Five lessons from the fourth round of Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Don't celebrate a match-winning penalty before it's been kicked
With five seconds remaining in the game at Loftus, and the scores level at 16-16, Arno Botha took the ball up for the Bulls inside their 22. The No 8 was brought to ground and, with Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee over the ball, was penalised for holding on. The Sharks celebrated wildly, knowing that Joe Pietersen just had to slot the simple penalty to give them a fourth consecutive win. Except the flyhalf botched it, and the looks of elation on the visitors' faces turned to stunned disbelief. Considering that Pietersen had missed a similar kick last year that cost the Cheetahs victory against the Reds, it would have been wise to save the celebrations for when the ball went over the crossbar.
The Sharks must be more clinical on attack
The Durban-based side's defence has improved tremendously this season – they've conceded just five tries in four matches – but their attacking game still needs work. While Joe Pietersen's penalty miss will be remembered by most as what cost the Sharks victory, they also blew two clear try-scoring opportunities earlier on that could have made all the difference. JP Pietersen's pass to Paul Jordaan was intercepted by Warrick Gelant when the visitors should have moved the ball inside. The Sharks wing then made another mistake when he drew the defence and threw a high pass to Jordaan, who knocked on over the tryline. Better finishing from the Sharks and Joe Pietersen may have been able to kick that last-minute penalty into touch instead of at goal.
The Stormers can win a tactical-kicking battle
'Smart rugby' was the term used by Robbie Fleck, Siya Kolisi and Stephen Moore to describe the Stormers' approach to Saturday night's match against the Brumbies. The Cape franchise frustrated their opponents, who had scored 15 tries in their first three matches, by kicking for territory and turning their big backs, and forwards, around. This prevented the Brumbies from building momentum, forced them to play from deep and reduced the influence of their fetchers. The Stormers kicked 31 times in the match (compared to the Brumbies' 22) and enjoyed 70% of the territory, while only 7% of the game was played inside the Stormers' 22. It may not have been pretty to watch for those who prefer a ball-in-hand approach, but it was highly effective as the hosts beat the form team of this year's Super Rugby tournament 31-11.
The Cheetahs' defence remains their Achilles heel
You didn't need to be a rugby guru to know that the Cheetahs' defence was going to cost them Saturday's game against the Lions at Ellis Park. Going into round four, the Cheetahs had missed the most tackles in the tournament, while the Lions had beaten the most defenders and made the second most running metres. Cheetahs coach Franco Smith insisted before the game that his side had worked hard on their defence and that individual errors, rather than their defensive system, had been to blame for their past problems. Whatever the case, the Cheetahs went on to miss 20 tackles in the first half against the Lions and concede four tries in 42 minutes. The visitors fought back to score three tries that added some respectability to the scoreline, but unless they sort out their defence, they will be playing for pride a lot this season.
The Jaguares' high-risk approach can be costly
Argentina's Super Rugby franchise, like their national team, play a highly entertaining ball-in-hand brand of rugby. On Saturday night, they scored three tries against the Chiefs, including a brilliant 90m-breakaway effort late in the game that had the capacity crowd of 24,000 at the Vélez Sarsfield on their feet. However, the hosts were sometimes guilty of taking too many risks inside their own 22, with handling errors costing them. That was the case, too, in their pre-season match against the Stormers, after which loose forward Leonardo Senatore admitted that while the Jaguares were comfortable with ball in hand, the coaches may need to be more strategic in Super Rugby. Saturday's 30-26 defeat to the Chiefs may prompt some more introspection.
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images