Five lessons from the past week's Super Rugby pre-season matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Garth April can stand in for Pat Lambie
The Sharks' 29-21 win against Toulon in their first pre-season hit-out was marred by a shoulder injury to Lambie, which could rule the flyhalf and captain out for eight weeks. The pall of gloom hanging over the squad lifted a week later, though, when April scored 21 points in their 31-17 win against Toulouse. The 24-year-old, who won last year's Community Cup with Durbanville-Bellville, showed good touches with ball in hand, scoring a try, and slotted two conversions and four penalties. While not in Lambie's league, April showed he is good enough to start for the Sharks in their Super Rugby opener against the Kings in PE on 27 February.
The Sharks' defence has improved
It may have just been a friendly but the Sharks put their bodies on the line at the Stade Ernest-Wallon. Toulouse got themselves back into the game when hooker Corey Flynn scored a try to reduce the gap to eight points and only committed defence prevented them from getting over again. It's early days yet, but the Sharks' defence already looks a lot better under new defence coach Omar Mouneimne in 2016 than it did under Michael Horak in 2015.
The Jaguares shouldn't run the ball from everywhere
Argentina reached the semi-finals of last year's World Cup by playing an expansive game, but that high-risk approach contributed to their defeat to the Wallabies, who punished their mistakes. It was a similar story for the Jaguares in their pre-season match against the Stormers at Newlands. They refused to kick the ball when inside their 22 and their counter-attacks often resulted in turnovers. Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said afterwards that the Argentinians had 'played into our hands a bit', while Jaguares loose forward Leonardo Senatore admitted that while they were comfortable with ball in hand, the coaches may need to be more strategic in Super Rugby.
The Stormers have a strong scrum
The Pumas-laden Jaguares pack was expected to provide the Stormers with a stern examination up front, but it was the hosts who dominated the set piece, especially in the first half. Loosehead prop Oli Kebble got the best of tighthead Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, with JC van Rensburg failing to make the same impact when he came on in the second half. The two will compete for the Stormers No 1 jersey, following the departure of Steven Kitshoff to France.
The Bulls No 10 and 12 jerseys are still up for grabs
Francois Brummer and Jan Serfontein started at flyhalf and inside centre respectively against the Lions in Polokwane, but it was replacements Tian Schoeman and Burger Odendaal who enhanced their credentials. According to reports, Brummer produced an indifferent performance, while Odendaal gave the Bulls backline more purpose and direction. With time up, and the Bulls trailing 24-21, it was Odendaal who broke through the defence and was stopped just short of the line. The ball then came back to winger Jamba Ulengo, who scored the match-winning try.
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images