Will Genia, right, clashes with Ryan Kankowski of the Sharks last Saturday night. Photo: AP
1. Will Genia is a halfback. In isolation, the decision to push him out to No.10 did not cost the Reds the game, but it contributed to the feeling that they comprehensively lost the battle of the coaching boxes as well as the physical one. The extent to which the Sharks upset Queensland's normal rhythm can be seen in how the hosts used the ball. Prior to Saturday night, the Reds were kicking 25 per cent of ball from five-eighth and passing 64 per cent, but against the Sharks they kicked just 13 per cent and passed it 79 per cent – including, of course, Genia's fateful intercept pass to Charl McCleod. Genia's kicking game, too, was inaccurate and to compound the problem Nick Frisby had a poor game from halfback. When Genia went to No.10 the Reds managed to weaken both playmaking positions.
2. The South Africans are on the rise. From Marcell Coetzee to Paul Jordaan to their Junior World Championship winning team, there is plenty of evidence that a flood of talent is coming through in the Republic. Whether they can turn that into something meaningful in the Test arena depends on how bold they are prepared to be at No.10. Morne Steyn's poor season – he was booed against England in the third Test of the June series and looked mentally shot against the Crusaders on Saturday – might make that decision easier for Heyneke Meyer. Away from Pretoria, the Bulls' game plan looks tired and bordering on irrelevant.
3. Australia is not alone. John Plumtree's negative comments about the relative weakness of the Australian conference have merit, no question, but he is lobbing those verbal stones from a glass house in South Africa. The South African conference has, for years, been a virtual cartel with the best players gravitating towards the Sharks, Bulls and Stormers and the Cheetahs and Lions battling to avoid the wooden spoon (and let's not forget the Force beat the Lions this year). Australia has its problems but if the social mobility of teams is one sign of health in each conference, South Africa has its own issues.
4. Don't write off the Wallabies. In one sense, the failure of the Australian Super teams this year hasn't told us anything new: the Wallabies have a shallower pool of talent than New Zealand and South Africa and when a few key players are missing it has a huge impact. But if it means that expectations going into this year's Rugby Championship are kept in check then that is no bad thing. When the All Blacks come to Sydney on August 18 the best state for the Wallabies to be in is unfancied and desperate.
5. We'll see more and more of McCaw out of No.7. Whether it's the thickening impact of age, or the fruits of gym work, Richie McCaw is a noticeably bigger athlete these days than the wiry scavenger of the past. He is increasingly looking comfortable with the No.8 jersey - his ball-carrying ability against the big Bulls was a feature of a strong display – but he also has the physical attributes to play No.6 for the All Blacks if the claims of young Chiefs No.7 Sam Cane become more and more irresistible. There is no sign of McCaw's powers lessening either – in fact he looks in far better shape than last year when that foot problem was hampering him.