What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the 14th round of Vodacom Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

Rohan Hoffmann is not a Super Rugby quality referee
The Australian had an absolute shocker in Sydney on Saturday, and it wasn't the first time this season. Stormers fans won't have forgotten how Hoffmann apologised to Duane Vermeulen for missing a knock-on in the buildup to a Hurricanes try in Wellington. The referee would also miss a forward pass and hands in the ruck that resulted in another two first-half tries for the Canes. Hoffmann was even worse during the Waratahs-Sharks match, with the visitors being on the receiving end of several poor decisions, including a 'forward' pass from Bismarck du Plessis that clearly went backwards and a 'high' tackle on Kurtley Beale, who had slipped down just before it was made. Then there was the bizarre incident when the Sharks won a penalty and asked Hoffmann if the half-time whistle would blow if they kicked it out. The referee told captain Marco Wentzel 'that's half-time', only to say 'sorry, it's not' as Lionel Cronjé booted the ball square into touch. Fortunately the Sharks won the lineout and were able to kick the ball out again. Sanzar should stand Hoffmann down after his latest performance and get him to work on his game management and communication skills at a lower level. As John Mitchell pointed out in the SuperSport studio, Hoffmann's management of the tackle, ruck and offside line is woeful, and he talks too much – trying to substantiate his decisions – when he needs to be clear and concise.

Sanzar must have neutral officials for Super Rugby matches
Hoffmann wasn't the only Australian official to have a 'mare in Sydney. TMO George Ayoub awarded a try to Taqele Naiyaravoro when there was no clear evidence that the winger had grounded the ball and then disallowed S'bura Sithole's try in the left-hand corner, which was a 50-50 call that normally goes the way of the attacking team. There was clear bias shown towards the home side in those decisions, even if it was on a subconscious level, which is why neutral officials (referees, assistant referees and TMOs) should be appointed for Super Rugby matches. Sanzar's travel expenses would increase, but that's a small price to pay for improving the standard of officiating.

Lionel Cronjé is the Sharks' second-best flyhalf
One of the few positives to come out of a disappointing Sharks' tour has been Cronjé's performances at 10 since taking over from Fred Zeilinga. Cronjé had a good game against the Hurricanes and was even better against the Waratahs, with his excellent cross-field kick from a penalty resulting in a try for Odwa Ndungane and his one-handed offload in the tackle putting Frans Steyn away for another. Pat Lambie remains the Sharks' first-choice flyhalf by some distance, but Cronjé has increased the gap between himself and Zeilinga in the pecking order and should wear the No 10 jersey during the Currie Cup later this year.

The Bulls need to pose a greater threat on attack
Their attacking game has improved as the season's progressed, but they were too predictable against the Blues in Auckland and tried to win the game through their forwards. The visitors must have been encouraged by the strong driving maul that almost resulted in an early try (it was correctly disallowed due to obstruction) because they would go on to use it again and again, without getting over the line. The ineffectiveness of the Bulls' attack was evident by the fact they had 81% territory and 61% possession in the first half, yet trailed 16-13 at the break, before going on to lose 23-18. If the Bulls are to bounce back with a win against the Chiefs, they will have to show far more enterprise on attack and ensure there's more to their game than a good driving maul, scrum and lineout.

The Lions can't afford to become frantic
Warren Whiteley's men lost their composure after falling behind during the first half of their match against the Brumbies at Ellis Park. Instead of earning the right to go wide, as they've done so well recently, they played too expansively in a bid to reduce the deficit, with players getting isolated at the tackle and conceding turnovers. The Lions also took unnecessary risks at the lineout, with Robbie Coetzee's long pass resulting in a try for Christian Leali'ifano and another clever lineout move just before half-time finishing with a Coetzee knock-on.

Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt