Five lessons from the past weekend's Super Rugby, Craven Week and Currie Cup qualifier matches according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Sharks can't just rely on their set piece to progress further in Super Rugby
The Sharks scrum won them the play-off qualifier against the Highlanders on Saturday. It was an early scrum penalty that resulted in a lineout driving maul and a try to Marcell Coetzee. The Sharks' second try, scored by Bismarck du Plessis, came after the Highlanders scrum had disintegrated on their line. And another scrum penalty allowed Frans Steyn to kick the Sharks ahead, 28-27, with six minutes to go. The hosts were also good at the lineout, winning all 12 of their throws and stealing two of the opposition's. But they weren't so good with ball in hand, especially when compared to a Highlanders team that ran great angles, passed accurately and refused to go to ground with the ball, which denied the Sharks the chance to organise their defence. If the Highlanders scrum had been more competitive, they would probably have won comfortably, considering the number of try-scoring opportunities they were able to create despite being smashed up front. And that will be a major concern for the Sharks, whose next opponents, the Crusaders, have an All Blacks-laden pack that will match them, as well as outstanding attacking backs. To win the semi-final in Christchurch, the Sharks need their backs to show greater attacking intent.
The Sharks must start Pat Lambie at 10 and Frans Steyn at 12 in Christchurch
Lambie made his long-awaited return from injury when he came off the bench with 12 minutes to go against the Highlanders, and he should start at flyhalf against the Crusaders, with Frans Steyn shifting to inside centre. Before suffering a torn bicep against the Bulls in March, Lambie had impressed at 10, playing flatter than he had in the past and threatening the defence. Steyn's best position is 12, where he can play off Lambie and use his physicality to give the Sharks' go-forward ball. White was right not to rush Lambie straight back into the starting XV for the play-off qualifier, but he now needs to back him for the semi-final.
Henry Speight will be worth the wait for the Wallabies
The Fijian-born Brumbies wing was sensational against the Chiefs in Canberra on Saturday, making 140m from 13 carries, four clean breaks and two offloads. His physicality and explosiveness saw him beat 11 defenders and constantly get his team over the advantage line. Speight will become eligible for the Wallabies this September, but could have worn an All Blacks jersey by now had he accepted an offer from the Chiefs in 2012 instead of re-signing with the Brumbies. Speight decided to commit to Australian rugby because his late grandfather, former Fiji president Josefa Iloilo, had always told him to be grateful to people who give you an opportunity. The Brumbies had given him a full-time two-year contract when the Chiefs had only wanted him to be part of their wider training squad, so he stayed in Canberra and dreamed of playing for the Wallabies. Speight expected that dream to be fulfilled in 2013, but because he had spent two months with Waikato in 2011, and IRB regulations state that a player must play in one country only for three consecutive years to become available for its national team, he and the Wallabies had to wait another 12 months. Judging by his performance on Saturday, it will be worth it.
Griquas will play in this year's Currie Cup Premier Division
Griquas beat the Leopards 33-32 in Kimberley earlier in the Currie Cup qualifying competition, but just one log point separated the two sides going into the final round of matches. With an inferior points difference to the Leopards, Griquas needed a bonus-point win against SWD on Saturday to ensure a place in the Premier Division, and they achieved it with a nine-try, 57-12 romp (the Leopards, meanwhile, humiliated the Border Bulldogs 103-15). The six ‘anchor’ unions of Super Rugby franchises (the Blue Bulls, EP Kings, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province) are guaranteed their places in the Premier Division for the next two seasons, so Griquas and the Pumas will have to finish in the top six on the log to avoid having to play in a qualifying competition next year.
EP's got talent
Eastern Province's 25-7 victory against South Western Districts in the unofficial Craven Week final in Middelburg showed there is no shortage of schoolboy talent in the Kings region. It also showed the importance of EP being promoted to the Currie Cup Premier Division this year and the Kings being welcomed back to Super Rugby in 2016, because that talent now has a reason to stay. In the past, Western Province would have had no problem in luring star EP U18 flyhalf Curwin Bosch (who they reportedly have an interest in) to Cape Town. Now the EPRFU at least has a fighting chance to keep him.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images