Five lessons from the fifth round of Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Sharks must spend less time defending
If the Sharks had beaten the Crusaders at Kings Park on Saturday night it would have been down to their huge defensive effort. With just 44% of the possession, the hosts were forced to make 107 tackles (they missed another 14), compared to their opponents' 53. However, the dam wall eventually broke in the 72nd minute when Crusaders captain Kieran Read scored what would prove to be the match-winning try after a 15-phase attack. At half-time, when the scores were locked at 7-7, Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said his side could not keep defending; they had to get their hands on the ball and keep it for as long as possible. They didn't, and the amount of time they spent defending eventually took its toll.
The Sharks can learn from the Crusaders' kicking game
That the hosts had just 33% of the territory was largely down to the visitors' accurate kicking game. The Crusaders, who kicked 29 times out of hand, rarely ran the ball from inside their own half, preferring to keep the Sharks pinned inside their half. They also regularly tested the Sharks' back three with high kicks, and their chasers did well to put them under pressure. The Sharks kicked 35 times, but the lack of accuracy meant the Crusaders were able to regain possession relatively easily and get back down the other end.
The Jaguares need to up their game
A lot was expected of the Jaguares coming into their debut Super Rugby season. They are Argentina's Test team in all but name, and after the Pumas' excellent World Cup campaign that saw them reach the semi-finals, the Jaguares were expected to at least reach the quarter-finals. However, just one win in their first four matches, including two defeats in a row at home, see them languishing in fifth place in the South African group. On Saturday night against the Stormers, the Jaguares had 62% of the possession and 63% of the territory yet suffered a 13-8 loss. The hosts made an unforgivable 23 handling errors, were dominated at the scrum and missed three crucial goal kicks, two of which were relatively simple, that cost them eight points. They will need to address all three of those areas if they are to start living up to their reputation and get themselves back into playoff contention.
Roelof Smit gives the Bulls an edge at the breakdown
The 23-year-old openside flanker secured two turnovers for the Bulls against the Sunwolves in Singapore and won two penalties by getting his body over the ball and forcing the tackler to hold on. Smit earned two Man of the Match awards during last year's Currie Cup before playing against Western Province with a broken wrist. The Bulls battled in that match partly because he was unable to slow down opposition ball as effectively as he had before, because of the injury. Judging by Saturday's performance, he is back to his best, which is good news for a franchise that has missed having a fetcher in previous Super Rugby campaigns.
The Kings' defence is getting better
The Eastern Cape franchise came into Friday's match against the Hurricanes in Wellington having conceded 21 tries in their first three fixtures. But their best defensive performance of the season restricted last year's finalists to five, two of which came late in the game. The Kings' defence was particularly impressive in the first half, and played a big part in them trailing just 19-17 at the break. The Hurricanes' decision to kick a penalty goal from straight in front rather than push for a try when they were leading 25-20 with 12 minutes to go, showed the respect the Kings had earned. While the Canes went on to win 42-20, it was the Kings who claimed a moral victory.
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