Super Rugby

5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 1

Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth proved a menace at lineout time for the Bulls (Gallo Images)
Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth proved a menace at lineout time for the Bulls (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 1 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition:

1. New bonus point rule

The jury is perhaps still out on whether the new bonus point system in Super Rugby is an improvement on the old four-try ruling.

According to the new system - which was copied form the French Top 14 - a team gains a bonus point for scoring three more tries than the opposition.

Teams are therefore encouraged to keep searching for tries which is never a bad thing, however the system also has its drawbacks.

In the Stormers-Bulls game at Newlands, the home side claimed a bonus point late in the game, but were forced to scramble, fending off a Bulls onslaught near their own line. Had the Bulls scored, the Stormers would have lost the bonus-point.

The negative aspects of the new rule are that it could see some coaches be reluctant to make substitutions in fear of their side leaking a few tries, while in a high-scoring game where both teams notch four or five tries, no team will walk away with a try-scoring bonus point.

Nick Mallett had a point when he said in the SuperSport studio on Saturday that there should be more bonus points on offer for teams scoring more tries.

Perhaps another bonus point for scoring five tries?

2. Stormers too strong up front

There were fears before Saturday’s clash at Newlands that the inexperienced Bulls pack would struggle and that’s exactly how things panned out.

The men from Pretoria initially matched their opponents but fell apart as the game wore on, with the hosts dominating the lineouts throughout and eventually also asserting their dominance at scrum time.

The difference in class among the two teams’ reserves was also notable, with the Stormers substitutes proving much more effective than their young Bulls counterparts.

The Stormers’ reserve props, JC Janse van Rensburg and Frans Malherbe, put Lizo Gqoboka and Hencus van Wyk to the sword late in the game.

The manner in which the Stormers scored their final try off a lineout driving maul from the 22m line will also be alarming for rugby enthusiasts up north.

It will be a long season and the Bulls’ depth could become a problem.

3. Kings to become an embarrassment for SARU?

It was men against boys in Port Elizabeth on Saturday as the Sharks put the hapless Southern Kings to the sword. The Kings showed some promise in the first half, but the Sharks were also error-prone and once they clicked into gear, they comfortably ran away with proceedings.

On paper, the Kings simply do not look good and it proved that way on the field.

It was arguably the worst build-up to a season given the EP Rugby Union’s financial woes, but SARU should have stepped in to resurrect matters much earlier.

The Kings are the main reason Super Rugby was expanded to 18 teams and SARU should feel embarrassed that they allowed such a weak team to take part in the competition.

It’s a different Kings outfit from the one which did duty under Alan Solomons’ guidance in 2013, when they surprised with some of their performances against overseas opponents.

I fear games against the five New Zealand teams will prove a tough assignment to say the least.

4. Pros and cons for Cheetahs

The Cheetahs can take heart from the fact that they ran a Test-laden Jaguares team close in Bloemfontein on Friday night.

Many pundits tipped the Argentines to win comfortably but they were on the back foot early on, with the Cheetahs racing to a 24-3 lead in the first half.

However, as is so often he case with the Free Staters, they took their foot off the pedal and allowed the Jaguares back in.

While they looked good on the attack, defence and discipline at crucial times again let the Cheetahs down.

But they will take heart from their scrummaging performance, which was noted by Mallett after the game.

“The Cheetahs scrum has improved tremendously,” said Mallett. “There will be question marks surrounding their own ball, because they collapsed a couple of times, but with ‘use it or lose it’ they were allowed to play.

“You just have to go back to the Cheetahs' game against the Lions in the Currie Cup when Maks van Dyk gave away five or six penalties and had to be substituted. He worked very hard (on Friday). Torsten van Jaarsveld has done a fantastic job at hooker - a good scrummaging hooker really does help - and Charles Marais did well at loosehead.”

5. Springboks catching the eye

A few young players caught the eye this past weekend, most notably the Du Preez brothers - Dan and Jean-Luc from the Sharks and Robert from the Stormers - but a few Springbok stalwarts reminded this writer of their pedigree.

The Stormers' lock combination of Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit looked impressive in their demolition of the Bulls. Etzebeth stole three Bulls lineout balls and he was omnipresent with his physicality, while Du Toit showed with his workmanlike performance that he could be the perfect match for Etzebeth.

Fullback Willie le Roux also stood out in his first Super Rugby game for the Sharks. He made a few mistakes early on, but performed well as the match wore on. During his 66 minutes on the park, he finished with 91 running metres from eight carries and two clean breaks, adding attacking spark to the Sharks' backline.

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