Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (21/07/2012)

The Drawing Board (21/07/2012)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. The Super Rugby play-off picture has been confirmed following a frantic final day of regular season action that saw title hopes preserved and dashed in dramatic fashion.

The Stormers and Chiefs will enjoy a week off having secured the top two spots in the overall table and will be keen observers of the opening round of the post-season that will see the Reds tackle the Sharks in Brisbane and the Crusaders take on the Bulls in Christchurch. The highest ranked side that emerges from those games will then travel to Hamilton to play the Chiefs with the other winner set to face the Stormers in Cape Town. The biggest losers in the shake-up were the Brumbies who began the day on top of the Australian Conference but ended it out of the play-off picture altogether.

Super Wrap

Hurricanes 28 – 25 Chiefs

The Hurricanes had grabbed a lifeline with a last-gasp victory over the table-topping Chiefs. Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith was unhappy with the award of a controversial try from hooker Dane Coles in the last act of the game that gave the hosts the win.

He said: “Maybe the roles that they’re assigning as TMO’s have to be specialist roles just like the referees are. Maybe you need to have the right people there being trained and making the right decisions. There’s got to be better way than just putting a ref in there and saying ‘make a decision’.”

Brumbies 16 – 30 Blues

The Brumbies season faltered at the final hurdle with a defeat at home to the Blues. The Blues, who have struggled all season, ran in three tries while the Brumbies failed to gain even a losing bonus point.

White was clearly riled by his side’s performance and inability to keep control of their fate. He said: “We went away from the plan as they kicked off. We gave them 14 points in 11 minutes. Everything we spoke about regarding us starting well and keeping them out of the game went out the window.”

Crusaders 38 – 24 Force

The Crusaders powered into the play-offs with an easy victory over the Force in Christchurch. The Crusaders secured a bonus-point victory as they ran in four tries to finish the regular season fourth in the overall standings and claim a home tie in the first round of the play-offs.

The seven-time champions were 32-3 up by half time thanks to tries from Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland, Matt Todd and Andy Ellis. The Force restored some pride in the second half with tries from Alfi Mafi, Kyle Godwin and Josh Holmes but the Crusaders were never under serious threat and replacement Tom Taylor added two penalties as the big guns were brought off to rest up for the play-offs.

Reds 32 – 16 Waratahs

The defending champions Reds seized on the Brumbies’ final day slip-up to snatch the Australian Conference title and claim a place in the play-offs with a  victory over the Waratahs. The Brumbies’ shock defeat to the Blues opened up the door for the Reds and they took full advantage by claiming a bonus-point victory in Brisbane that took them ahead of their rivals with their one extra victory this season the deciding factor.

However, fly-half Quade Cooper could miss the play-offs after he was cited for a high tackle. Captain Will Genia, who notched one of the Reds’ five tries, said: “We spoke all week about trusting the process rather than focusing on the result. Things fell our way, I guess, but we worked hard all week for that result.”

Stormers 26 – 21 Rebels

The Stormers claimed top spot in the overall rankings and with it the No.1 seeding for the play-offs with a win over the Rebels at Newlands. Juan de Jongh scored twice as the far-from-impressive hosts edged out the Rebels to usurp the Chiefs at the top of the table and guarantee that this year’s final will be staged in Cape Town should the Stormers come through their semi-final.

Allister Coetzee’s side survived a nervous final ten minutes as the Rebels threatened to deliver the latest shock on a dramatic day of action. Cooper Vuna’s converted try took the Rebels to within two points after scores from Rodney Blake and Nick Phipps had kept the visitors in the hunt. But Peter Grant struck with a penalty late in the game to ease the tension and take his personal tally to 16 points.

Sharks 34 – 15 Cheetahs

The Sharks kept their season alive by coming back from a 15-6 half-time deficit to beat the Cheetahs. A try from flanker Keegan Daniel sparked the comeback with a debateable second score from scrum-half Charl McLeod adding priceless momentum.

Flanker Marcell Coetzee and No.8 Ryan Kankowski also crossed to power the hosts to an all-important result that lifted them into the play-off picture and ended the Hurricanes’ feint title hopes.

Bulls 37 – 20 Lions

The Bulls completed the line-up for the play-offs with a victory over the Lions. Tries from Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson put the Bulls on course for victory but the visitors threatened to derail their title bid with scores from Michael Bondesio and Josh Strauss ensuring the two sides went into the break all-square.

But tries from Francois Hougaard and Jaques Potgieter soon after the break put paid to the Lions’ challenge and ensured the Bulls climbed into the play-off reckoning – knocking the Brumbies out of the picture in the process.

Bye: Highlanders

Congratulations to:

  • Stephen Moore and Drew Mitchell, who both played in their 100th Super Rugby (SR) match this past weekend.
  • Peter Grant, who passed the 800-point mark in his SR career.
  • Nathan Sharpe, who played his 162nd and final SR game this weekend, setting a record that will take some beating.

Tips

CRUSADERS v VODACOM BULLS – Of the last five matches played between these teams, the Bulls have won four and the Crusaders just one. That suggests history favours the Bulls, as it does when you look at the record of the two teams when they play each other in knockout fixtures — the Bulls have won three semifinals against the Crusaders and the Crusaders just one. But you need to take a closer look at those figures, for they tell a story. All the matches won by the Bulls have been at Loftus, all the matches won by the Crusaders have been in Christchurch. The long flight east the week before the game has to count against the Bulls, and if they do win this one it will be tantamount to them winning a final. On the Bulls’ side though is the fact that no less than 11 of their number have the experience of winning the Super Rugby trophy, so if there is one team that can match the Crusaders when it comes to knowing how to win at this stage, it is Saturday’s opponents. My prediction is that the Crusaders should win.

REDS v SHARKS – The Sharks have moved Willem Alberts to lock, which is something I have been hoping they will do all season. The move could prove a revelation as Alberts has the power and the physicality for the position and will also bring the mobility that the Sharks will need against the Reds, who threatened to run them ragged in the league fixture at Mr Price Kings Park before a slew of injuries cut through the Reds and they started a slump that was to last a good few fixtures after that. The Sharks will miss Patrick Lambie and Frans Steyn, but have been running into good form. The problem though is that so have the Reds — they have now won seven in a row, so must be regarded as the form team in the competition. They will be without the suspended Quade Cooper, but then they have played most of the season without Cooper. Ben Lucas grew into the role before Cooper returned from injury, so it’s not as if he is new to the Reds or the position. The Sharks have a good recent record against the Reds, winning five of their last six matches, but boast a poor record overall in Brisbane — six losses in eight starts. The city though was the scene for their unexpected semifinal win over the Reds in the inaugural Super 12 season in 1996 and while the Reds must start as favourites, don’t bet too much against history repeating itself. Sharks to take a narrow victory.

Super XV for week 18: 
15. Israel Dagg (Crusaders) 14. JP Pietersen (Sharks) 13. Conrad Smith (Hurricanes) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes) 10. Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls) 8. Ryan Kankowski (Sharks) 7. Matt Todd (Crusaders) 6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers) 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls) 4. Liaki Moli (Blues) 3. Ben Taumeifuna (Chiefs) 2. Dane Coles (Hurricanes) 1. JC Janse van Rensburg (Lions).

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Categories: Rugby, The Drawing Board
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