums of the game were interesting. The Kings got a penalty and a tighthead. Their set pieces are good and they do stay in a game for 60 minutes and generally fall off at the end. They have battled in defence and that is the one problem they need to resolve. The players tried hard and hung together, but along with the Sunwolves they’ve been the disappointment of the campaign.'

Cheetahs vs Bulls

‘Sadly, this was an example of poor skills again. There were just so many incidents of poor decision-making. We’ve spoken about the skill levels of the Cheetahs for the past four years. I wonder how much time they spend on handling skills, on receiving and kicking up-and-unders, on passing and on making sure the pass is in front of the player. Those are the things they have to practise during the week, so when they are under pressure in a game, it comes naturally as it does to New Zealand and Australian players.

‘The backline of the Bulls was a positive for me. Travis Ismaiel is an impressive winger as is Jambo Ulengo and they’ve played good rugby this season. Ismaiel finished really well, Jesse Kriel’s running from the back was excellent and the two centres had really a good game.

'The loose forwards also stood out. However, the front five is a problem. The Bulls desperately need a tighthead prop. The props that came on were heavily penalised again. It is unbelievable that a union as strong as the Bulls has not had a tighthead prop, who can hold up his side of the scrum, for four or five years. Both Marcel van der Merwe and Werner Kruger are going overseas, but they won’t be missed. Van der Merwe is the most penalised player in Super Rugby. He conceded 26 penalties before this game and gave away three again in this match. Any replacement is going to be better, quite frankly. I’d say the Bulls have to buy at least three tighthead props before the next season.’

Note: Mallett did not comment on the match between the Jaguares and the Lions in Buenos Aires.

Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

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Nick Mallett