Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 10 of the 2017 Super Rugby competition:
1. Déjà vu for Stormers
Talking about the Stormers’ defensive frailties is becoming a weekly discussion.
Just when their fans thought things couldn’t get any worse after an eight-try 57-24 demolition by the Crusaders in their first game on tour, it did as they conceded nine in an ugly 57-14 reverse to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that the Stormers defence is in tatters.
For me, it’s not a lack of commitment on defence, but rather a complete haplessness - and for that reason fingers need to be pointed at the coaching staff.
The Stormers wings shoot up way too early on defence which creates countless overlaps, while the rate at which the diminutive Cheslin Kolbe is being brushed off like a pin-ball by big ball carriers has become an unwelcome sight.
Paul Treu was appointed by WP Rugby in November 2014, when it was said at the time that the former Sevens guru would be “allowed to gradually grow accustomed to their structures to become defence coach”.
Learning on the job has clearly not reaped rewards.
An attack-at-all-costs game plan against Kiwi sides can sometimes be fatal - as has proved the case on the Stormers’ tour thus far.
2. Lions SA’s only hope at title success
They are certainly not playing their best rugby, and were on the back foot for large parts against the Western Force, but the Lions displayed a champion’s mentality in their 24-15 bonus-point win in Perth.
The men from Johannesburg have been below their best for the past two weeks, but they remain on the winning track and sit handsomely atop the South African group standings.
They have the added advantage of not having to face New Zealand sides in the group stages and at present appear South Africa’s only hope at title success.
The Lions should see off the Rebels and Brumbies on the remainder of their tour and they will prove tough to beat in a knockout game at Ellis Park.
3. Contentious TMO call
A big point of discussion from the Cheetahs v Crusaders game in Bloemfontein was the disallowed try to wing Sergeal Petersen shortly before half-time.
Television match official (TMO) Johan Greeff determined there was "compelling evidence" that prop Ox Nche passed forward to Petersen, who dotted down under the posts.
For me, the evidence was not as clear-cut as some pundits pointed out, but it was hardly "compelling" and proved critical in the outcome of the match, as the Crusaders scored shortly afterwards to take a 22-7 lead at the break.
It was effectively a 14-point swing as the Cheetahs would have been more confident going into half-time only 15-14 down.
This was not the first time this season that Greeff had made a contentious call involving the Cheetahs.
During Week 5 in the Cheetahs’ clash against the Sharks in Bloemfontein, he instructed referee Jaco Peyper to not award a yellow card to Sharks prop Coenie Oosthuizen for a high tackle on Cheetahs wing JW Jonker.
Greeff told Peyper that the tackle was around the shoulder and did not warrant a yellow card, only a penalty.
However, Peyper decided he saw enough in real time that it was around the neck and sent Oosthuizen off for 10 minutes.
I do however believe that this past weekend’s decision did not change the outcome of the match - the Cheetahs lost to a far superior Crusaders outfit.
4. Pathetic Australian teams!
Take nothing away from the Kings - who were full value for their emphatic 44-3 drubbing over the Melbourne Rebels - but the quality of opposition they were up against needs to be taken into consideration.
This Rebels team must rate as the worst ever entered by Australia in the competition’s history and I sincerely hope that the logical decision is made to scrap them from next year.
In fact, all the Australian teams are below par in 2017, and having five teams has no doubt diluted the strength of their rugby.
Alarmingly, Australia’s top-ranked team, the Brumbies, are four log points behind New Zealand’s lowest-ranked team, the Blues.
However, due to the competition’s farcical composition, the Brumbies find themselves second in the Australasian group - despite being 19 points behind the third-placed Chiefs!
5. Wake-up call did the trick for Sharks
After their dire 9-all draw at home against the lowly Rebels, the Sharks improved markedly and fully deserved their 33-25 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
Coach Robert du Preez’s calls for his players to repay the public after their poor display a week earlier clearly did the trick.
The Sharks showed character and composure when 20-13 down in a hostile environment.
It was the Jaguares’ first loss at home this season but more alarmingly their fourth defeat on the trot.
The Jaguares are close to a full-fledged Argentine national side and they have disappointed in their first season-and-a-half in Super Rugby.
Their discipline, especially when defending in their own 22m area, remains a big concern and lapses in concentration at critical moments have added to their plight.