Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (22/6/11)

The Drawing Board (22/6/11)

Welcome to the Drawing Board, Who’s Playing Who?’s one stop rugby shop. In an exciting end to the Super Rugby regular season, we now know who will be playing who in the playoffs.  To make things more intriguing, we will now be able to crown a new champion as the Bulls were knocked out at their fortress. Firstly though, let’s start with the news.

News

  • Danny Cipriani has ended speculation about his playing future by confirming he will stay with the Rebels and vowed to work hard on his off-field behavior.
  • Reds prop James Slipper has been ruled out of their Super Rugby semi final after picking up an ankle sprain against the Chiefs last weekend.
  • Force coach Richard Graham has confirmed All Blacks’ backs Ma’a Nonu and Cory Jane are two of the players in the mix to become the Perth-based franchise’s marquee recruit next Super Rugby season.
  • NSW Waratahs’ captain Phil Waugh has announced his retirement, which will begin after the World Cup (if selected). This news is sure to delight all Kiwis, as this guy was good.
  • South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has named six uncapped players in his preliminary 49-man Rugby World Cup training squad.
  • Stormers No.8 Duane Vermeulen has been ruled out of the remainder of the Super Rugby season with a knee injury and is a major doubt for this year’s Rugby World Cup.
  • Crusaders centre Sonny Bill Williams has been passed fit for Saturday’s Super Rugby showdown with the Sharks in Nelson.
  • The Crusaders have raised $200,000 to help rugby in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch. Tui, a brewery in New Zealand, offered to sponsor the Crusaders $5000 per try, and then decided to throw in an additional $55,000 just to be nice.
  • England manager Martin Johnson has defended his multi-national World Cup training squad. There are a whopping 13 overseas born players in his squad.
  • Earthquakes suck.

Super Wrap

Now that the dust has settled on the Super Rugby regular season, we have a clear picture of the play-off make up. Congratulations are in order for the Crusaders, Reds and Stormers for winning their respective conferences. This is a mighty achievement for all these teams, who are now set to reap the benefits of this. As the Reds and Stormers have qualified as the top 2 teams, they have earned a week off and home semi – finals. The Crusaders have a home semi final playoff against the sixth placed Sharks whilst the Blues also get a home semi final playoff match against the Waratahs. Here is a recap of how this week’s action panned out.

Blues 33 – 17 Highlanders

The Blues booked a place in the Top Six with a comprehensive win over the Highlanders. They were the better team on the day, with more strike power and looked the hungrier of the two teams. The Highlanders got off to a flying start, with a try and a drop goal giving them an early 8 – 3 advantage. The Blues, however, regained the upper hand with a couple of tries before the break giving them a 17 – 11 lead. The conditions were challenging, which looked to suit the Highlanders, but it was the Blues who came up with the decisive try just after half time.  A 64th minute try gave the Highlanders some hope, but the Blues were just too good on the day.

Rebels 24 – 27 Force

The Force managed to gain some revenge over the Rebels as they played out a thriller.  The first half was a bit messy and scrappy as both teams tried to gain the ascendancy. Three penalty goals to the Force in the first half gave them a 9 – 6 lead at the break. The game continued in much the same way with the Rebels pulling level at 12 all. The Force then took control of the game with two tries, one of which was converted.  However, the Rebels hit back with a couple of tries of their own to level the scores at 24 all. It was left to a late Force penalty to seal the game, and consign the Rebels to last place on the log.

Chiefs 11 – 19 Reds

The Reds made sure of the top spot when they managed to beat the Chiefs. The Reds showed their title credentials as they controlled the second half superbly, stifling the Chiefs multiple attacks.  The early signs were ominous for the Chiefs as the Reds managed to get out to a 10 point lead after 25 minutes. The Reds let them back into the game however, with bad handling allowing the Chiefs to make it to the break with only a 6 – 10 deficit.  After the break, the Reds produced some clinical defence to stop the Chiefs from gaining the ascendancy. Three further penalties increased the lead to  13 points before the Chiefs scored a late try to give them a bit of hope, but it was too little too late.

Crusaders 16 – 9 Hurricanes

The Crusaders took out the NZ conference with a determined and workmen like victory over the Hurricanes. Rain hampered each team’s ability to run the ball, but the intensity was still evident from both sides. The Hurricanes had the better of the first half, running the ball well and coming up in defence to stop the Crusaders attack. Though at the break the scores were level at 6 – 6. Typical of the Crusaders, they took their opportunity and scored the game’s only try just after half time.  A late drop goal from scrumhalf Andy Ellis sealed the game for the Crusaders, but they had to do it tough as it was a much improved effort from the Hurricanes.

