What we learned from the 14th round of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Sharks’ defence wins the day
In the lead-up to Saturday’s coastal derby in Durban, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck repeatedly mentioned the need for them to front up to the physicality of the Sharks if they hoped to come out on top. Yet, when it came down to it, the Stormers simply had no answer to the Sharks’ abrasive and highly effective defence, which has been a feature of their game all season. On Saturday, the Stormers edged the Sharks in most of the attacking stats and forced the hosts to make as many as 179 tackles, but the Cape-based side could only manage to score a solitary try. It speaks to the fact that the Sharks are the equal top-ranked side for tackle success this season (86.7%), while proving once again that the value of this aspect of play cannot be underestimated.
S’bu Nkosi is a future Springbok
The 21-year-old Sharks winger is fast emerging as South African rugby’s find of the season. Big, strong and blessed with searing pace, the youngster has burst on to the Super Rugby stage as if to the manor born, while his performances in recent weeks have been a joy to behold. The youngster has a keen eye for the tryline, and the angle and power he displayed in scoring a scintillating solo try against the Stormers on Saturday was one of the highlights of the weekend. Watch this kid very closely; he’s going to go far.
John Mitchell has a mammoth task at the Bulls
On Thursday, the Bulls completed the latest step in a much-needed turnaround plan as they appointed the former All Blacks coach as their new executive of rugby. It’s a move that could prove to be a masterstroke, with the Bulls clearly in need of a strong-willed and experienced coach who is capable of changing the way things are done. Although the Bulls produced a somewhat improved performance in Saturday’s clash against the Hurricanes, they were ultimately no match for the defending champs. It’s clear that the Pretoria-based franchise has lost its identity and fear factor, and Mitchell now faces a monumental task in restoring the Bulls to former glory.
The Cheetahs have made a much-needed improvement on defence
The Cheetahs snapped a nine-match losing streak as they clinched an emphatic 47-7 win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday, with the strides taken in terms of shoring up their defence proving to be one of the key factors in that resounding victory. This season, the Cheetahs have been the worst-ranked side when it comes to tackle success (81%), and it’s been a central factor leading to a season of disappointment. However, on Saturday, the Cheetahs completed 107 tackles and missed just 15 for a success percentage of 88. A comfortable bonus-point victory was the end result.
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