Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Nizaam Carr belongs with the Boks
Carr was unlucky not to be included in the Bok squad for the June Tests, but if he carries on playing the way he did against the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday, a call-up is inevitable. The Stormers flanker made 42m from 11 carries, seven tackles, and got stuck in at the breakdown. Carr's performance is even more impressive when you take into account that he is currently fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which means he cannot eat or drink from dawn until sunset. Hopefully Carr gets an opportunity to prove himself at Test level in 2014, if not during the Rugby Championship then on the end-of-year tour.
The Sharks probably won't host a Super Rugby semi-final
Two consecutive defeats, to the Stormers in Durban in late May and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, have seen Jake White's side slip from first on the combined log to third. They now travel to Cape Town to face the in-form Stormers knowing that another loss would mean the hosting of a wildcard play-off, against the team that finishes sixth on the log, and then a trip Down Under for a semi-final, if they get that far. Even if they do beat the Stormers, the Sharks would need the Crusaders to slip up against the Highlanders in Christchurch if they are to finish second behind the Waratahs.
The future's bright for Johan Ackermann's Lions
The Lions have had a miserable time of it in Super Rugby since their Cats partnership with the Cheetahs came to an end. From 2006 to 2010 in the Super 14, the Joburg-based franchise won two, five, two, four and zero matches respectively. In an expanded tournament in 2011 and 2012, when the number of league matches per team increased from 13 to 16, the Lions recorded just three wins each season. Not many would have expected them to double that tally in 2014 following a year in the Super Rugby wilderness, but that's what they did when they beat the Rebels at Ellis Park on Friday night. The Lions deserve huge credit for what they have achieved this season. They have no big-name players, yet their forwards have dominated the set pieces and their backs threatened with ball in hand. If the Lions can retain the services of coach Johan Ackermann and players like Jaco Kriel, Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley, Faf de Klerk and Marnitz Boshoff they can build a team that can push hard for a play-off spot in the next two seasons. If that sounds fanciful, consider that the Force, who won just four matches last year, are currently seventh on the combined log.
Dan Carter must start at 10 for the Crusaders
Carter was at inside centre against the Blues in Christchurch, before moving to flyhalf for the final quarter when Colin Slade took a big knock from Ma'a Nonu. Carter has only played two matches since returning from a six-month sabbatical, but is already looking like his old self. His class was evident on Saturday, with his outstanding pass to winger Nemani Nadolo resulting in a decisive, 72nd-minute try. After a poor goal-kicking performance by Slade, Carter also kicked a penalty to give the Crusaders a 14-13 lead and converted Nadolo's try to make it an eight-point game. Carter, quite simply, is in a different league to Slade and should be running the show at 10.
The Hurricanes need Alapati Leiua in midfield
The Canes' season ended with a whimper when they lost 24-16 to the Chiefs in Hamilton, but things could have been different had Leiua been wearing the No 12 jersey. The physical Samoan, who injured a knee early in the match against the Crusaders last week, has made the fourth-most clean breaks this year (15) and beaten the fifth-most defenders (39). Without him to give the team go-forward, flyhalf Beauden Barrett didn't get front-foot ball and wasn't able to unleash the likes of Julian Savea.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images