Five lessons from the third round of Vodacom Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Victor Matfield can still make an impact at this level
The 37-year-old Bulls lock was heavily criticised after the Bulls' loss to the Hurricanes, with former Bok prop Ollie le Roux accusing him of 'playing like an old man’ and no longer able to influence proceedings at Super Rugby level. Matfield responded by winding back the clock for the match against the Sharks at Loftus on Saturday and producing one of his best performances since coming out of retirement. He disrupted the Sharks lineout, stealing one of their throws, but also made an impact in open play, with seven carries and 10 tackles. The challenge for him now is to do it on a consistent basis.
Some officials still can't spot a forward pass
The Sharks had every right to feel aggrieved following their 43-35 loss to the Bulls, as a number of refereeing decisions went against them. The worst call came in the 25th minute when the Bulls were leading 9-6. Jesse Kriel made a strong run, but his pass clearly went forward – from his hands and after it left his hands – to Francois Hougaard, who scored the try. After initially being told by one of his assistants to check with TMO Johan Greeff that Bjorn Basson hadn't put a foot in touch earlier in the move, referee Jaco van Heerden decided he had better check Kriel's pass too. Incredibly, Greeff said it was not obvious the ball had gone forward from the fullback's hands and the try stood, much to the disgust of Sharks CEO John Smit, who tweeted at the time: 'Oh my word, losing to a better team on the day I can handle but these decisions so far will ruin my mood drastically.'
Coenie Oosthuizen can hold his own at tighthead prop against a quality loosehead
Heyneke Meyer would have been a happy man after watching the Cheetahs' 25-24 win against the Blues on Friday night. The Bok coach has insisted Oosthuizen has what it takes to become a good Test tighthead, and he will be even more convinced after the 25-year-old's display at scrum time. While Oosthuizen didn't dominate All Blacks loosehead Tony Woodcock, he certainly held his own. The Free Stater also impressed in open play, making three ball-carries and 13 tackles, which deservedly earned him the Man of the Match award.
The Cheetahs can win without the ball
The match in Bloemfontein provided another example of the fact that it's often better not to have the ball in modern-day rugby. Based on the stats supplied by the Vodacom Rugby App, the Blues should have won comfortably. Metres run: Blues 508, Cheetahs 237. Clean breaks: Blues 11 Cheetahs 3. Defenders beaten: Blues 30 Cheetahs 8. Tackles made: Blues 29, Cheetahs 130. The Blues also had 70% possession and almost 80% territory. Ultimately, their poor finishing and lack of patience in the red zone let them down, while the Cheetahs defended well at times and were prepared to put boot to ball. The hosts kicked out of hand on 23 occasions (a high figure considering how little ball they had), with flyhalf Joe Pietersen doing so nine times and fullback Willie le Roux 11. It was a smart strategy that helped secure four valuable log points.
A draw's not good enough for the Lions
In an amazing period of play after the hooter at Ellis Park on Saturday night, the Lions took the ball through a combined 35 phases, during which they were awarded two kickable penalties that would have secured a 22-22 draw. But having lost their first two fixtures, captain Warren Whiteley decided to go for a match-winning try, and his side came agonisingly close when Howard Mnisi had the ball knocked out of his hands by Damien de Allende as he was diving over the line. Mnisi then knocked on again after the Lions had taken another penalty tap, and the Stormers escaped with the victory. Perhaps it would have been more sensible for the Lions to take a draw against a defensively strong team like the Stormers, and get some reward for their efforts on the night.
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