‘Lions played irresistible rugby’

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

Lions vs Sharks

‘Every Lions player knows what his responsibility is. They have an absolutely brilliant, accurate attack. The reason the Lions are so effective is that every player who hits the gainline, does so at pace with a support runner on his shoulder. So the backs are always trying to offload through the tackle and the forwards are looking to go through with momentum and win quick ruck ball. And when that happens, the defence doesn’t have time to reset and then Faf de Klerk is so quick to that ball, that they are creating opportunity after opportunity.

'The Sharks have a good defensive system, but they were ripped apart by the variety in this Lions attack. The Lions had quite a number of players away with the Springboks, but the Sharks had the majority of their squad in training for those three weeks. And the Sharks trained with the express desire to win this game and save their season. So it was a highly motivated Sharks team that went to play at Ellis Park, but the Lions just played irresistible rugby, it was just everything I wanted to see from a South African rugby team.

'Poor Lwazi Mvovo had an absolute nightmare in that corner for the Boks against Ireland and today he was out of position again when Ruan Combrinck kicked it with his right foot to that corner. The oval ball does not bounce kindly for everyone and that was a terrible bounce for Mvovo and the Lions profited from it.

'Garth April showed in this game that he lacks experience and calmness in the face of a determined attack and a determined defence. His kicking game and tackling wasn’t good and I think it was a bit early to get him in the Springbok set-up. Look at Elton Jantjies, who has had the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and is playing great rugby.

'The Lions thoroughly deserve to be the overall Super Rugby leaders and the best team in the competition at the moment. That first half was the best I’ve seen them play the whole season, it was sublime. They were devastating on attack, scrummed well and put the Sharks under immense pressure whenever the Sharks had the ball.

'Things just didn’t bounce well for the Sharks. No one anticipated that it would be 27-0 at half-time, but give the Sharks credit, they came back in the second half. But remember, Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin took five players off, including Jantjies and the whole front row, with 20 minutes to go. So the Sharks scrum improved after that and they managed to score a couple of tries, but it was a comprehensive win by the Lions, which proves they are clearly the best side in South Africa and probably our best chance of reaching the final this year.

'A lot of people say Test rugby is a step up and players need to understand that their mistakes and errors cost more and therefore there is a tendency to play more conservatively. I’d like to take Lionel Mapoe, who had a very quiet Test series against Ireland, as an example. I can’t remember a pass that he got from Damian de Allende in a Bok jersey because De Allende was asked to take the ball up. It wasn’t Mapoe’s fault that he couldn’t get his hands on the ball. If we can just get our Springbok attack to replicate the Lions', I’d be so much more confident about our chances against New Zealand and Australia.'

Stormers vs Rebels

‘It was a very encouraging display by the Stormers and a fantastic display by their tight five. The scrumming was outstanding throughout the match. Eben Etzebeth had a very good game as did Pieter-Steph du Toit, both of whom came from the Springboks with a lot of enthusiasm.

'We’ve always said you have to dominate the front five, then you can play whichever game you want and the Stormers did. At one point in the first half, they won the ball every time the Rebels put the ball in the scrum and threw it in at the lineout. They had a tremendous amount of ball, allowing them to keep it in hand longer and play a territorial game and get their driving game going.’

Cheetahs vs Force

‘This was a classic Cheetahs performance and one we have got so used to watching. They produce some great attacking play, score excellent tries and then come the handling errors, the offloading errors and the defensive lapses that have cost them all season. It’s all very frustrating, because they are closer to being a competitive team than the Kings are at the moment. They just don’t have a good enough defensive structure.

'The Cheetahs are very good going forward, but they fall off too many tackles. They were their own worst enemies today. Their individual skills, when taking the ball into contact and understanding when to offload, were very poor. Generally they were fast and loose on attack, which is what we like about them, but it does turn over a lot of ball.

'They had very poor defensive kick-chase lines. When they kicked long, it was a completely staggered defensive line coming up and Dane Haylett-Petty, who has the ability to break tackles, made them pay.'

Kings vs Highlanders

‘It was a bit of a flattering scoreline for the Highlanders. The wheels came off the Kings in the last 15 minutes and the Highlanders ran in a few tries which blew the score out. There good moments for the Kings and they held them for 60 minutes. But that often happens.

'I think the Kings were in touch in that first half because the Highlanders made so many handling and passing mistakes. Matt Faddes, who scored three tries, was one of the biggest culprits. He had a very poor game from a handling point of view. Patrick Osborne made a big impact when he came on. He provided much-needed help to the Highlanders' backline effort.

'I do believe four New Zealand sides will qualify for the playoffs, with the Highlanders going through ahead of the Waratahs.'

Note: Mallett did not comment on the match between the Jaguares and the Bulls in Buenos Aires.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Nick Mallett