Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
South African sides' balls skills are not good enough
Nick Mallett let rip after the Sharks-Cheetahs match in Durban and rightly so. It was a poor advertisement for South African rugby with a large number of errors and poor decision-making from both sides. Players often ran cross-field, instead of straight, which resulted in overlaps going to waste, and too many passes were not timed properly. While the Sharks got going in the final 10 minutes, the best part of this game was the final whistle. The Stormers-Lions match at Newlands was not much better.
South African players can be upskilled
When Jacques Potgieter was at the Bulls he was used almost exclusively as a battering ram. The Waratahs, though, have helped him to become a much more-rounded player as was evident by his performance against his former side in Sydney on Saturday. The flanker is still highly effective at the gainline, but now also passes in contact when it's on and doesn't just look to go to ground. Potgieter's evolution as a player shows what can happen when ball skills are seen as a top priority by coaching staff.
The Stormers have decided to break the shackles
When Gert Smal was appointed WP director of rugby recently, he said he wanted WP and Stormers teams to attack more with ball in hand. And that's what happened at Newlands on Saturday. The Stormers ran the ball a lot, especially in the first half, with a quick penalty tap from Jean de Villiers resulting in a try for Damian de Allende, and De Allende then stepping and drawing two defenders to put Nizaam Carr over. At half-time, Nic Groom spoke excitedly about the way they had played and said this was the way the players wanted to play. However, the Stormers were unable to add to their tally in the second half, and while this higher-risk approach worked against the Lions, a better team would have punished them for the mistakes they made inside their half.
The Cheetahs are more competitive when they adopt a balanced approach
The 14th-placed Bloemfontein franchise may not have beaten the top-of-the-log Sharks in Durban on Saturday, but they were within striking distance of their opponents for large periods of the game thanks to their more conservative approach that saw more tactical kicking and better defence, and less running the ball from everywhere. A lot of the tactical kicking was aimless (from both sides) but at least the Cheetahs finally seem to have realised that what worked for them in 2013, when they reached the play-offs, can work again in 2014.
This is not the worst Crusaders team since 1996
That's what I called Todd Blackadder's men after they suffered a third defeat in five matches this season, and it's come back to bite me. Since then, the Saders have won three in a row, against the Lions and Cheetahs in South Africa and the champion Chiefs in Hamilton and are now sixth on the combined log, just three log points behind the Chiefs. Anyone want to bet against them winning the New Zealand conference now?
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images