Five lessons from the seventh round of Vodacom Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Burger Odendaal and Hanro Liebenberg can do the job for the Bulls
There must have been a few groans around Pretoria when the news came through that Jan Serfontein and Arno Botha had been ruled out of the Bulls' match against the Crusaders at Loftus. But they weren't missed much, with Odendaal and Liebenberg making the most of their opportunity to start. Odendaal had an outstanding Super Rugby debut, scoring his side's second try. He ran into space instead of at the man and his ability to step helped him beat eight defenders on the night. Liebenberg, in just his third Super Rugby match, also impressed, making eight ball-carries, two turnovers and two charge-downs.
Size does matter
There was only going to be one outcome when the 102kg, 1.86m Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo found the 80kg, 1.71m Stormers fullback Cheslin Kolbe between him and the tryline in Dunedin. Kolbe made the fatal error of trying to tackle the Fijian around the chest, rather than around the ankles, and was bounced off like he was in a pinball machine. Make no mistake, Kolbe's attempt was brave, but there's a difference between being brave and effective on defence. Kolbe is a fantastic player on attack, as he showed when he sparked Juan de Jongh's try, but his inability to bring bigger men to ground shows why Heyneke Meyer has not yet selected him for the Springboks.
Rested Boks will be missed
Allister Coetzee had to rest the world's best No 8 for the Stormers' match against the Highlanders, as part of Saru's request for the Boks not to play more than five consecutive matches in this year's Super Rugby tournament. And boy, was Duane Vermeulen missed, as the Stormers struggled to get over the advantage line and lost the collisions. At Kings Park, the Sharks missed regular halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie, with Conrad Hoffman and Frans Steyn producing poor performances. Hoffman was substituted midway through the second half, while Steyn was shifted to his preferred position of inside centre. The Sharks, at least, were still able to beat the Force. The Stormers, without their captain and key player, began their four-match tour with a heavy defeat.
These Lions love to travel, but must kick on at home
The Lions left Australasia with three wins and 12 log points after the most successful tour in the franchise's history. The victories may have come against three of the weaker sides in the tournament – the Blues, Rebels and Reds – but any win overseas is worth celebrating. Warren Whiteley's men now need to take that momentum into their run of three home matches, against the Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs, as while their tour success has made up for two home losses early in the season, they can't afford to lose again at Ellis Park if they want to get into play-off contention.
The Cheetahs must improve their discipline
In Christchurch two weeks ago, the Cheetahs conceded four tries while Willie le Roux was in the sin bin for a high tackle, with the Crusaders turning a 14-10 deficit into a 38-14 lead. And on Saturday, a yellow card again cost the men from Bloemfontein dearly when Heinrich Brüssow, who had been superb until then, made a cynical infringement at the breakdown. When the flanker left the field in the 66th minute, the Chiefs were ahead just 23-20. When he returned, it was 37-20 and the game was all but gone.
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