Five lessons from the opening round of Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Stormers' forwards pack a punch, the Bulls' don't
When the Bulls named their team for Saturday's match at Newlands, it was clear that while they had a good backline, their pack was inexperienced and could be exposed by the Stormers. And so it proved, with the hosts dominating the lineouts throughout the match – Eben Etzebeth made three crucial steals – and the scrums in the final quarter after coach Robbie Fleck replaced his starting front row of Oli Kebble, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch with the equally good trio of JC Janse van Rensburg, Scarra Ntubeni and Frans Malherbe. The Bulls also substituted their props towards the end of the third quarter, but Lizo Gqoboka and Hencus van Wyk weren't nearly as good as Trevor Nyakane and Marcel van der Merwe, with the scrum suffering as a result. However, the Bulls forwards' most alarming moment in the game came with three minutes to go when the Stormers set up a lineout driving maul on the opposition 22m line and almost ran over the tryline, with Ntubeni scoring what would prove to be the bonus-point try.
Robert du Preez can establish himself as the Stormers' first-choice flyhalf
Fleck's decision to start Du Preez ahead of the more experienced Kurt Coleman was vindicated when the 22-year-old was named Man of the Match. It certainly wasn't a perfect performance from the eldest Du Preez brother on his Super Rugby debut – his passing and kicking out of hand were inaccurate at times during the first half – but he scored his side's first try 11 minutes into the second half and his flawless goal-kicking display (three conversions and four penalties) saw him finish with a 23-point haul.
Willie le Roux will give the Sharks an attacking edge
The Bok fullback made his Super Rugby debut for the Sharks against the Kings in PE on Saturday. He had a mixed first half – on one occasion he ran across field which killed the space for winger Lwazi Mvovo – but came good early in the second when he joined the line, threw a dummy and then scythed through the defence to score a try. Le Roux, who left the field after 66 minutes, finished with 91 running metres from eight carries and two clean breaks.
The Kings will be the whipping boys of Super Rugby this season
The embattled Kings had a nightmare buildup to the tournament, so it was a surprise when they scored the first try of the match against the Sharks and were level at 8-8 after half an hour. However, they were unable to maintain that effort and fell apart in the second half to suffer a 43-8 defeat – at home. If they can concede six tries and miss 27 tackles against a Sharks team that made little impact on attack last season, how will they do against the five New Zealand franchises? Things could get as ugly for the Kings as their jerseys.
The Cheetahs scrum has improved
Six of the forwards who started for Argentina in their 2015 World Cup semi-final against Australia were in the Jaguares pack that took on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs scrum was exposed by the Lions during last year's Currie Cup but more than held its own on Friday night with loosehead prop Charles Marais, hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld and tighthead prop Maks van Dyk all scrumming well. They were able to put the Jaguares scrum under pressure on a couple of occasions, and while the Cheetahs scrum collapsed on their ball a couple of times, they were still able to play it from the back. There's more work to be done, but it was an encouraging first outing that would have put a smile on the face of scrum coach Daan Human.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images