What we learned from the 10th round of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Thomas du Toit slowly silencing critics
The big prop came under the spotlight at the beginning of the season following the decision for him to make the move from loosehead to tighthead prop, and focus solely on that position. It’s known as an extremely challenging transition, and Du Toit was duly exposed to a baptism of fire in the Sharks’ first clash against the Lions, which left a number of critics questioning why he had opted to make the switch. However, the 22-year-old has remained steadfast in his belief that he is capable of successfully moving to tighthead prop, and slowly but surely he does appear to be looking more comfortable in this role. On Saturday, Du Toit faced a massive scrum test when he came up against Springbok loosehead Steven Kitshoff, and while the young Sharks front rower did come off second best on a couple of occasions, he largely held his own. Du Toit was also outstanding in general play, and ultimately walked away with the Man of the Match award that will do his confidence the world of good.
Sharks restore hope as Stormers’ campaign derails
Saturday’s clash between the Sharks and Stormers at Kings Park was always expected to be decided by small margins, and in the end, just one try separated the sides. However, the Sharks’ 24-17 victory is a massive result in the context of the South African conference standings. The win allows the Sharks to remain within touching distance of the second-placed Bulls, while it is a much-needed boost to their precarious playoff ambitions. For the Stormers, those hopes are now fading fast after what was their sixth successive defeat away from home. It’s a loss that sees them slip to 11th on the overall standings, while they are 16 log points behind the log-leading Lions. The Stormers have endured a challenging schedule and suffered a number of injury setbacks, but questions have to be asked of a side that has fallen well short of expectations once again so far this season.
Bulls can still challenge Lions
As much as it’s been a tough few weeks for the Stormers, the recent rounds of competition have seen the Bulls spark their campaign into renewed life. After winning just one game from their first five, the Pretoria-based side hovered at the bottom end of the standings, but successive wins over the Stormers, Sharks and Rebels have suddenly changed the complexion of the log standings. John Mitchell’s team do still remain 11 log points behind the Lions, but it must be remembered that they do have a game in hand. And as good as the Lions were in claiming a comprehensive win over the Waratahs on Friday, they still have to negotiate clashes against the high-flying Hurricanes and Highlanders in New Zealand. Should the Lions slip up there, the Bulls will know that they could have an opportunity to keep on making up ground. The Pretoria-based side faces a challenging clash against the Highlanders this weekend, but they will be at Loftus, while they should back themselves to once again overcome the Stormers and Sharks after that. It could yet make things very interesting.
Malcolm Marx continues to enhance his reputation
The Lions hooker was the natural selection as SA Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2017 after a barnstorming season at both Super Rugby and national levels. Such was his level of performance that a number of pundits suggested the 23-year-old was establishing himself as one of the leading hookers in world rugby. With that in mind, it was always going to be interesting to see whether Marx could maintain that consistency in form in 2018, and yet the youngster has again been at the heart of the Lions’ success at the start of the Super Rugby season. He was at his omnipresent best once again on Friday as the Lions claimed an impressive 29-0 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney. According to the official Sanzaar stats, Marx made 62m, nine carries and beat five defenders, while he completed four tackles and executed as many as four turnovers. His lineout throwing was also out of the top drawer as he continues to demonstrate just how he has become a world-class all-round hooker.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images