What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the 12th round of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.

The Lions have both character and courage
There is no doubt the Lions came into Saturday’s clash against the Blues with a serious point to prove. After impressing for so much of the season, the Lions were humbled by the Hurricanes in a 50-17 hammering that preceded their bye last weekend. The manner in which they responded was always going to say a lot about the character and credentials of this team, and boy, did they make a resounding statement at Ellis Park. Despite the heavy rain, they executed a virtually flawless all-round performance, with their forward pack delivering up front, while Elton Jantjies produced a mature tactical showing at flyhalf. Lionel Mapoe made another strong claim for the Bok No 13 jersey as he went over for a hat-trick of tries, but the Lions really deserve credit for an ambitious and impressive team performance that’s taken them back to the top of the South African group.

Pieter-Steph du Toit lays strong claim on the Bok No 5 jersey
One of the few bright sparks in an eminently forgettable Stormers performance against the Sunwolves came from towering lock Pieter-Steph du Toit. The former Sharks second rower has been in outstanding form all season, and again simply immense for the Stormers in Singapore. He was instrumental in helping the Stormers launch their much-needed comeback to secure a draw, playing an important role in the first try he also ended up scoring in the 60th minute. Lood de Jager has endured an indifferent season, and although he was impressive against the Kings, Du Toit could well be in line to wear the Bok No 5 jersey against the Irish.

Pat Lambie has nerves of steel
The Sharks looked destined to have to settle for a draw against the Jaguares in the early hours of Sunday morning (SA time). Yet, as the match in Buenos Aires moved into the final minute with the scores deadlocked at 22-22, the Sharks won one last penalty. Up stepped Lambie, calmly slotting the far-from-easy angled shot at goal to land his sixth penalty of the night and hand the Sharks an all-important victory. Before the match, some pundits had questioned whether the Sharks should have stuck with in-form Garth April as the starting flyhalf, but Lambie's experience and composure proved invaluable. In the hostile environment of Buenos Aires, he once again displayed the nerves of steel that were most memorably on display when he also slotted a match-winning penalty against the All Blacks at Ellis Park in 2014.

The Bulls remain a work in progress
When the Bulls produced an impressive performance to overpower the Force in their first tour game in Australia, it extended their undefeated run to seven games. It also incited real belief that this Bulls side was on the up, and strengthened their playoff ambitions. However, the Bulls were brought back down to earth when they suffered a disappointing defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra, while they again looked completely out of sorts against the Waratahs on Saturday. It’s changed the complexion of the Bulls’ resurgence, and served as a reminder that they are not quite yet the complete product.

Overseas-based players will add great value to the Boks
Earlier this year, there were some question marks over whether the new Bok coach would have free rein to continue selecting overseas-based players. Some pundits also suggested there should be a greater intent to pick players who plied their trade in South Africa. Yet, this past weekend there were again reminders as to why the status quo quite correctly remains unchanged. Bismarck du Plessis and Demetri Catrakilis were outstanding in Montpellier’s European Challenge Cup win over Harlequins, while the likes of Pierre Spies and Paul Willemse also exhibited how an overseas sojourn can bring the best out of players. Johan Goosen has been impressive for Racing all year, while Schalk Brits started in Saracens’ impressive win in the Champions Cup final.

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis