Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 17 of the 2018 Super Rugby competition:
1. Bulls unable to take advantage of Van den Heever lifeline
The Bulls were handed a lifeline in their game against the Sunwolves in Singapore, thanks to two mishaps by one of their former players.
The Sunwolves were leading 14-0 in the first half when two crucial errors by fullback Gerhard van den Heever allowed the Bulls back in.
Jesse Kriel scored from both Van den Heever’s errors - firstly off a charge down and secondly when he intercepted a wild quick throw-in by the former Bulls and Stormers back.
The Bulls hardly deserved it, but they were handed a lifeline back into the contest and when they led 24-14 early in the second half, few would have predicted a Sunwolves victory.
However, the Bulls let the lifeline slip with an old Achilles heel of theirs - defence - letting them down as they lost 42-37.
2. Sharks break losing duck in dramatic fashion
When the Sharks trailed the Lions 21-11 heading into the final quarter of their clash against the Lions at Kings Park, it looked almost certain that the Durbanites would suffer their eighth successive defeat to the men from Johannesburg.
However, the hosts turned things around spectacularly by outscoring the Lions 20-3 in the final 22 minutes.
It kept alive the Sharks’ playoff hopes and they will head into their final two matches against the Stormers (away) and Jaguares (home) feeling confident.
3. Lions a different class in 2018
The Lions will wonder how they let slip their grip on the match against the Sharks.
According to SANZAAR's official website, they carried the ball 145 times compared to the 86 of the Sharks, with the hosts forced to make 171 tackles to the Lions’ 91.
The Lions also won 97 rucks (compared to 47 by the Sharks) and won 12 lineouts from which attacks could be launched.
In comparison, the Sharks won only five lineouts, losing three and only managed one steal off the Lions.
However, the visiting side’s finishing let them down and had they taken some earlier shots at goal the outcome may have been different.
They Lions still top the South African Conference, but their position is under threat with the Jaguares only three points behind with a game in hand.
It was also the Lions’ seventh loss of the season and it’s clear that the class of 2018 is not the same as the past two seasons.
4. Stormers away woes continue
The Stormers produced another uninspiring performance when they lost 25-14 to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
The defeat ended any slim hopes the Capetonians may have harboured of sneaking into the playoffs.
It also means that the Stormers will end the 2018 season without an away victory.
Failing to win a game away from home has only occurred twice in the franchise’s history - in the 1998 and 2005 seasons.
5. Jaguares a different ‘animal’ in Super Rugby
The Jaguares’ win over the Stormers was their seventh in a row - leaving the men from Argentina just three points off South African Conference leaders the Lions with a game in hand.
It’s hard to believe that many of these Jaguares players featured for the Argentine national team during the June Test window where they lost badly at home to Wales (twice) and Scotland.
A player revolt with the national coach was seemingly the reason for Los Pumas’ below-par efforts but it’s clear that under the guise of the Jaguares they mean business.