‘Lions gave SA rugby a big lift’

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

Chiefs vs Lions

‘For two years, the Lions have been my favourite team in South Africa. They have the ability not only to play with width, but play at pace. They have a flyhalf in Elton Jantjies who controls the rhythm of the game and the scrumhalf Faf de Klerk is absolutely brilliant.

'The skills levels of this Lions team are well above our other franchise players and the reasons for it is consistency of selection, the same two coaches [Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin], a captain in Warren Whiteley who everyone supports and a very good squad in which they apply the rotation policy well.

'I thought the travelling might be a factor, but it was an absolutely fabulous performance by the Lions that has given South African rugby a huge lift this weekend.’

Bulls vs Rebels

‘Both teams would have got bonus points last year for scoring four tries, but I like this system which forces the attacking side to keep on having to get three tries ahead. What it also does is give the losing team an incentive to keep playing, the way that the Rebels did, to catch up and deny the opposition a bonus point. This new system keeps both teams playing until the end.

'[Bulls inside centre] Burger Odendaal probably beat 10 defenders, he has a great step that youngster and really gets across the advantage line. But the Bulls went off the boil and had [Rebels flank] Adam Thomson scored the first try [he lost the ball over the line], it wouldn’t have been such an easy game for the Bulls. He didn’t score and suddenly the Bulls were 14-3 up instead of 14-10 and they were able to get a really nice rhythm to their game.

'The Rebels came back in the second half and on a hot day, I thought the defences fell off. The one we’ve got to mention is [Bulls wing] Bjorn Basson. He is a fantastic attacking player but he misses crucial tackles and unfortunately two of those led to tries for the Rebels. It is an area of his game he has to improve because he is not physical enough on defence.’ 

Cheetahs vs Stormers

‘It was a strange game. The Cheetahs scrum was quite good and the defence has improved massively since last week. The Stormers held on to the ball for long periods, forcing the Cheetahs to make three times as many tackles – it was 151 tackles to 59 by the Stormers.

'And what was key, especially in the second half, was the Cheetahs’ inability to win their lineout ball. We give a lot of credit to the jumpers for the Stormers, but honestly you should have a better lineout attack. You can’t lose six lineouts on your own throw because then you don’t have an ability to control the game at all. The Cheetahs turning around the jumper at the lineout, though, was poetic. It’s so beautiful.’

‘It was quite an exciting, but error-ridden game that didn’t hold on to structure a lot. There were turnovers, mistakes, penalties, so it was intense but there wasn’t a great deal of organisation. Lood de Jager’s yellow card was definitely the correct decision. No 23 held on to Pieter-Steph du Toit’s right leg and when the high tackle was made his whole body twisted around and swung over the knee. If he didn’t manage to get it up off the turf he would have suffered serious damage to his cruciate ligaments.

‘The Stormers are consolidating their place at the top of this conference that looks to be easier than the other South African conference, which is a real dog fight between the Sharks, Lions and Jaguares. The Stormers are not out of reach yet, but with this away win they’ve really stolen a march on the rest of the teams in their pool.’

Sharks vs Jaguares

‘The teams cancelled each other out pretty much in terms of expansive play and defensively the Sharks have really stepped up. They made a mistake in the lead-up to the first Jaguares try, but otherwise played the last 10 minutes when they had to win the game in the right areas to secure the win.

'The Sharks survived on a solid scrum in the second half. They were always able to fall back on the scrum option as a security blanket to make sure they came through the game and the lineout was good.

‘The two Du Preez brothers [Jean-Luc and Daniel] had such good games last week, but they had real problems with handling the ball today. Both of them lost the ball in really key positions. That counter-attack try came from Jean-Luc losing the ball in the tackle. It might because of the Durban dampness [due to the humidity].

‘The Jaguares defence was excellent too, including their scrambling defence. They have one guy tackling around the legs and one going at the ball to try and rip it out in contact in every tackle situation.’

Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

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Nick Mallett