What NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Super Rugby quarter-finals in Christchurch and Johannesburg.
Crusaders vs Sharks
‘I think the Crusaders are one of the best direct teams in the competition. We all talk about this lateral play of the All Blacks, how they go from one side to the other. But this team is very direct. They play flat, on the advantage line, they step very well and their understanding of when to offload is so good. They won’t throw a 50-50 pass, they try and hold on to the ball.
‘Patience is such a key. They so often make short passes, not skip passes, just quick hands to the guy next door and really straight running. It is just copybook rugby that you would teach a senior team at school.’
Lions vs Jaguares
‘The award [to Elton Jantjies] sums up again why I don’t like the Man of the Match. I think with rugby being a team sport, it is contributions from every single person that matters and it is the team that wins that match, not an individual. We shouldn’t be having an argument about who the Man of the Match is. Elton had a good game, [Malcolm] Marx had a great game, they both played well. But most importantly, the Lions got through.
‘Whenever the Lions were under pressure, Marx turned the ball over. He must have had five or six turnover penalties right in the red zone when they were under intense pressure. I thought Marx was outstanding.
‘I think that we should be so grateful. We have had a great captain in John Smit as a hooker, we had Bismarck du Plessis, who was the best in the world in his time. Suddenly out of nowhere pops Marx, the best in the world in my opinion, at a very young age already.
‘The work that this guy does in the tight-loose is quite extraordinary. He wasn’t there during the June internationals, but he is going to be there for the Springboks during the Rugby Championship. He is an absolute menace around the ball, you cannot move him, he is completely legal and when he is on the ball, that ball is lost. Also, he has the vision to read the pass of the Jaguares scrumhalf, intercept and run 40m to score a try. He was extraordinary.
‘At 24-9 at half-time, there may have been a feeling that the Lions could accelerate from there. They had a lineout in the second half where they played straight off the top and made a mistake and the Jaguares scored. They had a scrum which they were dominating and should have held the ball in the back, they tried to play it quickly, dropped the ball – try to the Jaguares.
‘Suddenly there was a game with four points in it. That was poor game management from Warren [Whiteley] and also possibly from flyhalf. Obviously, a message came on from the coaching staff and Warren said “let’s get direct”. There is a driven lineout, a pick-and-go and a try by [Andries] Coetzee and suddenly the game is won.’
‘We are sitting with two New Zealand sides, an Australian and a South African side in the two semis. The Lions have the home semi-final and it is probably a good draw against the Waratahs. The Sharks found it difficult going that way and the Waratahs will find it tough going to altitude. So if things go well, we could be looking at a Lions vs Crusaders final.
‘Things are looking quite good for the Lions. We saw the Waratahs lose to the Brumbies and if they had won that, it would have been the Lions having to travel. So lots of things have gone in the Lions’ favour for the past two weeks, they must really seize the opportunity now.
‘Against the Waratahs, the Lions’ template for winning is their ability to dominate the tight phases, win penalties from tight phases and start playing ball-in-hand rugby once they are in a position to score tries. They played a lot of rugby between their own 22 and the halfway line today, making errors in those areas. That will count against them against the Waratahs.
‘This “moving it away from the pack” as an exit strategy was very dangerous and it will be even more dangerous against a team like the Waratahs, whose outside backs are their strength. [Israel] Folau, [Kurtley] Beale, [Bernard] Foley are very good with their distribution and they have big wings. It is dangerous to move the ball to suit their strength. The Lions have to play to their strength, which is their tight five and set piece.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images