Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 4 of the 2017 Super Rugby competition:
1. Bumbling Bulls
The Bulls were unimpressive in their scrappy 34-21 win over the lowly Sunwolves in Pretoria on Friday night.
Leading 17-14 at half-time against the worst team in the competition, things seemingly took a turn for the worse when the Bulls lost flank Renaldo Bothma to a red card for a dangerous tackle.
Ironically, that seemed to galvanise the Bulls somewhat as they took charge in the second half.
However, the all-round performance remained below-par.
Had it not been for a mammoth 39 handling errors from the error-strewn Sunwolves, the unthinkable may have happened.
The Bulls scrum must rank up there with the weakest in the competition and they couldn’t even get the better of the Japanese in that department.
An arduous trip to New Zealand now lies in wait for the men from Pretoria.
2. Lions building home fortress
Following their 44-14 mauling of the Reds, the Lions are now unbeaten at home in eight Super Rugby encounters and are fast making their Ellis Park home a fortress.
The Lions are doing the basics well and have a dominant pack which sets things up nicely for their exciting backs to attack - sometimes from all corners.
But they are earning the right to go wide by a solid foundation up front.
Man-of-the-match Courtnall Skosan scored four tries in an impressive display, but plaudits also need to go to 19-year-old debutant Madosh Tambwe.
The Kinshasa-born winger was impressive with ball in hand and was unlucky not to also cross the whitewash.
With no New Zealand sides to worry about, the Lions have a real shot of finishing atop the overall standings, as mentioned by Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd.
It would take some effort to stop them in a home final at Ellis Park.
Let’s hope they don’t go and pick a second-string side at the wrong time again...
3. Welcome red cards!
Two red cards were dished out in South Africa at the weekend.
As mentioned above, Bulls flank Renaldo Bothma received his marching orders shortly after half-time against the Sunwolves, while Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper was sent off in the second half of their match at Ellis Park.
Both cards for high tackles were justifiable and it was welcome to see consistency from officials.
Too often in the past have we seen similar incidents go unpunished and let’s hope it sets a precedent as well as serve as a deterrent.
Bothma copped a four-week ban and Cooper deserves the same punishment.
Cooper was in fact lucky to not have been sent off in the first half when he floored Lions scrumhalf Faf de Klerk late and with no arms in a tackle.
These head-high hits in rugby appear to be an evil of late it needs to stop.
4. Low quality rugby at Kings Park
The Kings deserve plaudits for a brave performance in their narrow 19-17 loss to the Sharks in Durban.
Despite resting some of their star players, the Sharks were expected to win by 30 points and Nick Mallett summed it up perfectly afterwards when he said it “was a very disappointing game from a South African rugby point of view”.
The Sharks were lacklustre in their approach and their forwards’ tactics of running straight into players, trying to bully the Kings, almost backfired.
Debutant flyhalf Benhard Janse van Rensburg failed to take control of matters and Garth April may be given the No 10 jersey in the absence of Pat Lambie over the next few weeks.
From a Kings perspective, lock Irne Herbst and prop Schalk van der Merwe impressed but it was a pity that Lionel Cronje missed the last-gasp penalty from far out.
The Kings deserved to win after the stuttering Sharks performance.
Cronje came into the match with a 100% goal-kicking success-rate and was 17 from 17 when he missed a tough attempt just before half-time which would have put his team 17-8 up.
Cronje had a decent game but will rue missing those pivotal, albeit difficult kicks, which would have earned his side victory.
He will also rue aimlessly kicking away possession just before the hooter sounded...
5. All doom and gloom for Cheetahs?
The Cheetahs’ comprehensive defeat to the Jaguares again highlighted (as reported last week) that their depth is not what it should be to be a real threat in this competition.
The men from Bloemfontein have been laid low by several injuries of late and they never stood a chance in hostile Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Reports are growing stronger by the day that the Cheetahs will be one of two South African teams axed from the competition.
Following their heavy 41-14 defeat, Cheetahs fans’ mood became more sombre when a Sunday newspaper report indicated that they may receive a two-year payment from SANZAAR if axed.
Meanwhile, despite their gallant efforts in the Shark Tank, the Kings also look set to go down...