• ‘Lions sucked fight out of Canes’

    What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Super Rugby semi-final between the Lions and Hurricanes at Ellis Park.

    'What was really fantastic about this game was that the Lions managed to win it in the second half by playing the sort of rugby that we were trying to get them to play before the start of the match. They really dominated the driving maul, their forwards got across the advantage line. They stopped making the handling errors they had made in the first half, and by being patient with the ball in hand and attacking the press defence flat, without ceding a yard backwards, they managed to get penalties and then kicked for the corner and started scoring tries from those driving mauls. It just sucked all the fight out of this Hurricanes side that had really benefited from a number of mistakes the Lions made in the first half.

    'Momentum shifts in a game are really interesting. Suddenly in the second half it was one-way traffic for the Lions. They put pressure on the Hurricanes, who started to make all the mistakes, like trying to play from deep, throwing interception passes and not playing with the same calmness and strength on defence which had forced mistakes from the Lions in the first half.

    'If you have a look at the time, it was 14 minutes on the clock and the score was already 12-3. The Hurricanes then get a lineout five yards from the tryline, but up goes Franco Mostert in defence and wins the ball and the Lions clear for touch. Immediately at the next lineout, he is up and wins the ball again. Those were two crucial steals. Had the Hurricanes won that initial lineout, they’d have been in a very good position to score a try. Mostert has the most steals in the competition and has really come on in leaps and bounds. He is becoming like Victor Matfield with his ability to defend in the lineouts and his work rate around the field is quite exceptional.

    WATCH: Highlights of Lions vs Hurricanes

    'What is so important about the halfbacks is the low error rate. The number of times Ross Cronjé handles the ball in a match is probably over 50 and the number of good decisions he makes far outnumber any mistakes he makes. Faf de Klerk is perhaps a more dynamic, excitable and explosive scrumhalf, but he makes many more mistakes than Ross. And Elton Jantjies should learn from Ross. He is an outstanding flyhalf, but he needs to cuts down his error rate.

    'Beauden Barrett’s yellow card was pretty tough. He made a fantastic tackle and you could see he was trying to roll away and his legs dragged the ball out of the ruck with him. That allowed the turnover, and I think that is what gets referee Jaco Peyper really upset and thinking that it is a cynical foul. Fortunately, it was definitely a penalty, but it’s quite difficult to see that it should have been a yellow card.

    New Zealand teams are often guilty of cynical offences in their own red zone where they’ll go over the top and play from offside positions. [In the lead-up to Jantjies’ try] Chris Eves dives in from the side and tackles Cronjé, who is the scrumhalf busy clearing the ball. Eves was in from the side and offside. So I do accept that they [New Zealanders] have been guilty of that in the past.  But I just think that it would have required unbelievable footwork in the heat of moment for Beauden to pull himself away and capture that ball between his calves simultaneously.

    'I want to compliment one thing. So many times we see referees going up to the TMO for in-goal decisions and I thought Rasta Rashivenge did outstandingly well with Malcolm Marx’s try. It was a very hard call and had he not positioned himself in the in-goal area to manage to get a sight of the ball being placed on the line before it was ripped away, perhaps it wouldn’t have been given. There was no doubt that Marx did get it over the line, but Peyper didn’t see it and it would have been very difficult for the TMO to pick up, but Rasta was well-placed to say, “I saw it, don’t go upstairs just give the try”. That was excellent refereeing by the assistant.'

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    Photo: Kim Ludbrook/BackpagePix

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    Nick Mallett