What to do about Stephen?
Where does Stephen Perofeta go from here? The Blues first five-eighths demonstrated some classy touches in the early stages of the 8-25 loss to the Crusaders at Eden Park but then at halftime was switched to fullback. Was the best hope for the Blues to retain him in a position where he could create a chance in the manner he provided in the build-up for captain Patrick Tuipulotu's try or to have him contributing from fullback? The Blues took the conservative choice and were largely shut down by the Crusaders in the second spell. This was a first five-eighths who made his Blues debut against the British & Irish Lions and who played a key role in victory on that occasion. Injury denied him the much of the 2018 season and all of 2019. He now appears caught in no-man's land. Otere Black's return to the side in Africa may make the selectors' thinking a little clearer ahead of Beauden Barrett's arrival midway through the campaign.
Grace offers plenty for Crusaders
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said before the Friday game with the Blues that his choice of blindside flanker Cullen Grace to start was a little earlier than he would have wanted but necessity has always been the mother of invention. Grace belied concerns that he might not be ready with a starting debut as good as any in recent memory from any player in the competition. This is clearly a player with a significant future for at least the Crusaders, and more than likely beyond. There's a stamp of the Ian Kirkpatrick's rise in this player and if he gets to prove that he can run with ball in hand as well as Kirkpatrick did then his future is looking dynamic. He's a home grown product from Timaru who has been nurtured in the Crusaders' development factory and the results are there for all to see.
Lineout maul brings mixed results
Just how much the rolling lineout maul plays in the try-scoring mindset of some sides could not have been more obvious than at the weekend. First up it was the Brumbies who benefited with a hat-trick of tries, all of them resulting from lineout drives, to hooker Folau Fainga'a. Then in Buenos Aires not only did Jaguares hooker Julian Montoya secure a hat-trick of lineout maul tries, but his replacement Santiago Socino picked up a fourth. The tactic provided mixed results however. While the Jaguares came back from 12-24 down at halftime to win 43-27 by incorporating effective backplay, the Brumbies proved to be one-trick ponies when losing to the Highlanders in injury time.
Big test for Stormers
Are the Stormers the real thing in 2020? Having made their best start to the competition since 2017, capping two home wins with a come-from-behind win away in Johannesburg at the weekend, they now head the African Conference. Impressive in those three games was the way they held their first two opponents, the Hurricanes and Bulls, scoreless. But they had to pull out all the stops to contain an Elton Jantjies-led charge at Ellis Park. That showed the level of resilience in the squad. However, that will be well and truly put to the test next weekend when they host the Jaguares. Last year's beaten finalists face their first away game of the season. However, one of the central planks of the Jaguares' advance has been their ability to win away from home. This should be an outstanding contest.
Woeful Waratahs face honesty test
Still to register a win after three rounds, the Waratahs go into their bye week with coach Rob Penney giving his players a clear message about their situation. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Penney as saying after their 10–24 loss to the Rebels, "I just want them to be honest in their appraisals and their reflections. For want of a better word, don't bullshit each other and don't bullshit when you're thinking about what we need to change. If we need to move somewhere else, let's be open and honest and not be intimidated by it. If we go through all that exploration and we end up where we are now then we'll commit, work harder and dig deeper. If there's an alteration to be made that's also great, but we need to explore every option to get to that point." It doesn't get any easier for them as they have the Lions, Chiefs and Brumbies ahead.