Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Schalk Burger is back to his best
If ever a player deserved to be on the winning side, it was Burger in Christchurch on Saturday. Having missed the Stormers' match against the Hurricanes through injury, the flanker produced a performance that would have had Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer smiling. Burger carried the ball 13 times, dominated the collisions and got over the gainline regularly. He also made 16 tackles, the most by anyone on the field. Burger sported a 'golf ball' lump on his cheek early in the match and continued to play without any regard for his own safety. If he maintains this kind of form, he'll walk back into the Bok squad in June.
Referees must penalise defenders who hold back players without the ball
In Christchurch, Owen Franks was penalised for holding on to Schalk Burger's jersey when he didn't have the ball, much to the delight of former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan. 'Burger held back badly … almost tackled as a defender. It is a HUGE blight on the game and something needs to be done,' tweeted Kaplan. 'Referees are doing very little to protect defenders being held back by attackers. Take a bow, [referee] Rohan Hoffmann! It's happening far too often.' Kaplan, though, was fuming later in the match when Frans Malberbe and Duane Vermeulen were both held back without the ball within the space of two minutes. On the second occasion, the Crusaders went on to score their only try of the match.
The Crusaders won't win an eighth title this year
The Saders are traditionally slow starters in Super Rugby, so this could come back to bite me, but without Dan Carter (who's on a sabbatical) and Richie McCaw (out for eight weeks with a broken thumb) the Class of 2014 look decidedly average. They began their campaign with two defeats (at home to the Chiefs and away to the Blues) and were lucky to beat the Stormers. The Crusaders may well go on to reach the play-offs, but they don't have the firepower to break their five-year title drought.
The Cheetahs have forgotten how to play winning rugby
Adrian Strauss's men reached last year's Super Rugby play-offs because they put as much emphasis on defence as they did attack. This year, though, they have fallen back into bad old habits. In the first half against the Reds in Brisbane, they missed nine tackles and conceded four tries. The Cheetahs were better on attack than they had been a week earlier in Melbourne but still went wide when they hadn't earned the right to and were easily shut down by the defence. If the Cheetahs are to turn things around, they need to start making their tackles and playing smarter rugby with ball in hand.
The Bulls need Deon Stegmann in their loose trio
The openside flanker, who missed the Bulls' first three matches because of a groin strain, made a big impact at the breakdown upon his return against the Blues at Loftus. As Nick Mallett pointed out in the SuperSport studio, the Bulls loose trio is far more balanced with Stegmann at 6, Jacques du Plessis in a ball-carrying role and Jono Ross at No 8.
Photo: Marty Melville/AFP Photo