Super Rugby

5 talking points: Super Rugby Week 18

The Sharks celebrate victory at Newlands... (Gallo Images)
The Sharks celebrate victory at Newlands... (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Sport24's Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Week 18 of the 2019 Super Rugby competition:  

1. A poor advertisement for SA rugby

Saturday's derby clash between the Stormers and Sharks at Newlands had the potential to be a great advertisement for South African rugby.

Sadly, it was the complete opposite that transpired.

The only exciting part of the game (if you hail from Durban) was when the Sharks scored the match-winning try after the hooter.

What went on before that was not much to write home about.

The skills levels of both teams left much to be desired - countless passes went begging and the less said about the tactical kicking of both teams, the better…

In the business end of the season, and with ideal conditions for running rugby, you'd expect more from professionals...

2. Horrible end to an era at Newlands

The Stormers limped out of the competition with another appalling effort when it really mattered.

Over the years, this team has developed a habit of folding in must-win games at Newlands and Saturday's game against the Sharks was no exception.

Yes, they were riddled by injuries, but had several chances to put a less than impressive Sharks outfit to the sword.

Instead, their finishing proved abysmal and their fans should not feel too bad about the last-gasp defeat… it would just have prolonged their suffering as I felt there was little chance of them winning a playoff match on the road.

It was also the end of an era for the Stormers, with coach Robbie Fleck to be replaced by John Dobson.

And if newspaper reports over the weekend are anything to go by, there could also be a player exodus.

Dobson has achieved success with Western Province, but he’ll soon realise that Super Rugby is an altogether new ball game, and changing the fortunes of perennial underachievers will prove a stern test.

3. Bulls light up Loftus, end Lions' SA domination

In contrast to the affair playing out at Newlands, the weekend's final game between the Bulls and Lions proved more entertaining.

The Bulls, who scored seven tries in a 48-27 victory, made sure they qualified for the playoffs and in the process also ended the Lions' South African domination in the competition.

The men from Johannesburg had made the final three years on the trot, but it was clear from early in the season that 2019 would not be their year.

On Saturday, the Bulls' finishing were sublime at times and while they've had some shocking losses earlier in the season, they may just be peaking at the right time.

Their annihilation of the Lions - and two recent draws in New Zealand - suggest they could be in with a shot during the playoffs.

Skipper and flyhalf Handre Pollard again proved that he is by miles the best No 10 in the country and he needs to be carefully managed heading into the World Cup.

4. Easier quarter-final for Sharks

Despite finishing lower on the log than the Bulls, I reckon it's fair to assume that the Sharks have a more favourable quarter-final outing.

The Durbanites will travel to Canberra for a clash against the Brumbies, while the Bulls have to duel the Hurricanes in Wellington.

The Hurricanes bagged more log points (53) than the Brumbies (48), but due to the complex nature of the competition structure, the Australian conference winners finished in third position and the 'Canes fourth.

Don't get me wrong, the Sharks will go into their clash against the Brumbies as underdogs - the men from Canberra are after all on a six-game winning streak, their best for 12 years - but given the option, the Sharks would surely have chosen a trip to Canberra over Wellington.

The Sharks have been better travellers this year and will back themselves to beat the Brumbies.

The Bulls, on the other hand, have a daunting task against Beauden Barrett and Company but will take heart from their two recent draws in New Zealand...

5. Try-scoring concern for SA

Yes, there was welcome relief in the game at Loftus on Saturday night, but what played out earlier in the day at Newlands was more indicative of how things have gone from a South African perspective this season.

After the completion of regular season action, the Lions (53 tries) crossed the whitewash most of the South African teams.

Alarmingly, they sit eighth on the competition's try-scoring charts.

This is a worrisome statistic from a South African perspective, with the local teams' finishing leaving much to be desired for most parts.  

Not surprisingly, log-leaders the Crusaders top the try-scoring charts with 73, followed by the Brumbies (65), Chiefs (63), Highlanders (60), Hurricanes (60), Jaguares (60), Rebels (56), Lions (53), Reds (50), Waratahs (46), Blues (45), Bulls (42), Sharks (40), Stormers (34) and Sunwolves (34).

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