‘Youngsters made an impact’

What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about Saturday's matches involving South African teams.

Lions vs Sharks

'Credit must be given to both teams. The Sharks playing away after last weekend had to show they had character and they wanted to play for each other, and they did that.

'Even when they were down by nine points at the end of the game, they fought back, managed to get a try and, had Fred Zeilinga managed to kick a 50m penalty, they could've snuck the win.

'The Sharks will go away feeling perhaps their season is back on track even though they lost, and next weekend's game against the Bulls is going to be very important for them psychologically.

'For the Lions, they continue to win close games. That has really been the mark of their season so far. The three away wins were all tight, so was the victory over the Bulls, and so was this one. Getting onto the winning side of close games is always great for the team.

'There were some good set-piece tries from the Sharks against a Lions defence that has been very good this season. The positive signs are there. I think the young players gave them some enthusiasm.'

Bulls vs Reds

'The Reds had a lot of ball during the first half – 70% possession and pretty much the same amount of territory. The Bulls scored three tries in that first half; one an up-and-under which wasn't properly received; a ball being ripped out; and a breakaway try off a grubber that bounced off someone's leg.

'The second half became very fast and loose, but I thought the Bulls took their opportunities well. I have enjoyed the youngsters who have come in and given an energy to the Bulls play. Burger Odendaal played really well, Jesse Kriel had a fantastic game, Tian Schoeman played well when he came on, and Arno Botha also did well.'

Waratahs vs Stormers

'What was very noticeable about this game was the way the Stormers went back to their very good defensive performance and good kicking game. Their defence was far, far better.

'The Waratahs scored two tries but the Stormers forced errors based on solid defence. They scored some good tries on their own merits, but they also scored off opposition mistakes.

'The Waratahs tried to play wide and played a lot of passes behind the back, but Stormers defenders were ready for it and really concentrated hard. They shifted very well, they swung away from the inside runners and went onto the second player, and then stopped the second player from playing wide.

'Damian de Allende is playing some of the best rugby imaginable at the moment. We're very lucky to have a centre in South Africa as good as he is.'

Force vs Cheetahs

'The Force are a well-organised side, and they showed during their tour to South Africa they're a difficult side to beat, so this was a very good Cheetahs performance.

'It was good to see Sarel Pretorius back, and them getting out what was perhaps their best possible team.

'Heinrich Brüssow played an excellent game, and their loose forwards were outstanding. It was very pleasing to see the Cheetahs win this game after a difficult tour.'

South African conference

'The Stormers now have the Force next weekend, which is a winnable game for them, and then they've got four games at home.

'The Lions and Cheetahs are into their home stretch, and the Bulls and the Sharks have got the more difficult end to the season.'

Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

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Nick Mallett