Five takeaways from past weekend

What we learned from the 14th round of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.

Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee must start for the Springboks
On and on the Lions go. The Johannesburg-based side has now won 10 games in a row and secured the Africa 2 conference title, with Sunday's emphatic 54-10 win over the Kings serving once again to underline their overall title credentials as the June international break now beckons. After a first-half red card to Robbie Coetzee, Marx came off the bench and produced yet another outstanding all-round performance. The industrious hooker claimed a try, while making 64m, six carries and winning as many as four turnovers. The 22-year-old must surely be in line to wear the Bok No 2 jersey during the three-Test series against France, although he will want to continue working on the accuracy of his lineout throwing. Coetzee was equally impressive at fullback, and proved just why he has earned national recognition, with the 27-year-old scoring a superb try, while making a whopping 190m and beating six defenders. Having said that, Man of the Match Kwagga Smith sent out another reminder of just how unfortunate he was to not receive a call-up to the Boks. The ferocious flanker was in a class of his own as he secured a brace of tries, completed 138m, 12 carries and beat seven defenders, while making 15 tackles and winning two turnovers.

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.

ALSO READ: Sharks overpower Stormers

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.

WATCH: Highlights of Sharks vs Stormers

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.

WATCH: Highlights of Bulls vs Hurricanes

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.

WATCH: Highlights of Sunwolves vs Cheetahs

Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis