Five lessons from the Currie Cup semi-finals, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Lions pack sets them apart
The Golden Lions scrum has been the best in this year's Currie Cup, and it dominated the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday, with Thomas du Toit and Matt Stevens being substituted after a first half they'll want to forget. The Lions' front-row depth allows them to start with Schalk van der Merwe, Robbie Coetzee and Ruan Dreyer, and then bring on another two quality players in Julian Redelinghuys and Armand van der Merwe during the second half. The latter is an ideal impact player, and it was no surprise to see him score yet another try this season. The Lions also have a good lineout and three strong ball-carriers in loose forwards Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel and Warren Whiteley. And with their pack in charge, the Lions backs get front-foot ball that allows them to attack from almost anywhere.
A tighthead prop's fight is out
Stevens was dominated at scrum time by Van der Merwe at Ellis Park because he was scrumming in at an angle instead of slightly out. That allowed the Lions loosehead to get under Stevens and pop him. In the past, Stevens could have relied on his weight advantage to dominate the hit and get into the correct position, but with the hit having been removed from the engagement process, the technically better scrummager now tends to come out on top.
Demetri Catrakilis is Western Province's ideal 10 for the play-offs
Catrakilis may not unleash his outside backs as well as Kurt Coleman, but he showed at Newlands on Saturday why he should be starting for Province at this stage of the season. Teams inevitably play more conservatively in do-or-die knockout games and goal-kicking becomes even more important. Against the Bulls, Catrakilis slotted two conversions, three penalties and a late drop goal that gave WP a 16-point lead with six minutes to go. The 25-year-old also kicked well out of hand, and it was his clever grubber that was collected by Kobus van Wyk just inside the right touchline, with the winger giving the try-scoring inside pass to Cheslin Kolbe. Earlier in the move, Catrakilis had kicked an up and under that had got WP the field position and enabled them to turn over possession from Akona Ndungane.
Handré Pollard should have started at flyhalf for the Bulls
You didn't need the benefit of hindsight to know that Pollard should have worn the Bulls No 10 jersey against Western Province, with Ulrich Beyers replacing the injured Burger Odendaal at inside centre and Jesse Kriel starting at fullback. Pollard showed in the Rugby Championship how he can spark a backline when he's at flyhalf and he was unable to do that at 12 for the Bulls with Jacques-Louis Potgieter at 10. The 20-year-old also should have been the Bulls' first-choice goal-kicker, having successfully done the job for the Boks. Potgieter's three missed penalties in the first half could have made all the difference to a Bulls team that ultimately fell eight points short.
Quick penalty taps can result in seven points instead of three
Aaron Smith got the All Blacks back into the third Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane when he tapped a penalty 5m out, caught the Wallabies defence napping and scored a crucial try. Nic Groom dotted down in similar fashion for WP late in the first half of the Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands to give his side a 25-3 lead. Both penalties would have been a certain three points if the captains had pointed to the posts, but quick thinking from the scrumhalves got their teams seven instead.
Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images