‘Lions gave Bulls a big hiding’

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the past weekend's Super Rugby matches involving South African teams.

Bulls vs Lions

‘It was a wonderful performance by the Lions, just confirming what we’ve said before that they are a well-oiled side, with each player understanding his role and what he has to do.

‘Ruan Combrinck is an intelligent player, powerful runner, very physical and he kicks off the left and right foot. He wouldn’t be a bad option at fullback for the Boks. He was well-managed and eased back into the game by playing in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, which is a less stressful environment than Super Rugby. The Stormers did the same with Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh.

‘The form flyhalf in South Africa without a doubt is Elton Jantjies. He is in a good system under coaches who trust him, and that gives him a lot of confidence. It's very hard to look beyond him as the Springbok flyhalf. He must take this form into the international arena.

‘If we go back four or five years, the Lions were out of Super Rugby. They then went and got a management team that the players trusted and that knew what they were doing. The payers bought in to the vision of the coaching staff, and as soon as that happened the performances improved so much that they got to the final last year and I think they’ll get to the final again this year.

‘The Bulls' first try was a set-piece move that worked perfectly. It was a lovely move taken out of Eddie Jones’ playbook. It was similar to the try Japan scored against the Springboks in the World Cup. This is a talented Bulls side that plays in fits and stops.

‘It’s just so sad that we’ve reached a point where the Bulls lose 51-14 and we say, “Well, they didn’t play badly”. That is really damning. They were comprehensively outplayed today and the Bulls of five years ago must shudder when watching this current team. 

'There was effort, but unfortunately little things go wrong for the Bulls at vital times and no amount of enthusiasm and keenness can make up for the fact that technically they are not up to the task at hand, and not nearly good enough for a place in the playoffs. That was a big hiding, but we shouldn’t be surprised.'

Stormers vs Blues

‘The Stormers had some tough [refereeing] decisions against them overseas, and particularly in the first half against the Crusaders. In this game they really got the rub of the green. The yellow card to Matt Duffie of the Blues was pretty harsh, I didn’t think he was offside. Stormers centre Shaun Treeby’s high tackle definitely constituted a red card or at least a yellow card. So a lot of the close calls went the way of the Stormers on Friday.

'But they also got stuck in and scrummed well. And they came back well after losing Eben Etzebeth for 10 minutes and conceding 14 points early on. It was very good for the Stormers’ confidence to come back like they did and it bodes well for the latter part of the competition.

‘When Etzebeth came back on the field, he concentrated on taking the ball up with huge intensity and physicality and he won the contact battle by knocking Blues players backwards in the tackle. Someone should advise him that he is going to be niggled by the opposition all the time because they know he reacts quickly. He should just put his hands up, turn around and walk away. Rather get angry inside yourself, so that the next time you carry the ball up or hit a ruck you really make them feel it. But all this pushing and shoving, where no one actually gets hit because it’s not a proper fight, is just a total waste of time.'

Hurricanes vs Cheetahs

'The Hurricanes centres [Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso] are big and strong and they outran Raymond Rhule at one stage, so they are pretty quick too. When they are in the 22 and look up and see our wingers and fullback at the back, they will always have a go. And once they break the initial tackle, it is really hard to stop them. Physicality in defence is just as important as skill and physicality on attack.'

Sunwolves vs Sharks

‘Following that disappointing loss against the Kings, this was a bit of a banana skin game for the Sharks. I thought they did really well to win it. A lot of teams, including the Bulls, struggled there. So that was a good win to keep their season going.'

Kings vs Brumbies

‘The Brumbies play a very structured game, they like to hold on to the ball for a lot of phases and it was only at the end of this game that they managed to find space in behind the Kings defence. If a side has 65% possession and territory, you expect them to come out on top and the Brumbies did.

‘The Kings’ alignment and spacing in defence in the first half was good, but they just couldn’t defend like that for 80 minutes. The Brumbies dominated possession and territory and the tackle count was four times more for the Kings than for the visitors.

‘Lionel Cronjé was taken off early and that came as a surprise. He is the heartbeat of that backline. The youngster [Pieter-Steyn de Wet] who came on in his place made a couple of mistakes, unfortunately. The Kings are a side that play with a lot of commitment and they’ll present stiff opposition to the Lions this coming week if they are better structured and organised than the Bulls were.’

Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

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