5 talking points: Sharks v Bulls
Cape Town - Sport24's Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 9's Sharks v Bulls Super Rugby derby in Durban.
1. Another hat-trick hero for Bulls
In their win over the Stormers, the Bulls had a hat-trick hero in hooker Adriaan Strauss and on Saturday at Kings Park it was fullback Warrick Gelant's turn.
It was arguably Gelant’s best match in a Bulls jersey and saw his Springbok stocks soar significantly.
Apart from his finishing ability, Gelant also produced a classy performance on defence as well as with the boot.
He can kick with both feet and would surely have caught the eye of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus.
2. Healthy debate on first Gelant try
Gelant’s first try in his side’s 40-10 win was debatable.
With the Bulls attacking close to the Sharks tryline in the fifth minute, Gelant followed-up a perfectly executed chip kick from Pollard over the Sharks defence.
There was however uncertainty whether Gelant was in front of Pollard when the ball was kicked and the decision was sent upstairs.
The television match official (TMO) Marius Jonker said he couldn’t see with certainty that Gelant was in front as there appeared to be no “clear and obvious” camera evidence.
Jonker instructed referee Egon Seconds to stick with his on-field decision and award the try.
I also thought it was the correct decision as there appeared to be no conclusive evidence that Gelant was in front of Pollard.
But I'll admit I got second thoughts when I came across the following tweet on Sunday:
Clearly and obviously, a line parallel to the 5m line has Gelant in front of Pollard. pic.twitter.com/uxur1zreCx— Zelím Nel (@Zels77) April 14, 2018
Bulls fans will however argue that in the frame above the ball had already left Pollard's boot, so Gelant was well on his way at that stage...
3. Sharks struggle with burden of expectation
Most pundits had the Sharks as favourites to beat the Bulls.
The Durbanites produced credible performances over the last two weeks in New Zealand and many thought they had turned the corner after a slow start to the season.
However, the opposite transpired as the Sharks sunk to an embarrassing home loss.
Conceding six tries in wet conditions is inexcusable and these lapses in concentration by the Sharks are hard to fathom.
The Sharks have conceded 260 points in eight games this season - an average of 32.5 points per game - with only the lowly Sunwolves conceding more.
The Sharks appear to be a team that plays better when written off, but struggle to handle the pressure when they’re expected to win...
4. Pollard edges Du Preez in flyhalf battle
I reckon it’s fair to say that Handre Pollard won the eagerly-anticipated flyhalf battle with Robert du Preez.
Du Preez impressed in recent weeks but on Saturday he was second-best to Pollard, with the Sharks pivot’s uncharacteristic easy penalty miss in the first half perhaps a sign of things to come.
Pollard produced a sound tactical display behind a dominant pack and may just be ahead in the pecking order to wear the Springbok No 10 jersey... albeit by a whisker.
5. Old Bulls values come to the fore
While it’s clear that John Mitchell’s enterprising approach is slowly rubbing off on the Bulls players, it was notable to see a few of the team’s old strengths also come to the fore in recent weeks.
Their rolling maul proved highly effective in wins over the Stormers and Sharks, while their scrummaging was also a standout.
The work-rate of lock pairing Lood de Jager and RG Snyman was also notable at a wet Kings Park.
The old adage of doing the hard work first before opting for the fancy stuff out wide rang true for the Bulls on Saturday.