• ‘Sharks discipline was excellent’

    What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Super Rugby play-off qualifiers.

    SHARKS vs HIGHLANDERS

    'If you look at the penalty count, the Highlanders conceded 13 penalties, six or seven of which came from scrums, while the Sharks conceded six. So the Sharks' discipline was excellent.

    'The Highlanders avoided going to ground and offloaded to keep the ball alive. When that happens you don't have a ruck where you can reset your defence, and have a first, second and third defender. The Sharks didn't have a reference point. The attack is able to keep moving and the defence becomes staggered.

    'My concern going into the semi-finals is that the Crusaders' forwards will match the Sharks' as they have six or seven All Blacks. They won't concede a lot of scrum penalties. The Sharks' pattern of play – a good scrum and lineout and a strong kicking game – won't be as easy to impose on the Crusaders as it was on the Highlanders.

    'The semi-final will be in Christchurch and while the referee will be neutral, he will favour the home side with the 50-50 calls. That will make playing without the ball risky [for the Sharks]. The Crusaders' forwards are as good as the Sharks' and they also have outstanding backs who will create opportunities.'

    BRUMBIES vs CHIEFS

    'It was a wonderful game. Really good tries were scored and there were various ways you could score – driving mauls, counter-attack, phase play close to the line, and great breakouts. There was also great defence from both teams. We said it was going to be a good, open game and it turned out to be that, with the Brumbies, with that cracking start, just managing to hold on at the end.

    '[Brumbies wing] Henry Speight was quite staggering. He was able to beat his man at any given time. He was their main ball-carrier to get across the advantage line. He has tremendous physicality and explosiveness, and can offload as well. They use him a lot off five-man lineouts, as the first receiver, to get momentum. He just has so much strength and keeps his legs driving all the time. He is fantastic to watch.

    'The Chiefs pack held up OK this season, but [flyhalf] Aaron Cruden, who is very skillful on the ball, really needed players outside him. Sonny Bill Williams is one of the rugby world's stars. It's been terrible to have him out of rugby union [while he's been playing rugby league] but it's great to have him back. The Chiefs will definitely be a stronger team with him.'

    Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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    Nick Mallett