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Grounded wings, soft Sharks: five talking points in Super Rugby

Coastal Sharks will lack two injured Springbok front rowers, prop Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira and hooker Akker van der Merwe, against the Lions as they seek to improve a dismal home record.

The Sharks' Philip van der Walt reacts after defeat during the Super Rugby match against the Chiefs in Hamilton, New Zealand on 11 May 2019. Picture: AFP

WELLINGTON - Five talking points ahead of this weekend's round of Super Rugby matches:

GOODBYE TO INJURY-PRONE POCOCK?

Wallabies flanker David Pocock may have played his last game for the ACT Brumbies after failing to shake off a calf injury that has dogged his season.

Pocock, who is expected to move abroad next year, has been ruled out of Friday's match against Northern Bulls and coach Dan McKellar said the veteran may sit out the rest of the season to ensure he is fit for the World Cup.

"We've got to look at whether he plays Super Rugby or whether he now puts his attention towards the World Cup," he said.

"Those are things we've got to discuss between the Brumbies and the Wallabies."

However, the Canberra team are celebrating prop Scott Sio's decision to sign a three-year deal to stay with the Brumbies and Wallabies until the end of 2022.

NOTHING IN THE AIR FOR FOLAU-LESS NSW

NSW Waratahs wing Cameron Clark has indicated the Sydney-siders will run the ball more, rather than kick it, now that aerial specialist Israel Folau has departed in controversial circumstances.

Clark described Folau, Super Rugby's leading try-scorer, as "probably the best player in the air in the world" but insisted the Waratahs would remain a potent attacking force without him.

"We definitely have the ability to score points if we hold onto the ball," Clark said ahead of this weekend's match against Argentina's Jaguares.

"It comes down to our attacking structure, and wearing teams down. We want to hold onto the ball and pressure our way into points."

SHARKS LOSE THEIR BITE AT HOME

Coastal Sharks will lack two injured Springbok front rowers, prop Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira and hooker Akker van der Merwe, against the Lions as they seek to improve a dismal home record.

The Durban outfit have lost four of six Super Rugby matches at Kings Park in the Indian Ocean port city this season, including a 34-point drubbing by the Argentine Jaguares.

"I do not know the exact reasons why we struggle at home," admitted Coenie Oosthuizen, another Sharks prop who has represented South Africa.

"What I do know is that we need to start home matches better. When our team does not begin well, we tend to struggle throughout a game."

Despite winning only five of 12 matches and lying fourth in the South African conference, the Sharks are just three points behind the table-topping Northern Bulls.

HANSEN QUESTIONS PENALTY COUNT

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has criticised Super Rugby refereeing in South Africa, although his comments could also be seen as an early warning that he will be vocal about officiating at the World Cup in Japan.

Questionable decisions cost Canterbury Crusaders victory in their 19-19 draw with Western Stormers last weekend and Hansen also believed Golden Lions were getting the rub of the green.

"(Penalties) are not consistent on both sides - if it's a penalty today then it's a penalty for the whole day, not just part of the day," he said.

"The Lions have been awarded 48 penalties in three games while the opposition sides have only been awarded six. That would mean there's not a lot of consistency being applied."

The complaint is a departure for Hansen, whose colourful advice after previous refereeing controversies has been to "flush the dunny and move on".

NZ OLYMPIC SEVENS OPTIONS RESTRICTED

New Zealand sevens coach Clark Laidlaw has revealed officials have restricted him to selecting one player from each of the country's Super Rugby clubs for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

The move is an attempt to avoid the messy selection process before the Rio Games, when Laidlaw's predecessor Gordon Tietjens failed to lure All Blacks such as Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea, Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith into his squad.

In a major shock, the 12-time world sevens champions failed to win a medal in Rio and Tietjens resigned, complaining that New Zealand Rugby had blocked his access to top players.

Laidlaw said he had made a pitch to New Zealand's Super Rugby players about chasing Olympic glory in Japan and expected to hear from those who were interested next month.

"We've identified Super Rugby players and All Blacks who we think have the potential to play sevens. Now it's in the players' hands to see who is interested and who is not," he told the New Zealand Herald.

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