What we learned from the 10th round of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Kings have gone from strength to strength
Who would have thought after 10 rounds of action that the Kings would be above the Bulls in the South African group standings? Certainly not many, if any, but few can argue that the Kings have earned every plaudit that comes their way. Against the odds, the Port Elizabeth-based side has now won back-to-back games in the competition, with this past weekend’s 44-3 thrashing of the Rebels serving as their most emphatic victory. In fact, it was the accuracy of their all-round play that served as a fine example of just how far this team has come this season. Kudos to them.
Sharks’ character shines through
Saturday night’s clash in Buenos Aires was effectively a must-win match for the Sharks if they hoped to keep their playoff hopes alive. That was increasingly the case when the Lions secured a bonus-point win over the Force earlier in the day to extend their lead at the top of the Africa 2 conference to 13 points. It added to the pressure the Sharks were under after last weekend’s dismal draw against the Rebels, but the Durban-based side produced a performance of real character and composure to clinch a much-needed win.
Lions need to rediscover accuracy on attack
No one can quibble with the fact that the Lions now sit in a position of strength at the top of the South African group, but they would surely be the first to admit that they are certainly not playing their best rugby at the moment. On more than one occasion this season, the Lions have relied on a never-say-die spirit to secure victory, and while they never looked likely to go down to the Force on Saturday, their attack never really got going. As the season progresses to the business end, the Lions will undoubtedly be placing a focus on ensuring they quickly rediscover their mojo on attack.
Embarrassed Stormers must add more pragmatism to play
It feels like an age has passed since the Stormers impressively overcame the Chiefs at Newlands on 8 April. A promising six match-winning streak has now been followed by three defeats and not a single log point. This past Friday’s 57-14 loss to the Highlanders would have particularly hurt, considering the Stormers so ineptly failed to learn from their mistakes made against the Crusaders in Christchurch the week before. The Cape-based side have now conceded 17 tries and 114 points on tour. Yet again, the Stormers attempted to play far too much rugby in their own half during the opening stanza, while failing to display due appreciation for the territorial battle. It’s commendable that the Stormers are intent on embracing a new high-tempo brand of rugby, but substance cannot be completely sacrificed at the altar of attacking style.
Officials need to clear up grey areas
There was a rather bizarre moment in the lead-up to the Highlanders’ second try against the Stormers. With the scores deadlocked at 7-7, a Highlanders lineout jumper landed rather awkwardly on top of Oli Kebble. The Stormers prop could do nothing about it, but referee Glen Jackson had to officiate to the letter of the law, and penalised Kebble for dangerous play. From the subsequent attack, the Highlanders went on to score and never looked back. There was also a controversial moment in the contest between the Cheetahs and Crusaders when Ox Nche looked to have set up a beautiful try for Sergeal Petersen. However, the TMO intervened and rather bizarrely ruled that there was enough ‘conclusive’ evidence to suggest the pass had gone forward, despite the fact it looked as if it had certainly gone backwards from the hand. From there, the Saders ran away with the contest. Somehow, the lawmakers need to provide some clarity around these grey areas of officiating that continue to confound common sense.
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