Five lessons from the past weekend's Currie Cup matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Robert du Preez can make an impact for Western Province as a starting flyhalf
When Kurt Coleman was ruled out of WP's match against the Sharks with a calf injury, coach John Dobson said it was a chance for Du Preez to make his mark at this level. And he did, with an impressive attacking and kicking display in his first Currie Cup start (he had previously made two appearances off the bench). The 22-year-old controlled the game well and finished with a 14-point haul (four conversions and two penalties). It wouldn't be a surprise to see Du Preez retain the No 10 jersey with a fit-again Coleman warming the bench.
The Lions are the team to beat
They may have let a 30-0 lead slip at Loftus, before hanging on to win 36-28, but the Golden Lions still made a statement on Saturday night. By winning the top-of-the-log clash away from home, Johan Ackermann's side moved four points clear of their Gauteng rivals, having won all six of their matches, and are now heavy favourites to host a semi-final and a possible final. However, Ackermann will be concerned by his side's failure to put the Vodacom Blue Bulls away and the lack of impact made by his bench (five of whom were on the field by the 65th minute) in comparison to the Bulls' super subs.
The Bulls can benefit from having two fetchers on the field
It was no coincidence that the Bulls got right back into the game following the introduction of Deon Stegmann for Arno Botha in the 56th minute. Stegmann and starting openside flanker Roelof Smit were able to slow down the Lions' ball at the breakdown, giving their defence time to realign (which wasn't the case in the first half when the visitors ran rampant). It wasn't that long ago that the Bulls didn't play a fetcher at all; now they know the benefit of having two.
Lizo Gqoboka's scrummaging has improved
The EP Kings loosehead prop played a big part in his side's dominance up front in PE on Friday night, with the Free State Cheetahs twice losing possession on their own put-in. The 25-year-old, who only started playing rugby at the age of 19, has already been identified by Heyneke Meyer as one for the future and trained with the Boks on a couple of occasions late last year. Gqoboka's challenge is to make a similar statement in Super Rugby next year and put himself into serious contention for the national side.
The Cheetahs' defence still needs work
In an interview with SA Rugby magazine at the end of the Super Rugby season, new Cheetahs coach Franco Smith said that while he wanted his side to play an attractive brand of rugby in the coming Currie Cup, defence would still be a top priority. The Cheetahs, after all, had been the worst defensive side in Super Rugby, conceding the most points (531) and tries (65). However, Free State shipped 57 points and six tries in their first Currie Cup game, at home against the Bulls, and while they haven't been that bad on defence since, they did miss 24 tackles against the Kings on Friday night. Clearly there's still work to be done.
Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images