Elton Jantjies starred against the StormersWhat

Elton Jantjies starred against the Stormers

What we learned from the eighth round of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.

Lions restore status as Stormers stall again
Prior to Saturday’s clash against the Stormers, the Lions had managed just a solitary win from four games – which came in a scrappy victory over the Sunwolves. It appeared that the Lions were starting to suffer from a crisis of confidence, and yet on Saturday, they buried any of those doubts with an irrepressible 52-31 win over the Stormers. The scoreline is actually somewhat flattering for the Cape-based side when you consider that they scored three late tries. The fact of the matter is that the Lions looked back to their ruthless best, with Elton Jantjies also finding top form as he marshalled proceedings with precision and poise. It was an emphatic statement from the Bok flyhalf, but also the Lions team as a whole as they claimed a bonus-point victory that takes them 11 points clear at the top of the South African conference. Unfortunately, the Stormers took another significant step in the opposite direction as they lost a fifth consecutive game away from home. They are clearly a fatigued side after eight games on the trot, but that pressure is beginning to build on a team that has again under delivered so far this season.

REPORT: Lethal Lions lash Stormers

Sharks impress despite defeat, refereeing controversy
Immediately following the Sharks’ heart-breaking 38-37 loss to the Hurricanes on Friday, the camera panned to a distraught Beast Mtawarira on the team’s bench. The images painted a picture of just how much this loss hurt the Sharks after a dominant 80-minute performance was ultimately undone by a five-minute period of pressure that continued well beyond regulation time. Besides seeing replacement Franco Marais sent to the sin bin, Australian referee Nic Berry awarded the Canes penalty after penalty before Ngani Laumape was eventually put away for the match-winning try in the 85th minute. Berry came in for some fierce criticism from Sharks fans following the clash (as he also appeared to miss a clear Canes forward pass), but despite the disappointment of this defeat, the Durban-based side should be buoyed by its performance in Napier. It again highlighted the rewards the Sharks are able to achieve through a direct and physically dominant approach that is complemented by accurate offloading in contact. The Sharks will have returned home knowing that the most challenging part of their campaign is over, while they have clearly settled on a brand of rugby that should reap good rewards going forward.

REPORT: Canes break Sharks’ hearts

André Esterhuizen, Jean-Luc du Preez make Bok ambitions clear
For the second successive week, Esterhuizen and Du Preez epitomised everything that was good about the Sharks in New Zealand. Their physicality and ball-carrying power were key to the Sharks’ highly impressive performance against the Hurricanes on Friday, and Esterhuizen must be starting to catch the eye of new Bok coach Rassie Erasmus. The big centre made 72m, 11 carries, beat five defenders and completed four offloads in an industrious effort that illustrated how he has developed into much more than just a big battering ram. Du Preez’s return to fitness and form has also been central to the turnaround in the Sharks’ performances in recent weeks, with the young flanker making 12 carries and 14 tackles in another dominant display. If he keeps it up, there is every reason to believe Du Preez will be the front-runner for the Bok No 7 jersey in June. Erasmus will also be keeping a close eye on Curwin Bosch and Lukhanyo Am, who were two of the Sharks’ other impressive performers on Friday.

WATCH: Hurricanes vs Sharks highlights

Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix