Home > The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (26/07/2012)

The Drawing Board (26/07/2012)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who’s weekly rugby blog. We are now one week through the playoffs and the best four teams have progressed to the semi-finals.  The Sharks ended the reign of the Reds as Super Rugby champions with a win in Brisbane that takes the South Africans through to the last four, whilst the Crusaders also made it through to the semi-finals after they dominated the Bulls to win. They will now meet the Chiefs in their 11th consecutive last four appearance, while the Sharks’ win has set up an all-South Africa semi-final against the Stormers.

Super Wrap

Crusaders 28 – 13 Bulls

The Crusaders controlled their qualifier from start to finish and after Dan Carter had slotted two penalties he then set up Zac Guildford for the only try of the match. Carter added a third penalty for the break and after an error-strewn half Morne Steyn kicked the Bulls first points of the match to go in 16-3 down at the break.

Carter’s boot continued to keep the Bulls at bay and the fly-half added another 12 points in the second half. Wynard Olivier and flanker Dewald Potgieter both crossed for tries, but it was the seven times champions who stayed in control as Carter took his personal tally for the night to 23 when he kicked a penalty on the stroke of full-time.

“I think in the first 20 minutes we kept them down the field and didn’t give them any momentum and while our attacking play was good we couldn’t finish, but we kept up at it until we eventually did,” Crusaders’ captain Richie McCaw said. “They got a try and the game changed and the momentum changed and we got into a bit of an arm wrestle.”

Reds 17 – 30 Sharks

JP Pietersen grabbed their first try when he raced over in the corner. He then turned creator when he set up centre Paul Jordaan for the second. Frederic Michalak added two conversions, a penalty and a drop goal, but on the stroke of half-time Will Genia popped up on Scott Higginbotham’s shoulder to score a try that gave the holders some hope.

Early in the second half Mike Harris missed the chance bring the Reds to get further back into contention when he pushed a penalty wide and the Sharks made them pay immediately when Charl McLeod intercepted and raced in from the half-way line. Digby Ioane and Adam Wallace-Harrison went close for the Reds, but Michalak slotted another penalty with three minutes remaining and Radike Samo’s try was too little too late.

The Reds were left to rue a try that was ruled out after Ioane and Liam Gill both went close in the 56th minute. There was some disappointment with the way that referee Jonathan Kaplan phrased his question to the Television Match Official. “I don’t want to rue the opportunity, but if we’d scored that try we would have been right back in the game,” Reds captain Will Genia said.

Tips

Chiefs v Crusaders

Hamilton is the place to be when two of the Kiwi outfits who have set the tournament alight go head to head for a third time this season in what should be another captivating contest. The Crusaders’ epic Round 17 win squared the ledger between the two sides after the Chiefs drew first blood earlier on in the competition, but this is the one that counts the most.

One more win is all that separates the Crusaders from back to back final appearances. Speaking of back to back, this will be the 11th consecutive year that the Crusaders have made it to the semi-finals. To get there, Todd Blackadder’s troops will have to overcome a classy Chiefs unit who have never been crowned champions (their only final was in 2009) but have certainly showed their title credentials after finishing top of the NZ conference.

They’ve led the way for the majority of the season; but missed a beat or two at the business end after suffering back-to-back losses which led to them surrendering their number one spot on the overall log to the Stormers. Granted, both were games the Chiefs should have won and will know better than anyone they can ill-afford to let any opportunities slip come kick-off on Friday when they face a real test of their mettle against the highly fancied Crusaders who are peaking at the right time.

The seven-time champs have won eight of the nine play-offs against their countrymen – the only loss coming against the Blues in the 2003 final.

But ultimately there’s only one set of stats that count at the end: the scoreline. And the Chiefs will have the belief they can match anything the Crusaders throw at them – especially in the backs with that dangerous 10-12 combo of theirs, while out wide it’s pretty even stevens.

However the Chiefs forwards were taught a harsh lesson last time out by the Crusaders – especially at line-out time – and it’s no surprise the coaching staff have been working overtime to right the wrongs. Certainly the Chiefs’ heavies haven’t been found wanting this season, but in the Crusaders they face a battle-hardened, brutal and intelligent unit.

In the back-row, Crusaders number eight Kieran Read once again sits out but McCaw has proved to be an able replacement since shifting from the side of the scrum to the back while Matt Todd and George Whitelock have been the unsung heroes on the flanks. With Sam Cane riding pine for this knock-out clash, there will be added pressure on Liam Messam to be the Chiefs primary source of momentum in the their back row.

Up front, it’s going to be a battle royale with crowd favourite Sona Taumalolo and the impressive Ben Tameifuna locking horns with Ben Franks and Wyatt Crockett – both powerful scrummagers who make an already powerful Crusaders scrum even more impressive.

On paper, it’s hard to pick a winner. But regardless of the final scoreline, we’re in for a cracking semi-final.

Prediction: Expect unrelenting urgency and intensity from both sides, but the team that’s able to soak up the pressure best will ultimately claim the spils. Crusaders to take it out!

 

Stormers v Sharks

The Sharks 30-17 win over the defending champion Reds in Brisbane ensured that the men from Durban (the sixth placed wildcard qualifiers) have now travelled back to South Africa to take on the Stormers at DHL Newlands in Cape Town for the Super Rugby Semi-Finals.

The Stormers, top-of-the-table finishers and South African Conference champions, had a break during the first week of the Super Rugby Finals Series, and will now welcome the Sharks in a blockbuster derby in the Republic.

With the Bulls the pre-eminent team in South Africa with three titles, this weekend represents a wonderful opportunity for the Stormers and Sharks to emerge from their shadow, and look to become the second franchise from the Republic to lift a Super Rugby trophy.

The Sharks, who have won four of their last six on the road, are now in their eighth Super Rugby Finals Series, the most of any South African team, and will be bidding to reach their fourth decider, having lost in 1996 (v Blues), 2001 (v Brumbies) and 2007 (v Bulls) in those season’s Super Rugby Finals.

For the Stormers, this match is a big test to see if one of the most consistent teams in Super Rugby over recent years can go all the way – with the Cape Town based side finishing second (2010), second (2011) and first (2012) after the regular season in each of these years.

For the Sharks to deny the Stormers a Super Rugby Final, they will need to become the first team this season to win at DHL Newlands, with the South African Conference champions winning eight from eight there, including a round two 15-12 win over this weekend’s visitors.

Overall the two teams have an even ledger, with the Stormers having won nine matches to the Sharks eight over 17 encounters – and while the home team has won three of the last four, the Sharks have won two of the last four in Cape Town.

Prediction: This is going to be a tight game, with the main battle occurring between the Sharks attack and the Stormers defence. For me, the Sharks should take it out

Super XV:

1 Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks); 2 Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks); 3 Owen Franks (Crusaders); 4 Willem Alberts (Sharks); 5 Luke Romano (Crusaders); 6 Keegan Daniel (Sharks); 7 Marcell Coetzee (Sharks); 8 Richie McCaw (Crusaders); 9 Charl McLeod (Sharks); 10 Dan Carter (Crusaders); 11 Digby Ioane (Reds); 12 Ryan Crotty (Crusaders); 13 Paul Jordaan (Sharks); 14 JP Pietersen (Sharks); 15 Israel Dagg (Crusaders);

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