What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

All Super Rugby officials should be neutral
The Lions would have claimed a famous comeback win against the Highlanders in Dunedin had TMO Vinny Munro, a New Zealander, not denied Warwick Tecklenburg a try when he scored against the base of the post. There's little doubt that try would have been awarded had the game been at Ellis Park and the TMO been South African, which is why there should be an Australian in the TMO booth when a New Zealand side plays one from South Africa. That would remove the obvious home-town bias that we have seen throughout this season. However, neutral officials won't prevent all blunders from being made, as shown by Australian referee Angus Gardner's decision not to let Elton Jantjies re-take his conversion attempt after the hooter, when the Highlanders had clearly charged him before he had begun his run-up.

The Sharks must do more with ball in hand
Jake White's side has earned just two bonus points for scoring four tries, in 11 matches this season. Not achieving bonus points was understandable in February and March, when humid conditions in Durban made handling difficult, but we were told the Sharks would evolve their game as the season progressed and become more of an attacking threat. That hasn't happened, and in the past three weeks the Sharks have been kept tryless by the Highlanders and Brumbies, and scored just one against the Rebels. In total, the Sharks have scored just 18 tries this season, compared to the Chiefs' 35 and Brumbies' 30, which isn't good enough for a side with serious title ambitions.

Running straight creates space on the outside
It's a simple lesson, but one that some teams still haven't learned. Running straight at a defender, and drawing him before passing, creates space on the outside, as we saw with the Stormers' two tries at Loftus. In contrast, the Cheetahs backs played too far behind the advantage line and passed too soon, which allowed the flat Force defence to shift wide and shut them down in Bloemfontein.

Turnover ball is invaluable
Both of the Stormers' tries at Loftus came from turnover ball, as did the Force's against the Cheetahs. Turnover ball so often results in a try being scored because the team that was attacking suddenly has to defend but doesn't have time to organise its defence. That's why it's so important for a side to protect its ball at the ruck, why a specialist fetcher like Heinrich Brüssow is so valuable, and why it's important to keep turnover ball in hand, rather than kick it away as the Bulls did on Saturday.

The Hurricanes can win ugly
Along with the Chiefs, the Canes have scored the most tries in Super Rugby this season (35) but they showed in Melbourne that they can grind out victories too. Conrad Smith scored their only try of the match, and with the Rebels slowing the ball down and defending well, the visitors relied on Beauden Barrett's boot to get them home. The Hurricanes are second in the New Zealand conference, five points behind the Chiefs, and their remaining five matches are all against Kiwi opposition.

Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images

Post by

Simon Borchardt