What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the past weekend's Super Rugby matches involving South African teams.
Lions vs Sunwolves
'The Lions are a fine team and they played exceptional rugby at Ellis Park. The moment of toughness from this game was the Sunwolves running out for the second half. The Sunwolves had 53 missed tackles. You cannot possibly compete on a rugby field if you have to make 150 tackles and miss 53 of them.
'The Sunwolves were absolutely smashed in the scrums and their defence was non-existent. I mean, we know Jaco Kriel is a powerful runner, but for him to bounce off five players and shrug off a sixth tackler to score a try just points to abysmal defence by the Sunwolves. Their scrum was in disarray and they didn’t get any ball at the lineout; they were just completely dominated. I actually felt very sorry for the Sunwolves. If this was a boxing match, they should have thrown in the white towel.
'When the Lions’ reserves came on, they fitted in so well and made it look so easy. We’ve often said when New Zealand teams lose a player, another one comes on and it is a seamless change. With this Lions team, it feels the same. They put Kwagga Smith on the wing at the end of this game and he didn’t look uncomfortable. It’s extraordinary. It is the game plan and the way they are coached that make this team so effective.
'The Lions players are queuing up to start and even the guys on the bench can’t wait to get on and play. This is what a really happy union does. It creates a situation where they come back from the Boks and can’t wait to play for their franchise and it’s wonderful because this is the South African team we hope goes the furthest in the competition. The happiness that has been generated in the Lions camp over the past two seasons has now filtered into the Springbok side.
'The Sunwolves are guaranteed a place in Super Rugby, so I think it is really important that the Japanese Rugby Union starts taking this competition seriously and does what the Jaguares are trying to do, which is to build up the national side by Super Rugby as a way to keep their best players together.'
Cheetahs vs Stormers
'It was just like a Barbarians game. There were a lot of turnovers and both teams had a crack from deep inside their own half. Defence was not a priority for either team. It seemed to me that this was a game played in quite a good spirit until Rynardt Elstadt got involved and spoiled the party. He managed to get a yellow and a red card, which is unusual and not a bad effort for a day’s work.
'Referee Jaco van Heerden didn’t have a great game and I’m not sure he made the right decisions. The scrums were a mess and he was so inconsistent with his scrum penalties and his handling with sealing off at the breakdown. He kept on penalising the Stormers loosehead [JC Janse van Rensburg], but it was actually the Cheetahs’ tighthead [Johan Coetzee] who went to ground quickly.
'It was just a scrappy game. The Stormers will get confidence from this win, but not a lot. The Cheetahs were pretty good in scoring the tries they did and one wonders, if the Stormers come up against a New Zealand side that can attack better than the Cheetahs in a quarter-final, how they are going to shape up defensively? It’s going to be a tough ask.
'Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse scored a lovely try on his starting debut. The youngster has had a good start to his career. Jano Vermaak was injured and stayed on the wing, with Cheslin Kolbe taking up the No 9 role at a couple of rucks. I still think he would have been a fantastic scrumhalf for South Africa if we had given him a chance to play in that position when he was 20.
'We’ve got to put our best black players in positions where they will be able to compete internationally. It will be quite tough for him to play Test rugby on the wing, given his size. So it’s important for transformation to always make sure players are selected in positions where they can compete at international level. What we sometimes do, is take talented players and put them in positions that we feel they will be competitive in, without thinking whether or not they’ll be good enough in the long run for the Springboks in those positions.
'A case in point is how quickly Curwin Bosch has been pushed. Perhaps they should have considered whether flyhalf is his best position before playing him there. We should play him at fullback first and then see if he can develop as a flyhalf. Willemse for example, has already got the physique to be a good flyhalf.'
Sharks vs Bulls
'It was a good performance from the Bulls, given that they are already out of the competition. I thought Jan Serfontein was superb. He took his form from the Springbok Tests against France into this match and had a hand in three of the Bulls’ tries. He is just really looking top-class as our inside centre again.
'Warrick Gelant finished off tries so well in this game. He continued where he left off for South Africa A against the French Barbarians. He is a guy to look out for at fullback as a young player. When he is on form he can push hard for a Springbok spot.'
Jaguares vs Kings
'Well done to the Kings. To go over to Argentina and beat the Jaguares took some doing. The Lions haven’t done it in the past two seasons. The Kings can take a lot of pride from that win. With the Rugby Championship coming up, it’s a bit worrying from Argentina’s point of view that their Super Rugby side is playing this way.'
Super Rugby format
'One of the problems we’ve got in this competition is that there are too many nothing games at the end. When you have a team that has already finished first against a team that can’t qualify, you have to wonder where the incentive is to play. You’ve got to always play for something, whether it is to qualify, to go up a division or just to not go down a division. Super Rugby has to start looking at a new system that makes every game relevant.'
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images