What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the Vodacom Super Rugby semi-finals and Springbok squad announcement, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

Craig Joubert can make big calls against the home side
France still haven't forgiven Joubert for his performance in the 2011 World Cup final, which they believe helped hosts New Zealand win 8-7. The Crusaders also won't be sending him any Christmas cards after he incorrectly penalised Richie McCaw at the end of last year's Super Rugby final, with Bernard Foley kicking the Waratahs to victory. But on Saturday, the South African referee showed he can make big, unpopular calls against the home side. The Australian commentators may disagree, but Joubert's decision to award a penalty try to the Highlanders at a crucial time of the game was absolutely spot-on and the way he came to the decision superb. After watching on the big screen how a swinging arm from Jacques Potgieter had prevented Patrick Osborne from scoring a try, Joubert took the decision away from the home-town TMO and made it himself. As Nick Mallett said in the SuperSport studio, it was a courageous call made in front of a hostile crowd. Joubert was also correct when he allowed Richard Buckman to get up after being tackled on his way to the tryline. TV replays showed that the tackler had released Buckman just before his knee touched the ground, so he did not have to release the ball as the Australian commentators claimed.

Good tactical kicking wins matches
The Highlanders kicked 35 times from hand in Sydney, compared to the Waratahs' 17, and went on to win 35-17. Aaron Smith's box kicking, Lima Sopoaga's cross-kicks and kicks for the corner, and Ben Smith's up-and-unders (when he could have counter-attacked) ensured the visitors spent 62% of the match in opposition territory, frustrating the Tahs. It was an intelligent approach by the New Zealanders and one that resulted in a comprehensive victory.

Ardie Savea belongs with the All Blacks
Savea showed in Wellington why he was considered very unlucky not to be selected for the 41-man All Blacks squad. The Hurricanes openside flank had a massive game, carrying the ball on seven occasions, beating six defenders and making two turnovers, before having to leave the field with a knee injury in the 49th minute. The Canes will be praying he's fit enough to play in the final.

Heinrich Brüssow, Frans Steyn and Jaque Fourie are back in Bok business
Brüssow's four years in the international wilderness could be coming to an end after he was included in the extended Bok squad for the match against the World XV and the Rugby Championship. The openside flanker has attended Heyneke Meyer's training squads before without making final squads, but Meyer seems to have realised the importance of having another specialist fetcher around to provide back-up to Francois Louw. It's important, though, that Meyer gives Brüssow enough game time over the next few weeks in which to prove himself worthy of a place in the 31-man World Cup squad. The Boks have also been boosted by the return of Frans Steyn, who hasn't played for the Boks since last year's match against the World XV because of a contractual dispute with Saru, and Jaque Fourie, who has been released by his Japanese club. With Jean de Villiers coming back from a serious knee injury and no standout outside centres, it's quite possible that Steyn and Fourie could form the Bok midfield at the World Cup.

Francois Hougaard and Pierre Spies have fallen out of favour
Hougaard started the first match of the Boks' 2014 end-of-year tour against Ireland at scrumhalf, but was dropped following a poor performance. He played almost exclusively on the wing for the Bulls this season, which many consider to be his best position, but while he impressed during the first half of Super Rugby he didn't do enough to get a Bok call-up. Spies, meanwhile, returned from a lengthy injury lay-off and never came close to matching the performances of Duane Vermeulen and Warren Whiteley.

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt