Five lessons from the seventh round of Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Jean-Luc du Plessis can do the job at flyhalf for the Stormers
Super Rugby-season ending knee injuries to Robert du Preez and Kurt Coleman forced Stormers coach Robbie Fleck to give Du Plessis the No 10 jersey for their match against the Sunwolves on Friday night. And the 21-year-old justified his selection with an impressive performance at Newlands. While he missed four of his nine goal kicks, the son of former Bok and WP winger Carel was good with ball in hand. It was his double skip pass that put Kobus van Wyk away for a try in the right-hand corner, and another well-timed pass resulted in Sikhumbuzo Notshe's second. Du Plessis then scored a try himself late in the game when he intercepted a Sunwolves' pass, broke away down the left-hand touchline, kicked ahead and then regathered to dive over in the corner. He also showed good kicking skills out of hand, with his chip kick off the inside of his boot in the fifth minute of the match being collected by Johnny Kotze. Du Plessis will go into the Stormers' next clash against the Lions, and his personal battle with the in-form Elton Jantjies, full of confidence.
The Stormers need a specialist fetcher
The Cape franchise won eight turnovers against the Sunwolves – two from flyhalf Du Plessis and one each from openside Notshe, blindside Siya Kolisi, replacement No 8 Nizaam Carr, loosehead Oli Kebble, replacement tighthead Frans Malherbe and fullback Cheslin Kolbe. However, they missed having a specialist fetcher, who could not only win turnovers but slow down opposition ball on the ground. It didn't prove costly against one of the weaker sides in the competition, but it may be against opposition that can make better use of quick ruck ball.
The Lions can produce a complete performance
Johann Ackermann's men were criticised after their loss to the Crusaders at Ellis Park in round six, because while they scored four tries through their impressive attack, their leaky defence conceded six. The challenge for the Lions going into their round seven clash against the Sharks in Durban, was to show that they could play a balanced game. And they rose to it, scoring two unanswered tries in a 24-9 win. According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Lions were forced to make 137 tackles compared to the Sharks' 112 and kicked 24 times out of hand compared to their opponents' 18. Importantly, the Lions' tactical kicking was accurate, helping them to gain territory and put the Sharks under pressure. If the Lions continue to play smart rugby like this, they will finish top of the Africa 2 conference and reach the Super Rugby playoffs.
Jesse Kriel can pass
Before the match in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, SuperSport analysts Nick Mallett and Ashwin Willemse both said that Kriel had to learn to pass more, especially if he was playing in the midfield. Afterwards, Mallett chirped that Kriel, who ended up passing six times in the game, must have listened to them. The 22-year-old unselfishly passed to Jamba Ulengo in the 20th minute when he would almost certainly have scored himself had he held on to the ball, and then sent the winger away for his second try in the 48th minute after offloading brilliantly in the tackle.
Julian Savea is pulling his weight again
The out-of-shape All Blacks winger was dropped for the Hurricanes' match against the Kings two weeks ago and sent away to work on his fitness. Savea therefore had a point to prove when he was recalled to the Canes' starting XV for their match against the Jaguares in Wellington on Saturday. And prove it he did, scoring a hat-trick in his side's 40-22 bonus-point win. His first two came late in the first half when he dragged two defenders over with him to score in the left-hand corner, and he then chased down TJ Perenara's kick ahead for his second. Savea's third came in the 63rd minute, when he received Willis Halaholo's long pass 10m out from the tryline and dived over. The smile on his face said it all. 'The Bus' was back.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images