What we learned from the fourth round of Vodacom Super Rugby and the Six Nations, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Pollard in fine form
In the 78th minute of Saturday’s clash against the Sharks, Handré Pollard dropped back into the pocket and slotted a superb long-range drop goal. It was a moment that epitomised the confidence of the Vodacom Bulls captain, who currently looks to be in some of the best form of his career. As the flyhalf general, he is controlling proceedings with aplomb, while he has rarely looked so confident when kicking at goal, or in open play. Pollard contributed 22 points in the Bulls’ 37-14 win on Saturday, while he is far and away the leading point-scorer in the competition (74). It’s good news for the Boks that Pollard is playing so well, while Elton Jantjies also looks to be at the top of his game for the Lions.
Bulls emerging as all-round package
It was very difficult to know what to expect from the Bulls ahead of this season. Numerous changes had taken place at the franchise, with Pote Human belatedly assuming the post as head coach in a new-look management team, while there were a number of new player recruits. Yet very quickly the Bulls are proving that they will be a force to be reckoned with this season, having already claimed comfortable wins over the Stormers, Lions and Sharks. Besides offering some real threats on attack, their pack has impressed, while an aggressive defence is suffocating the opposition. As part of a high-percentage approach, Pollard has also been outstanding when it comes to converting pressure into points. It has been some start to the season for Human’s charges.
Sharks will need to recover from rocky patch
When the Sharks started the season with confident wins over the Sunwolves and Blues, the early signs looked very good for the Durban-based side. Besides offering traditional strengths such as a strong set piece, maul and defence, they also appeared to be offering more threats on attack. However, a rosy start to the season has quickly given way to a rocky patch following meek defeats to the Stormers and Bulls. In both matches, the Sharks have looked a little out of ideas when they are matched or bettered up front, and that will be a serious concern as they now head into a rather welcome bye. Upon their return to action, they will host the well-organised Rebels, and suddenly this match has become a must-win encounter.
Simelane makes his mark
There was plenty of excitement when Lions coach Swys de Bruin opted to hand Wandisile Simelane his run-on debut in a youthful team to face the Jaguares on Saturday. There has been plenty of hype around the former Junior Springbok star, and he certainly lived up to expectations as the Lions claimed an important 47-39 win. Simelane looked quite at home on the Super Rugby stage, and deservedly earned the Man of the Match award. Besides scoring a try and helping set up another, the statistics show that he made 105 running metres, 11 carries and beat eight defenders.
Wales remain on the hunt for Six Nations glory
Prior to this Six Nations season, most pundits installed Ireland as strong favourites to retain their title, while England were regarded as a possible outside bet. Very few would have expected Wales to be leading the standings as the competition heads towards next weekend’s final round. A gutsy win over Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday summed up the fighting spirit of the Welsh this season, and a win over Ireland this weekend could well take them to Six Nations glory. Despite the fact that Wales claimed a good win over England earlier in the campaign, Eddie Jones’ men are still just one log point behind them as a result of the bonus points they have picked up along the way. It all makes for what could be a thrilling final round of action, with England hosting Scotland after Wales and Ireland go into battle in Cardiff.
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