What NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Vodacom Super Rugby matches at Ellis Park and Loftus Versfeld.
Vodacom Bulls vs Sharks
‘I thought it was an incredibly disciplined performance from the Bulls. They started really well. Their set piece was excellent. Just a big congratulations to Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka as well as Schalk Brits because their scrum was very solid. Their first try was scored off the base of a solid scrum, and they got two scrumming penalties in that first half, which allowed Handré Pollard to dominate the game territorially and take penalties to get points. They really set the tone. They had a bit of a wobble and allowed the Sharks to get back in those 20 minutes after half-time but they finished the strongest side.
‘At the end, 37-14 is a comprehensive win and they laid down a marker as the best Super Rugby side in the first month of the competition in South Africa. They put 40-odd points on the Stormers, they beat the Lions in Johannesburg and now they have beaten, up until that moment, the second best side, the Sharks. Three wins and they have really turned the corner. It has been fantastic.
‘I thought the leadership of Duane Vermeulen and his performance, like Schalk, helped people like Nyakane and Gqoboka. In the backline, it was another excellent performance by Pollard which helped Jesse Kriel, Warrick Gelant, Rosko Specman. It is difficult to take names out of an excellent performance but I thought Kriel, who I have often had a real go at as someone who always takes the ball with one hand into contact, his straightening and passing today was better than I have ever seen it. He has really taken a step up. He has always been a good defensive player but today he was a good attacking player and gave opportunities to his wings and fullback.
‘In the end, the Sharks resorted to the backline trying chips. They were taking the ball through the phases and realising there was no space because the Bulls defence was excellent, they were on their feet with only two people contesting the breakdown. One or two chips over the defence came off, but the Sharks lost five or six opportunities. That is just out of frustration, when they go and kick the ball away it is because they just can’t do anything else.
‘We were debating before the game that the head-to-head was going to be Akker van der Merwe against Schalk Brits. But it was more front row against front row. The Sharks desperately needed Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen and Akker to dominate the Bulls forwards. That might have given the opportunity for their backline to have stability, the same stability the Bulls had. It did not work out that way. Without a dominant scrum and getting front-foot ball, the Sharks pack gave very static ball to the backline, who weren’t able to make anything with that ball because the Bulls defence was excellent.
‘It does go back to a really good performance by the Bulls front row. For three or four years we have been saying time and time again, you cannot have a complete game of rugby if one aspect of your set piece is diabolical. The Bulls scrum used to give away three or four or even five penalties a game and they were humiliated time after time. Yet they had good locks, loose forwards, a good backline but they were losing games. So just by getting that right, they have managed to be a dominant force.
‘That is why getting the right coaching and culture is important. And the Bulls have managed to do that in one season. Congratulations to that appointment.’
Lions vs Jaguares
‘It was a nice game of touch rugby. I thought the Jaguares looked absolutely disinterested in the first half. They hardly defended and let the Lions get to a 30-point lead. Then they woke up in the last 10 minutes or else the Lions just went to sleep.
‘Defence from both sides was shocking. This was very much like the old Super Rugby we used to see: basketball rugby. It wasn’t really good defence against good attack and strategy. When you are getting scores like this with mistakes leading to tries as opposed to creativity, it is disappointing. This was a very low standard match and I am just pleased the Lions came out on top because that was my prediction.’
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