‘Lions-Sharks game a spectacle’

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

Lions vs Sharks

‘This was a great game for South African rugby. We have to be proud of a game of this quality. It was an intense derby and both teams were having a full go at each other. There were massive hits, a lot of competiveness and niggle, but also some really good skill-play, particularly in the lead-up to that last try the Lions scored. So often a guy gives a pass too early which allows the defence to shift, but Kwagga Smith delayed that pass until the he drew in the last defender and it was an easy run-in for Jaco Kriel.

‘But there was nothing wrong with the defence in this game. The physicality from both teams was immense and although we had a couple high hits and an insistent TMO, this was a spectacle.

‘I think something really good is going on at the Sharks at the moment. They pushed the Lions as far as any New Zealand side has done in the past, but as Warren Whiteley said, the Lions play until the last moment.

VIDEO: Highlights of Lions vs Sharks

‘Curwin Bosch was outstanding again. I like the way the Sharks protect him in defence in that they don’t put him in the frontline. Rohan Janse van Rensburg targeted him the whole match by running at his channel, and I thought Bosch came through it tremendously well. He is a kid that needs to be looked after. And can I just say, I’ve been very critical of Coenie Oosthuizen’s scrummaging on the tighthead side in the past, but against the Lions he held his own admirably.

‘From a personal point of view, I don’t think the neck roll by Etienne Oosthuizen – that led to the disallowed try for the Sharks – was a violent cleanout. It cost the Sharks 14 points, because their try was reversed, Oosthuizen was yellow-carded and the Lions scored at the other end. The TMO had a huge impact, almost too much, in a game of this nature. I don’t think Oosthuizen deliberately went high.

‘The Lions wing Madosh Tambwe went in high on a Sharks player in the second half and the referee said no, it was on the shoulder. In the first half he penalised the Sharks lock for a similar offence and it cost them three points. On very small margins do you win and lose games, and honestly there were some harsh calls on the Sharks.

‘I’m not having a go at the referee, it’s just that in a game as close as this, these type of things make a huge difference to the result. There were only five points in it, but there were three points that went one way, but it could easily have gone the way of the Sharks and that would’ve been a six-point difference and leading to a different result.’

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Stormers vs Cheetahs

‘The Stormers missed quite a few scoring opportunities in the first half, so the Cheetahs were quite fortunate to only be 22-3 down at the break.

‘The tight five of the Stormers are operating well, and locks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth were outstanding again. Etzebeth’s decision not to go to Japan has made a big difference to his performance.

'This team has no scrummaging problems, the loose forwards are doing great ,and most important is their breakdown functionality. The Stormers’ breakdown is incredibly quick. The players are either popping it up off the ground, or holding it up for the scrumhalf, and as a third option they are presenting the ball perfectly because the cleaners are doing a great job.

VIDEO: Highlights of Stormers vs Cheetahs

‘The centres Dan du Plessis and EW Vijoen are playing outstanding rugby together. We thought it was going to be a huge loss when Damian de Allende was injured, but these youngsters have done really well for the Stormers.

‘But to be honest, the Cheetahs played their part in this game. They kept on attacking right to the end.

‘Poor Henco Venter had a 10-yard start, but didn’t realise he had Cheslin Kolbe behind him. He thought he had a free run-in there and didn’t even consider passing. On a day when everything went wrong for the poor Cheetahs, that passage of play sums it up. But Stormers coach Robbie Fleck will remember this, because it was a replica of when Deon Kayser tackled him in the in-goal area.’

Chiefs vs Bulls

‘The Bulls’ tactics in the first half were outstanding. They turned the Chiefs around with little grubbers, they put kicks back, but then isolated the fullback so he couldn’t counter-attack, their speed off the line in defence was really good and they weren’t committing too many players at the breakdown.

‘But they played without the ball in the second half, and that was a problem because you can’t defend for 80 minutes. Their inability to score tries is also causing them trouble.

VIDEO: Highlights of Chiefs vs Bulls

‘Handré Pollard is taking the ball way too deep off front-foot ball. As the playmaker, he has to be right on the gainline to take it forward. And the forwards take the ball deep as well, so they are giving the defence space to close them down behind the advantage line. If you want forward momentum, you’ve got to take it flat to take up the space you’ve won to force the opposition defence to move backwards.

‘The Bulls haven’t solved their scrummaging problems and until they do, they can never really control the game.’

Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images

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Nick Mallett