Who’s hot and who’s not: Lions fly flag for South Africa, Bristol Bears maul dismal Falcons and Taulupe Faletau’s cruel blow

Dylan Coetzee
Who's hot and who's not image 22 April 2024.jpg

Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi and Leicester Tigers utility back Solomone Kata.

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.


Lions star against Leinster: The Irish outfit may have fielded a second-string side but, let’s be honest, whoever they put out will usually be competitive at the very least. However, the Johannesburg team blew them away with a superb performance, scoring six tries in a 44-12 victory on Saturday. Their lightning start set the tone with Morne van den Berg, Marius Louw and Quan Horn going over in the opening 13 minutes before Emmanuel Tshituka (2) and Francke Horn also crossed. The Lions will now be looking to take Munster’s scalp this weekend.

Bristol Bears score 85 points: Bristol were rampant on Sunday as they hammered struggling Newcastle Falcons 85-14 to do their play-off hopes no harm at all. The handsome record-breaking points tally puts the Bears into third spot in the Premiership standings and they go into the run-in very much with their tails up. Attack wise there are few better in the league right now and it would certainly be a remarkable turnaround if Bristol were to go all the way and win the title after their early-season struggles. Playing like this they cannot be written off.

Incredible Ospreys display: That was quite the performance from the Welsh region, who stunned the Stormers 27-21 and claimed their eighth United Rugby Championship victory of the campaign. Although the end scoreline looked tight, the Ospreys were good value for their win, with Luke Morgan (2), Sam Parry and Harri Deaves tries securing a bonus-point triumph. They are now level on points with the Cape Town-based outfit, continuing a fine season for Toby Booth’s men. Things seem to be looking up for the Welsh regions after a dismal period.

Hurricanes march on: Another weekend and another win for the Wellington men who are well and truly setting the pace in Super Rugby Pacific. Leinster-bound Jordie Barrett was at the heart of it all as the ‘Canes claimed their eighth win on the bounce after getting past Fijian Drua in Suva on Friday. They have now established themselves as the team to beat and it’s going to take something special to end this run.

Jordie Barrett to Leinster: In a massive bit of news the youngest of the Barretts signed on with New Zealand Rugby and the Hurricanes until 2028. The deal came with an overseas sabbatical option and Barrett opted against a big money move to Japan and will join Leinster for six months from December 2024. It is a clever bit of business from NZR as they try manage the lure of overseas contracts whilst maintaining their own talent in New Zealand. A word too on Leinster who managed to make this incredible switch happen. What an addition he will be.

Siya Kolisi in TIME magazine’s top 100: TIME magazine confirmed something we all already knew, that Kolisi is a very popular man! The Springboks skipper has been named in the magazine’s list of top 100 most influential people in the world. This comes after he led South Africa to another Rugby World Cup title. Kolisi is seen as a person who brings together the people of South Africa and has been described as the embodiment of hope. The superstar has impacted many lives through the Kolisi Foundation so it’s somewhat unsurprising he features.

Croke Park sells out: Leinster host Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup semi-finals which will be played at the massive Croke Park in Dublin. The stadium has a huge capacity and in just 36 hours 82,300 tickets were sold with not one left. It is amazing to see such numbers of tickets being sold and shows that the interest in rugby is well and truly alive. What a game it should be at such a special sporting ground.


IRFU contract system: After outstanding hooker Dan Sheehan agreed a central contract with the governing body and Barrett signed for Leinster – both on the same day – the Irish Rugby Football Union’s system came under the spotlight. Critics say that they are biased towards Leinster and that it is bad for Irish rugby moving forward, while others simply believe that the IRFU are only rewarding their best players. Ultimately, Leinster have access to the best schools and automatically have a leg-up, but equally it is not good if the other three provinces cannot compete financially. It may be benefiting Ireland now but is there a risk of it adversely affecting the national team in the long term?


Leicester and Solomone Kata: Dan McKellar’s outfit suffered a significant setback in the race for the play-offs when they fell to a 40-17 defeat to arch-rivals Northampton. The Tigers played well in the first 40 and were still in contention when Jasper Wiese went over to reduce the arrears to 18-17 with a quarter of the match to play. However, Kata’s dangerous tackle resulted in a red card and Saints took advantage. They ran rampant in the final 20 minutes and significantly damaged Leicester’s top-four hopes, no doubt much to the delight of Saints fans.

Taulupe Faletau suffers another blow: The Welsh back-row has been extremely unlucky with injury over the last couple of years and recently recovered from a broken arm sustained during the Rugby World Cup to be named in Cardiff’s line-up for their clash against Ulster. However, the return to action was not quite what he hoped as he was forced off the field after just 30 minutes. The injury appears to be on the same arm and it is another bit of bad luck for the number eight. We hope it’s not as serious as it looked and he avoids another spell out.

Newcastle Falcons hammered: As mentioned in our hot section, it was about as one-sided as it gets on Sunday as the Bears battered Newcastle at Ashton Gate. Steve Diamond could not hide his disappointment at the result as the Falcons made it a 15th loss from 15 in the Premiership this season. Are they destined to end the league campaign with a zero in the win column? On this evidence it looks highly likely.

Highlanders nilled: The South Island side made a decent start to Super Rugby Pacific, winning two of their first three games and running the Blues close in their second match. Even in their next two games – against the Brumbies and Chiefs – they were competitive, but since then it has all gone wrong. They shipped 47 points against both the Hurricanes and Melbourne Rebels, and over the weekend they suffered the ignominy of being kept scoreless by the Reds. That 31-0 defeat in Brisbane was an utterly abject display as a worrying season is unravelling.

Nothing comes of Super Rugby Pacific racism investigation: You would hope that the due diligence has been done and that the investigation has been thorough, but the outcome of this case does raise some questions. A couple of weeks ago, a group of Rebels fans were accused of racially abusing Fijian Drua scrum-half Frank Lomani, with one ‘fan’ ejected in the aftermath of the incident. A Drua supporter released a thread on X, formerly Twitter, where it was claimed that Lomani was called a ‘black c**t’ but, following an investigation, those allegations were ‘not proven.’ Of course, that is not absolving the Rebels supporter, only stating that there was not sufficient evidence available, but were Super Rugby Pacific saying the witness was not reliable to take action? How much evidence did they and the Rebels require to ban the supporter? There are a few nagging questions which could be answered if details of the investigation was released.

Ian Foster’s comments on the Boks: Just get over it, Ian. The former All Blacks head coach appeared to claim that the Springboks purposefully slowed down the game in the Rugby World Cup final, calling it “unacceptable”. Ultimately, it just comes across as bitter and shouldn’t really be dignified with a response. New Zealand had the chance to win that match, but they can only blame themselves for their errors in the showpiece. The Springboks are deservedly the back-to-back champions and these constant snipes are very disappointing.

Early Rugby Championship start for South African fans: On the subject of the Springboks, their fans are the ones who should really be complaining this week after the schedule was released for the Rugby Championship. The opening weekend sees Australia and South Africa clash in Brisbane, with the kick-off bizarrely set for 14:45 local time. That, of course, is early morning for Bok supporters with it equating to 06:45 in South Africa, which is ridiculous. Sometimes it is difficult to keep everyone happy when it comes to scheduling games across time zones, and Australian and New Zealand fans are always hit hard by their matches in South Africa, but this decision seems nonsensical to us.

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