Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Handré Pollard must start at flyhalf for the Bulls
Louis Fouché was average against the Sharks in the opening round and poor against the Cheetahs on Friday night. In the first half of the match in Bloemfontein, he kicked a restart directly into touch, did the same with a clearance kick when outside his 22, didn't get good distance on his kicks out of hand, and missed two important penalty goals. Frans Ludeke should have replaced him at half-time, but instead waited until the 46th minute. Pollard missed his first kick at goal but nailed his next two. He got good distance on his kicks out of hand, which found touch, and posed more of a threat with ball in hand than Fouché. The 19-year-old Baby Bok has to start for the Bulls against the Lions at Loftus on Saturday.
Marnitz Boshoff will be staying at 10 for the Lions
Elton Jantjies was ruled out of the Lions' opening Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs with a shoulder injury and watched as Boshoff booted all 21 of his side's points, including a last-minute, match-winning drop goal. Jantjies made his return this weekend in the Vodacom Cup but he won't be back at 10 for the Lions in a hurry. Boshoff was outstanding against the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday, kicking six penalties, three drop goals (the second from 50m out) and a conversion, and simply cannot be dropped.
Some referees are still not consistent enough at the breakdown
Before the tournament kicked off, Super Rugby teams were told that the tackler must roll away to the side immediately after making a tackle and that a player who assists in making the tackle must get back to his feet and show daylight before contesting the ball. However, New Zealand referee Chris Pollock allowed too much leniency in both these areas of the breakdown in Christchurch on Friday and the result was a mess. As John Mitchell pointed out in the SuperSport studio, the masters of the breakdown will exploit any inconsistency from officials, and hopefully it's something Sanzar manager of referees Lyndon Bray will address immediately.
Fullback is Benji Marshall's best position for now
The former rugby league star, who is playing his first season of union since the age of 17, started at flyhalf in all three of the Blues' pre-season matches. However, coach John Kirwan decided not to give him the No 10 jersey for their opening Super Rugby match, against the Highlanders, opting for the safer option in Chris Noakes. Marshall came off the bench with 20 minutes to go, at fullback, and brought energy to the Blues backline. He broke the Highlanders' defence, which until then had seemed impenetrable, and that led to a try that got the Blues back into the game. Marshall thrived without the play-making responsibility and limited space that come with the No 10 jersey, and should stay at fullback until he's properly settled in.
Always build scoreboard pressure
The Sharks were awarded a penalty early on, with Bismarck du Plessis opting to take a 5m scrum rather than kick for goal. They were then awarded another penalty, scrummed again, and the Hurricanes poached the ball and cleared. In the second half, Du Plessis, having learned his lesson, twice pointed to the posts and Pat Lambie's two penalties put pressure on the Canes to play catch-up – and they cracked when Lwazi Mvovo scored. That pressure could have been applied earlier, had the Sharks taken the three points when they were on offer.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images