Waratahs 41 – 7 Brumbies

The Waratahs stormed into the Top Six with a dominant performance against the Brumbies.  Whilst they gained a valuable bonus point, the Waratahs have paid a high price with more injuries. A converted try and a penalty in the first half gave the Waratahs an important 10 point lead at the break. They totally dominated the second half, scoring a further four more tries to heap more misery on the Brumbies. A late try to the Brumbies ensured that they managed to avoid being shut out, but it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for them.

Bulls 23 – 26 Sharks

The Sharks managed to get themselves a spot in the Top Six with an epic victory over the Bulls. In a thrilling match, the Sharks produced their most assured performance of the season to end the Bulls six-game winning run and their title defence in epic style. The boot dominated the first bit of the first half, before the teams traded tries. A snap drop goal from former French international Freddy Michalak gave the Sharks a deserved 16 – 13 half time lead.  The Bulls missed several opportunities at the beginning of the second half, and were punished as a late converted try from the Sharks sealed the game. The Bulls did manage to cross the line with only a handful of minutes left, but it was too little too late.

Cheetahs 44 – 34 Stormers

The Stormers gained top spot in the South African conference by withstanding a comeback by the Cheetahs. Penalties were traded between the teams in the first quarter, but the Stormers managed to score a converted try and a couple more penalties to take control. The Cheetahs scored a try just before the break to make the half-time score 19 – 13. A couple of converted tries just after half time saw the Stormers race out to a 20 point lead before the teams traded tries (with the Cheetahs converting theirs).  The Cheetahs raced back into the game with two further tries to Ryno Benjamin, giving him a hat-trick. However, two penalties to the Stormers gave them some breathing space.

Bye: Lions

Tips

Only the two games this week, but both promise to be high quality affairs. All nations are represented here, with New Zealand having two teams due to their conference winners, the Crusaders, coming in third place. Interestingly, both games will be played in New Zealand, which could potentially mean a lot of travel for the one who has to go to play the Stormers in Cape Town.

Blues V Waratahs

Both teams come into this game with a bit of momentum on their side. The Waratahs have had the better of the recent form, winning crucial games against the Highlanders and the Brumbies after a disastrous South African tour. The Blues looked in really good shape until four consecutive losses derailed their ambitions to be the conference winners. The rediscovered their form against the Highlanders last week though.    The Waratahs have had a terrible time in Auckland over the years, winning just one game in the past 80 years or so. In fact they have not travelled overseas well this year, losing all four games outside of Australia. Their defence has been outstanding recently, and their attack seems to be getting going well. The Blues have played much better the last few weeks, and have also started to get their attack into motion.  The Waratahs will be under strength for this one, missing Tatafu Polota-Nau and Berrick Barnes. It is for this reason, and the fact that they are playing their bogey team away from home that makes me think that the Blues will take this one. I don’t think there will be much in it though, thus I’m going for the 12 points and under option.

Crusaders V Sharks

In the weekends other semi final play-off, the Crusaders will battle the Sharks in Nelson. Much like the game up in Auckland, home advantage will be huge, especially as the Sharks have had to travel all the way from the republic to play this game. History is against the Sharks, who have never beaten the Crusaders in New Zealand, who are aiming to become the first South African side to win a playoff away from South Africa. The Crusaders are coming off some hard fought victories over the Blues and Hurricanes. They were not convincing, but we all know how good they can be in big games like this one. The Sharks have also come off a big game against the defending champions, the Bulls. In the two games preceding that, they made a habit of almost losing games before performing miracle recoveries. They are going to be tired though, with the massive trip and the game against the Bulls taking a lot out of them. An away semi final is not an optimal outcome, but this Sharks side will not give up. However, I think that the Crusaders will have far too much in them and will be able to withstand the Shark attack. Again, like the Blues/Waratahs game, this one will be tight, thus I’ll opt for the 12 points and under option.

Super XV for Week 18:

15. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) 14. JP Pietersen (Sharks) 13. Robbie Fruean (Crusaders) 12.Ma’a Nonu (Hurricanes) 11. Zac Guildford (Crusaders) 10. Dan Carter (Crusaders) 9. Will Genia (Reds) 8.Fritz Lee (Chiefs) 7. Liam Gill (Reds) 6. Schalk Burger (Stormers) 5. James Horwill (Reds) 4. Brad Thorn (Crusaders) 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) 2. Corey Flynn (Crusaders) 1. Charlie Faumuina (Blues)

Should be another entertaining and important week in the Super Rugby universe, so, until next time, have a good week and we will catch you next week for another instalment of the Drawing Board.

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