Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Bulls rely too heavily on their maul as a try-scoring source
Two of the Bulls' three tries in their draw against the Chiefs at Loftus two weeks ago came from their powerful driving maul. However, in Dunedin on Friday, the Highlanders were able to stop that maul, and the Bulls' attacking threat was reduced. While the visitors were still able to score two tries, one from a clever kick ahead and another after the full-time hooter, they were unable to capitalise on half-a-dozen other try-scoring opportunities that could have seen them build on their 13-3 lead and win the match. When the Bulls realised that kicking to the corner and setting up a lineout driving maul wasn't working, they tried to score in other ways but lacked variety on attack and were easily repelled by the Highlanders' defence.
You need a specialist fetcher against New Zealand teams
The Bulls, without Deon Stegmann, and the Cheetahs, without Heinrich Brüssow, were dominated at the breakdown by the Highlanders and Crusaders respectively, with the Saders scoring nine points in the first half from breakdown penalties. Fortunately for the Cheetahs, Brüssow made his return from a toe injury in the Vodacom Cup this weekend and should be back for their Super Rugby match against the Sharks on Saturday. Stegmann, though, faces at least another two weeks on the sidelines and the Bulls would be wise to go shopping for another specialist fetcher.
Mistakes are punished at Super Rugby level
The Lions made three mistakes in their match against the Crusaders that resulted in three tries. On Saturday at Ellis Park, having just got back to within three of the Sharks, they conceded a turnover from inside their half that resulted in a game-breaking try for Lwazi Mvovo. The Lions have exceeded expectations in Super Rugby this season, but need to lower their error rate if they are to consistently challenge the top teams.
The Crusaders are not done yet
Two weeks ago, after the Saders had suffered their third defeat in five matches, I wrote that they should no longer be referred to as 'seven-time champions' as they were more 'chumps' than 'champs' these days, and that losses to the Lions and Cheetahs would come as no surprise. I still don't think Todd Blackadder's team are serious title contenders, but the nine log points they picked up on their most successful South African tour since 2008 has shot them up the log and revived their play-off hopes.
The Honey Badger's got bite
Nick Cummins has attracted attention this season for his colourful post-match interviews, but on Saturday the Force wing showed that he can deliver on the field too. His hat-trick against the Waratahs in Perth propelled his team to their fifth consecutive Super Rugby win, the first time they've achieved that in their short history. His first try was a game-changer. The Tahs led 6-3 after 25 minutes and would certainly have scored a try had Cummins not perfectly timed his run off his tryline to intercept Nick Phipps's pass and then score at the other end. Cummins' third was the best of the lot as he wiggled out of one tackle and then managed to ground the ball over the line despite a defender's best attempts to hold him up.
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