Young Reds a roller coaster ride
THERE'S one certainty about teams whose personnel is largely made up of youngsters trying to establish their bona fides in the big time. They'll take their supporters on a ride, and that ride will always be a roller coaster.
Young footballers' biggest task is to find consistency in their performance - not just from week to week, but from minute to minute within the course of any single game.
If it begins with an "e", it'll be there for all to see.
There'll be excitement, because that's what roller coasters give you.
There'll be exasperation, because just when you think everything is under control, control will be lost.
There'll be excellence, enthusiasm, good and bad execution and errors.
The 2018 Reds have delivered all of that and some, as anyone who saw Saturday's 27-22 win against the Lions will surely agree.
The most comforting thing at the halfway point of the season, is that there's enough evidence to believe they are headed in the right direction.
The forward pack has been a revelation and the most pleasing aspect is the depth of talent coach Brad Thorn has to call on. At the start of the season, I doubt the likes of Jean Pierre Smith would have been on anyone's radar as one of the most influential members of the squad, but he is just one of many who has shown he can handle the big time.
While the continuing progression of the forward pack is a must, it is now time for Thorn to be looking to the future in terms of his selections in the halves.
While Jono Lance appears the type of player you'd love to have as a teammate, it's not unfair to say he has limitations and it is time for Hamish Stewart to be given an extended run in the number 10 jersey.
I've been disappointed with the lack of game time he's been given this year, and while Thorn will have had his reasons for that, there can be none now to keep him from starting.
He wasn't brilliant against the Lions, but there was enough to suggest he'll eventually be the full package.
He was very conservative with his penalty kicking for touch and his field kicking was slightly off but be can tackle, run, pass, step and looks to have the composure to put his errors in the ancient history box and get on with the game.
Speaking of getting on with the game, there was another reminder during yesterday's match of just how reluctant the authorities are to enhance the continuity and flow of the game.
Ben Lucas knocked on 34 minutes and 52 seconds into the game. The ensuing scrum, repack, repack, lecture from the referee, and repack, meant that the next time the ball was is play was exactly 3 minutes and 17 seconds later.
3 minutes and 17 seconds of nothingness. What the Lions would have given for that time back, late in the second half.
Can someone explain to me why the clock is not stopped the minute a scrum collapses and the referee begins his sermon? It might give some players time to catch their breath, but considering what they get paid, I reckon most fans feel they should be working the whole eighty minutes for their wages.
And let's hope Lions centre Rohan Van Rensburg has begun a trend. Referee Angus Gardner called for a replay to see if the ball had been grounded for a try but Van Rensburg saved everyone a minute of their lives by telling Gardner that he'd knocked on and to get on with the game. Sadly, I'm not confident such honesty will be contagious!