Five lessons from the third round of Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Penalty tries should only be awarded for obvious foul play
Saturday's match at Newlands turned in the Sharks' favour in the 45th minute when they were awarded a controversial penalty try. Cobus Reinach had reached out to place the ball on the tryline only for it to make contact with Siya Kolisi's left boot and go loose. Replays showed that Kolisi had not kicked the ball, but simply put his left foot down after coming across to defend. According to Law 10.2 (a), 'a penalty try must be awarded if the offence prevents a try that would probably otherwise have been scored. A player who prevents a try being scored through foul play must either be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off.' Kolisi clearly did not kick the ball away – he had to put his left foot somewhere – and was therefore not guilty of foul play. After the game, both coaches, Robbie Fleck and Gary Gold, said a penalty try should only have been awarded if Kolisi had intentionally tried to kick the ball away. The replays strongly suggested that there had been no intent at all from Kolisi, and the TMO Marius Jonker should have told the referee that. Instead, the Stormers conceded a crucial seven points and had to play the next 10 minutes with 14 men.
The Stormers' attack lacks variation
The Cape franchise began their Super Rugby campaign with a bonus-point win against the Bulls, but they only scored three tries (two by forwards) and it was their excellent defence that secured the bonus point under the tournament's new system. The Stormers' attack was too lateral and predictable against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein a week later, and it was the same case against the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday. As mentioned in this column last week, the Sharks' defence has improved a lot since last season, but the Stormers' lack of variation on attack made it that much easier for their opponents to shut them down. The Stormers had 58% of the possession, but were only able to score one try, and it came when they tried something different, with Cheslin Kolbe's kick behind the Sharks' defence being collected by Leolin Zas.
The Highlanders are lethal in broken play
In Dunedin on Saturday, the Lions were trailing 10-3 early in the second half when Ruan Combrink was bundled into touch just inside the Highlanders' 22. They were then caught unawares by Ben Smith's quick throw-in to Aaron Smith and the scrumhalf passed back inside to his namesake, who raced 60m to score a try. The hosts were gifted another through an interception and then struck a killer blow when they forced a turnover on their 10m line. The ball went wide to Gareth Evans, who found Ben Smith on his inside and he put Malakai Fekitoa away for a try that made it 31-3 after 55 minutes. Game over. The Highlanders are a tough team to defend against when you have time to organise your defence. When you don't, you're going to be punished.
There's a big difference between the Cheetahs' first and second-choice front rows
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith opted to give Ox Nche, Jacques du Toit and Johan Coetzee starting opportunities against the Sunwolves, a team they were expected to beat comfortably, with his first-choice front row of Charles Marais, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Maks van Dyk on the bench as an insurance policy. And Smith was grateful to have them to call upon when his side trailed 28-13 at the break and were facing an embarrassing defeat. The Cheetahs scrum had failed to impose itself in the first half, conceding a tighthead on one occasion, but took charge after Van Dyk, who came on late in the first half, was joined by Van Jaarsveld and Marais early in the second. With set-piece dominance the Cheetahs were able to fight their way back from 18 points down to record a one-point win.
The Kings can't compete for 80 minutes
The Eastern Cape franchise were level at 8-8 with the Sharks after half an hour of their opening Super Rugby match in PE, before slumping to a 43-8 defeat. And it was a similar story against the Chiefs on Saturday at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The Kings led 12-10 after 27 minutes, but went on to suffer a 58-24 loss. Yes, the Kings showed great commitment on defence at times, but the harsh reality is they have shipped 101 points in their first two games, both of which were at home. What's going to happen when they take on the Crusaders in Christchurch and the Hurricanes in Wellington over the next two weeks?