Cape Town - Sport24's Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Week 11 of the 2019 Super Rugby competition:
1. Crusaders a class above the rest
It did not help their cause that the Lions lost captain Warren Whiteley on the eve of their clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch, but I doubt whether his presence would have made any difference in the result.
The Crusaders' 36-10 win showed the gulf in class between the two teams.
The hosts dominated most facets of play, as is evident in statistics derived from the tournament's official website.
The Crusaders bossed the metres made (587m v 225m), carries (148 v 86), defenders beaten (25 v 14), passes completed (192 v 122) and rucks won (105 v 74) categories.
The Lions were forced to make 185 tackles compared to the Crusaders' 118 and also lost two of the seven scrums awarded to them, while the hosts were four from four at this crucial set-piece.
The Lions, however, should not feel too bad about themselves. This Crusaders team is a class above the rest and it's tough to see anyone stopping them from winning their 10th Super Rugby title in 2019…
2. Sharks cash in after Waratahs see red
The defining moment in the Sharks' victory over the Waratahs in Sydney came early in the second half when 'Tahs lock Jed Holloway was shown a red card for an elbow to the face of Sharks prop Thomas du Toit.
At that stage, the scores were level at 10-10, and while the Sharks also lost Du Toit for 10 minutes for holding Holloway back off the ball, it proved the turning point and allowed the visitors to take control.
Soon afterwards, the Waratahs were down to 13 men when flank Jack Dempsey was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle.
The Sharks made sure they cashed in on their numerical advantage and eked out a 23-15 victory.
The visitors dominated most of the physical exchanges and looked a far cry from the team that lost badly at home to the Reds and Jaguares.
3. Sharks will take second spot on the log!
Despite an erratic season which has seen them lose four times at home, the Sharks somehow find themselves atop the South African conference.
They lie second on the overall standings courtesy of topping the SA conference and will count themselves lucky, especially after home losses to the Stormers (16-11), Bulls (19-16), Jaguares (51-17) and Reds (21-14).
But there have been glimpses of what the Sharks can produce - their 42-5 annihilation of the Lions at Ellis Park was their best performance in years - while this past weekend's win in Sydney was no doubt an improved effort on the past two weeks.
It appears that the Durbanites seem more focused when playing away from their home base at Kings Park.
I can't see them beating the Crusaders this weekend, but they'll fancy their chances in their final game on tour against the inconsistent Chiefs.
4. Leyds a shining light in Stormers win
The Stormers won the physical battle in their derby clash against Bulls and kept themselves in the hunt with a 24-23 win.
It was an improved effort on attack by the Capetonians and few will dispute that they deserved their victory.
For me, the Stormers' standout player was winger Dillyn Leyds, who proved a menace with ball in hand for the Bulls.
Leyds was sublime when he evaded several Bulls defenders to set up scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies' try and his general game management was of a high enough standard to have caught the eye of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus.
5. Stormers gift Bulls a point
The Stormers will regret allowing the Bulls to earn a bonus-point right at the death of their match at Newlands.
Bulls pivot Handre Pollard missed a penalty on the stroke of full-time, but Stormers fullback Damian Willemse decided to run from behind his own tryline.
Leading 24-16 and needing one more try to earn a try-scoring bonus-point, the Stormers opted for the ambitious route, but it backfired spectacularly when the Bulls countered to score and earn a losing bonus-point.
It allowed them to stay a point ahead of the Stormers on the overall standings and that point may prove crucial come season's end.
In hindsight, the Stormers will realise they should have ended the contest with a 24-16 win…