Five lessons from the past weekend's Super Rugby warm-up and Six Nations matches, as well as the Cape Town Tens, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Lions are going to be whipping boys again
The Sharks gave the Lions a big reality check going into this year's Super Rugby tournament when they went to Ellis Park and scored nine tries in a 57-14 win. You should never read too much into a warm-up match, but Lions coach Johan Ackermann will still be a worried man, especially considering the fact that the Sharks emptied their bench at the break and still went on to score 26 points in the second half. Once again, the Lions' high-risk attacking game and porous defence was exposed at this level, and it would be a surprise if they didn't finish last on the combined Super Rugby log, as they did in 2012.
Marshall's still got a lot to learn
Benji Marshall started his second consecutive warm-up match for the Blues at flyhalf, against the Waratahs in Sydney, and was reportedly outshone by the two Tahs 10s, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley, as well as the man who replaced him at half-time, Chris Noakes. The rugby league convert spent most of the first quarter tackling, before getting more attacking opportunities in the next 20. He passed a perfect short ball on one occasion, but surprised a team-mate with another pass that resulted in a knock-on, played too flat at times by his own admission, and failed to find touch with a penalty kick. 'It was a difficult night for him,' admitted Blues coach John Kirwan afterwards. 'He'll just keep learning …'
John Plumtree has got Ireland's forwards to fire
Plumtree's influence was evident yet again on Saturday when Ireland scored two tries after setting up driving mauls from a lineout. That had also been an impressive aspect of their game in their Six Nations opener against Scotland and against the All Blacks last November. Not only do they drive well from lineouts, but they have the ability to reset the driving maul when the defence manages to stop it, and then drive forward again. Plumtree has put in a lot of effort behind the scenes, and spent the six-week period leading up to the All Blacks game studying their lineout and pin-pointing where Ireland should throw the ball and set up the driving maul. The result was almost a famous win against the world champions.
Scotland's matches this year should be played at another venue
Former England No 8 Lawrence Dallaglio slammed the Murrayfield pitch, which has been in a poor state for many months due to a parasitic infection, saying there would not have been any meaningful scrums at all had it rained a bit harder. A new hybrid grass pitch will be installed later this year to be ready for the start of the 2014-15 season, but until then, Scotland should play at another stadium, as Dallaglio has suggested.
Rugby results don't matter much at the Cape Town Tens
I went to the Tens for the first time this weekend, and had a blast. It really is a great event. Rugby is played on several fields, while there is also a giant beer tent, which becomes a dance floor later on, a food tent, a VIP tent, and the Hamiltons club house. What amazed me was how much the majority of rugby players drink between games. One ex-Bok put on a metal mask that had a two-litre Coke bottle funnel on top. A tube, which went from the funnel through the mask to where his mouth was, transported the beer. I was also amused to see a clearly drunk player run on to the field as a substitute, play pretty well for 10 minutes, and then grab a beer as soon as he came off. Some of the top teams, like Maties and Western Province, probably took the event seriously and didn't drink at all, but the rest were more concerned about having a good time than the scoreboard.
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