Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Bulls need Victor Matfield back in blue
Matfield was missed in Napier on Saturday. The Bulls lineout, which had been so impressive under his on-field guidance in recent weeks, was average without him and they lost two of their own throws. But they also missed Matfield's calming presence and authority that comes with 130 Super Rugby and 110 Test caps. The 36-year-old was supposed to have been rested for the duration of the Bulls Australasian tour – and perform the role of forwards and attack coach – but the one positive to come out of the tour-ending injuries suffered by loose forwards Deon Stegmann and Dewald Potgieter is that it has forced Matfield's return to the match 23 as lock cover (with Grant Hattingh promoted to the starting XV) for their match against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday. The more time Matfield spends on the field, as a substitute or a starter, the better for the Bulls.
The Crusaders jersey still has power over some
This is the worst Saders side since the inaugural Super 12 in 1996, yet they were able to beat the Lions by 21 points at Ellis Park. The Lions played like they were up against a champion Crusaders team, not the average mob that has already lost three matches this season. Put the Saders in Griffons jerseys and the Lions probably would have won comfortably.
Gert Smal's appointment as WP director of rugby will not be a quick fix
OK, we knew this already. But the Stormers' loss to the Waratahs at Newlands rammed home the fact that it will take time to get the franchise back to where it was in 2010 (serious title contenders).
Super Rugby must have neutral officials
In the 16th minute of the Cheetahs match against the Chiefs in Bloemfontein, Willie le Roux counter-attacked and floated a long pass – that went metres forward – to Rayno Benjamin, who ran under the posts. Referee Craig Joubert went upstairs to the TMO, fellow South African Deon van Blommenstein, and despite TV replays clearly showing the forward pass, both said that it wasn't clear and obvious. It was a poor decision and one that gave the home side a 14-3 lead. Earlier in the day, Kiwi referee Steve Walsh had a shocker in Napier, awarding the Hurricanes two controversial penalties (at a scrum and then at a ruck) that resulted in six points – and the hosts went on to win by five. There have been enough instances of referees unconsciously favouring a team from their country this season for Sanzar to revert back to its system of neutral referees. The assistant referees and TMO should also be neutral.
The Chiefs are Super Rugby's comeback kings
The defending champions scored three tries in the last 10 minutes of their match against the Bulls at Loftus to snatch a 34-34 draw. And in Bloemfontein on Saturday, they trailed 34-10 with 27 minutes remaining, before scoring five tries – the last of which again came in the last play of the game – to draw 43-43. The rest of the Super Rugby field now knows that no matter how far you are ahead of the Chiefs, the game is never over.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images