Five lessons from the Springboks' Test against Scotland and round 17 of Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Handré Pollard is the real deal
The 20-year-old flyhalf made a superb start to his Test career, against Scotland in PE on Saturday, attacking the advantage line regularly, beating three defenders, and succeeding with six out of eight kicks at goal. Some players just look like they belong in Test rugby from the very start of their careers, and Pollard is one of them.
Schalk Burger's back to his best
There were still some questioning Burger's place in the Springbok squad coming into Saturday's Test, but they should have been silenced by the flanker's performance in PE. He got through a mountain of work during the 80 minutes, making 20 tackles, the most by any player on the field, and 13 carries.
Coenie Oosthuizen's scrummaging still needs work
South Africa's scrum was dominated by Scotland's in the first half of the PE Test, with Oosthuizen – making a rare start for the Boks at loosehead prop – being penalised on two occasions. Former Bok prop Cobus Visagie tweeted that Oosthuizen was 'getting dominated technically' by Scotland tighthead Geoff Cross, and asked, 'What is Coenie adding in the loose that makes up for his inability to scrum? SA has five other looseheads who will not be a liability in the scrum.' Visagie was no doubt pleased when Oosthuizen was substituted just nine minutes into the second half. In a recent interview with SA Rugby magazine, Heyneke Meyer said Oosthuizen 'had the natural ability to be one of the best looseheads in the game, but I had a gut feeling that with the right coaching he could be developed into one of the best tightheads.’ The Bok coach added that he had spoken to Oosthuizen about the areas he felt were vulnerable, namely 'the scrumming, consistency in scrumming and the know-how when it comes to scrumming.' The 25-year-old's performance in PE showed that he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to make a significant impact in either position at Test level.
The Waratahs will almost certainly finish top of the combined Super Rugby log
The Sharks' shock, after-the-hooter loss to the Stormers at Kings Park at the end of May has proved to be very costly for them. The Waratahs' 39-8 bonus-point win against the Brumbies on Saturday has taken them three points clear of the Sharks at the top of the combined log, with both teams having played 14 matches. The Sharks now need to win their remaining two games, against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and the Stormers in Cape Town, and hope the Tahs slip up, in order to regain the crucial No 1 spot. That looks unlikely, though. The Tahs have not lost in Sydney this season, where they will play the Highlanders, and should be far too good for the 12th-placed Reds in Brisbane. The Sharks may have to settle for second, which would still see them get a home semi-final but possibly have to travel Down Under for the final. If they slip to third, which could happen if they lose again in the league stage, their title hopes would be drastically reduced as they would host a play-off qualifier and then probably have to travel for the semi-finals and final.
New Zealand will have new conference winners this year
The Chiefs' 29-25 loss to the Highlanders was a massive blow to their play-off ambitions, and even if they do sneak into the top six, it's hard to see them going on to win their third consecutive Super Rugby title. They definitely will not be lifting the New Zealand conference trophy, though, having fallen six log points behind the Crusaders and Highlanders, who play each other on 12 July. The Chiefs are also five log points behind their next opponents, the Hurricanes, who beat the Crusaders 16-9 in Wellington on Saturday. That match will be the Canes' last of the league season (they have a bye in round 19) and one they have to win to ensure a spot in the play-offs.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images