Five lessons from the eighth round of Vodacom Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Sharks have failed to improve their discipline
The look on Pat Lambie's face when Jean Deysel was red-carded at Kings Park said it all. The Crusaders, who were leading 28-3, had just received three yellow cards in quick succession late in the first half and the Sharks, with 15 against 12, were in with a chance of scoring two or three tries to get themselves back into the match. But the Sharks were then reduced to 14 men when Deysel kneed Matt Todd in the back of the head as the Crusaders flank was lying at the bottom of a ruck. It was inexcusable behaviour, especially after Bismarck du Plessis had received a four-week ban for kicking a player in the head and Frans Steyn five weeks for a tip-tackle. Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold must have harped on about discipline over the past two weeks but it went in one Deysel ear and out the other. Embarrassingly for the Sharks, they conceded 14 points while they had a two-man advantage and could not score any themselves.
Don't switch off after taking the lead late in the game
When Jacques-Louis Potgieter slotted his sixth penalty to give the Bulls an 18-15 lead at Ellis Park with a minute to go, all the visitors had to do was secure possession from the restart and wind down the clock. But they lost concentration and failed to collect the quick kick-off, with Howard Mnisi taking play into the Bulls 22. The Lions then won a penalty from the subsequent ruck from which Armand van der Merwe scored the match-winning try. The Bulls should have split their forwards for that final restart, but instead found most of their big men on the right-hand side of the field, with only Pierre Spies and a few backs on the left-hand side where the ball was kicked to. It was an error that cost them three log points.
Saying sorry doesn't change the scoreboard
Australian referee Rohan Hoffmann apologised to the Stormers for missing a knock on from Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith when the visitors were 5m out from their opponents' tryline, although it was the assistant referee on that touchline who deserved most of the blame. The Canes were able to clear from Smith's 'turnover', won a penalty, kicked for touch and then scored a try from a cross-kick. It was potentially a 14-point turnaround. There was worse to come from the officials, as Nehe Milner-Skudder's try-scoring pass to Julian Savea appeared to go forward from his hand (Kiwi TMO Chris Wratt disagreed), while Reggie Goodes' hands were clearly on the deck before he made the turnover that resulted in a length-of-the-field try just before half-time (Jeremy Thrush was also offside at that ruck). While the Stormers were awarded a penalty try in the second half following a dominant scrum, refereeing decisions continued to go against them, with Huw Jones denied a try when the TMO ruled that he had played the ball from an offside position, and Hoffmann penalising the visitors for 'changing lanes' when they looked set to score from a lineout driving maul. With officials having such a big say in who wins and loses these days, it's no wonder rugby fans are becoming disillusioned with the sport.
The Stormers are missing former defence coach Jacques Nienaber
Gavin Rich wrote an excellent column in the Weekend Argus in which he said while the Stormers could quite rightly blame the referee for their loss in Wellington, they should also blame their poor defence. According to Rich, Nienaber left the Stormers to join Saru at the start of the year not because he was offered a better job, but because he had been accused of dominating attack coach Robbie Fleck. Ironically, the Stormers have yet to score four tries in a match this season, and have conceded 11 tries in their last three matches, which they lost. That is not surprising when you consider that head coach Allister Coetzee is now doing Nienaber's old job (as Paul Treu apparently isn't ready to coach defence yet), which means the Stormers effectively don't have a defence coach.
Willie le Roux is nursing an ankle injury
The Cheetahs fullback was rested for the round-seven match against the Chiefs and should have been on the sidelines again in Canberra on Saturday. Le Roux, whose left ankle was strapped, spent 80 minutes hobbling around the field and couldn't step and accelerate as he normally does. In this World Cup year, no Springbok should be selected for a Super Rugby match if he's struggling with injury, especially one as valuable as Le Roux.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images