Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Some officials don't know what a forward pass is
With the Sharks leading 26-13 in Albany after 67 minutes, Blues centre Ma'a Nonu gave a forward pass to Tevita Li, who dived over in the left-hand corner. New Zealand referee Nick Briant went upstairs following protests from the Sharks and TV replays clearly showed the ball going forward from the hands of Nonu, who was 7-8m out from the tryline, and being received by Li just before the 5m line. Yet the TMO said the pass was 'fine' and the converted try brought the visitors right back into the game. Former Blues scrumhalf Alby Mathewson, who's now with the Force, summed up the decision best when he tweeted afterwards: 'What is a forward pass these days? Obviously not a pass that goes forward.'
The Sharks must improve their discipline
Jake White's men have recorded two massive wins in the past two weeks. They won in Christchurch for the first time ever, despite playing 54 minutes of the match with 14 men and 10 with 13, and consigned the Blues to their first home defeat of the season, despite having 14 men for 20 minutes. While White will be pleased with the mental strength his players have showed when at a numerical disadvantage, he will be worried that, at some point, indiscipline will cost them victory. A red card for dirty play and three yellow cards for cynical infringements in two matches is not good enough for a side that has serious title ambitions.
TMOs should be neutral
It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: All Super Rugby officials, including the TMO, should be neutral. There have been far too many home-town, game-changing decisions made this season, the latest in Perth on Saturday. With the Lions leading 9-3 late in the first half, Australian TMO Peter Marshall alerted the referee to 'foul play' involving Corné Fourie, who he said had tackled Nathan Charles without using his arms. TV replays showed the loosehead prop had done little wrong, yet he was sent to the sin bin and the Force scored two crucial tries while he was off. A Kiwi TMO may also have got the decision wrong, but at least there would be no accusations of bias, which was again the case here.
The Bulls have realistic play-off hopes
The three-time champions made a big statement when they smashed the Brumbies 44-23 at Loftus on Friday night. The win briefly took them to sixth on the log, and while they later slipped to ninth, they are just three log points behind the Force, Hurricanes and Highlanders, and two log points behind the fading Brumbies and Chiefs. With matches against the Lions (away), Stormers (away) and Rebels (home) to come, the ever-improving Bulls will back themselves to sneak into the play-offs.
Damian de Allende's best position is 12
De Allende was set to start on the wing against the Cheetahs at Newlands, but Jean de Villiers's knee injury saw him move to inside centre, where he has played often this season. And the 22-year-old showed why it is his best position and the one where he will eventually settle. His physicality saw him dominate on attack and defence, while his excellent passing skills were evident in the build-up to Kobus van Wyk's try. De Allende has been included in the 36-man Bok training squad, and at this rate it won't be long before we see him wearing green and gold.