Five lessons from the 10th round of Vodacom Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Accurate tactical kicking wins matches
The Bulls kicked 33 times out of hand at Kings Park on Saturday (compared to the Sharks' 22), with Rudy Paige putting boot to ball on nine occasions and Handré Pollard 13. The visitors' halfbacks put the hosts' back-three under pressure with up-and-unders and box kicks that allowed the Bulls chasers to compete and regain possession. Cobus Reinach and Fred Zeilinga kicked seven and 10 times respectively, almost as much as their direct opponents, but weren't as accurate and were therefore unable to apply similar pressure to the Bulls' back-three.
Poor cleaning out can cost you possession
The SuperSport panel highlighted two instances of this during half-time of the match at Kings Park. In the first, Dean Greyling went straight past the ball on the ground, failed to make contact with any opposition players and fell over. A couple of minutes later, Grant Hattingh went to ground before the ball, close to the Sharks' tryline, and the Bulls lost possession. When entering a ruck a player needs to stay on his feet and clean the opposition player away, well past the ball. The Chiefs do this better than any team in Super Rugby and attract the first defender in the process.
The Bulls and Stormers are in a good position
Whoever wins the big north-south derby at Newlands on Saturday will be firm favourites to go on and win the South African conference. The Stormers brought themselves right back into contention by winning their last two tour matches, and will play five of their next seven games at home. The Bulls still have to go on tour, but will fancy their chances of beating the Blues, Brumbies and Rebels, with only the Chiefs posing a truly daunting challenge. The Lions, who travel to Loftus in two weeks' time, will still believe they can top the conference, but the Sharks and Cheetahs' play-off hopes are over.
The Cheetahs will battle without Heinrich Brüssow
Player losses don't come much bigger for a team with few big names, than Brüssow. The openside flanker left the field in the 14th minute of the Cheetahs' match against the Reds in Bloemfontein because of an arm injury. Brüssow had made 21 tackles in 21 attempts during his side's win against the Force in Perth and it's no wonder they suffered defensively without him against the Reds, especially in the second half. He was also missed at the breakdown as the Reds were able to get quick ruck ball from which to attack.
The Crusaders will struggle to make the play-offs
The Saders' 52-10 win against the Sharks in Durban appears to have been a false dawn rather than the turning point of their campaign. Two consecutive defeats in Christchurch, to the Highlanders and Chiefs, have seen them slip to 10th on the log, and they are in real danger of failing to make the play-offs for the first time since 2001. The Crusaders posed little threat on attack on Saturday, with their main strike weapon Nemani Nadolo not touching the ball until the 50th minute. Richie McCaw was outplayed by Sam Cane, Dan Carter missed some crucial goal kicks and their forwards struggled at the set pieces, losing three of their own lineouts. The Saders have gained a reputation for finishing Super Rugby tournaments strongly, so you'd be a fool to write them off now, but they have left themselves with a lot to do.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images