Five talking points: Round 10

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Sunday, April 21, 2019    Getty Images

Blues road troubles
Winning away from home has become almost a fixation for the Blues and after their loss to the Highlanders at the weekend it doesn't appear a solution to their inability to win away at other New Zealand venues is going to crop up this year. Their remaining away games in the New Zealand Conference are on May 25 against the Crusaders and on June 15 against the Hurricanes. They also have away games against the Brumbies on May 4 and the Reds on June 7.


South African road trips coming up
With the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders still to face the South African legs of their seasons, some interesting statistics reflect the difficulties, or otherwise, sides have had in winning in the Republic. The side with the best record of Australasian teams is the Crusaders, who have also played the most games 53, for a winning percentage of 57 percent – the only side higher than the 46 percent achieved by the Hurricanes. The Highlanders have a 45 percent record, the Chiefs 43 percent and Blues 40 percent of the New Zealand sides. Best of the Australian sides are the Brumbies who, after their weekend 19-17 success over the Stormers, have a 42 percent record. The Waratahs are on 37 percent and the Reds lifted their success to 36 percent after they beat the Sharks 21-14.

Expect the unexpected
It shows just how demanding the Investec Super Rugby competition is on sides when many of their coaches are starting to talk about 'grit, determination and emotion'. Perhaps it is due to it being a Rugby World Cup year, or maybe it is something to do with the events through which the tournament has woven its way this year – Christchurch's mosque attacks and the resulting support activities, Israel Folau's twitter attack, changes in the Super Rugby schedule, players signing overseas contracts, Test players needing to be rested and the usual injury concerns which put pressure on players stepping in. Whatever, there has been a lot more extraneous activity which must have put pressure on the ability to remain totally focused on the rugby. As a result it shouldn't be totally surprising that results have been more up and down than usual. There's no doubt Super Rugby is a demanding competition and given what has happened so far, it is clear there is a lot more out of the ordinary action yet to unfold.
Nothing to see here
Things can't be too bad for the Lions. Not only did they get their Australasian tour back on the rails with their 23-17 win over the Chiefs, they did it without their coach Swys de Bruin. All sorts of rumours have been doing the rounds about why de Bruin returned to South Africa before the game. There was one story of a falling out with the Lions' main investor. But de Bruin said it was strictly a health issue. "I can guarantee you there has been no breakdown in the relationship between me and anyone in the team or at the union. There has been no interference, no one has prescribed to me what to do, and no pressure has been put on me," he said. This is a personal matter and I am receiving professional help for it. It was our team doctor, after I'd first spoken to my wife and Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, who actually said it would be best for me to return home. It was in my and the team's best interests. There is no reason for any panic, there's nothing to be concerned about. Ivan van Rooyen will take charge of the team and he also has strong leaders around him who know the team set-up. Warren Whiteley is also back and we know what a good leader his is," de Bruin said.

Battling Brumbies

Wallabies loose forward David Pocock has suffered another injury frustration. The world-class flanker has returned home from the Brumbies' tour to South Africa and Argentina after a recurrence of a calf injury he first suffered during a Wallabies pre-season camp in January. The weekend win over the Stormers was his first game since March 8 and it is not clear how long he will be out for. Coach Dave McKellar said, "We have to make sure if we throw him back into a game situation that he is prepared and ready to perform. And not just play, so the last thing we want him to do is have another setback." The Brumbies also lost hooker Josh Mann-Read at the weekend when he suffered a suspected ACL injury. After they return from Buenos Aires, the Brumbies host the Blues on May 4.