Sunday, July 31, 2016

Super Rugby semi finals - rugby on another level!

 SupeRugby Logo.svg

Two semi finals on Saturday, and I can't say enough about the quality of the matches. It's not like rugby you're going to see anywhere else, except maybe from the All Blacks.

There's three things which set it apart. The first the speed at which everything happens - it's absolutely blistering, the speed of the attacks, the pace at which the defense comes up, and the transition from attack to defense. The fitness of the players is just amazing. Then there's the ferocity of the defense, the hits going in are just absolutely bone crunching. Finally, it's the mixed skill set - you're watching a South African team attacking with a prop and a lock in the line, and they're passing smoothly and off loading in the tackle - do not adjust your sets, this is not a test!

The Chiefs gave it their all in Wellington, but they were just 5-10% off, kept on fluffing their lines right at the last minute. The Hurricanes just bided their time, and picked them off on the break. Beauden Barrett is the epitome of bodacious, he has an uncanny knack of making the right decision, and serious speed when he needs it.The only worry for the Canes might be their scrum, which looked really creaky, and their discipline - two yellow cards is not good enough.

Meanwhile in Joburg, the Lions played the Highlanders at their own game, attacking with skill, intensity and pace. Elton Jantjies was pretty ordinary in my opinion against Ireland - he was in jaw dropping form on Saturday - he might be the best attacking fly half the Springboks have ever had. And the Lions were nothing short of sensational, best game by a South African team I've ever seen in 13-14 years of watching Super Rugby. Janties is well backed up by Faff de Klerk. The Highlanders tried until the end, but like the Chiefs were 5% off the pace

Saturday, July 30   
Hurricanes 25 - 9 Chiefs
Lions 42 - 30 Highlanders

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Super Rugby semi finals, and an update on Schmidt Watch!


Super Rugby hits the semi finals this weekend, with matches in Wellington and Johannesburg. First up is the all New Zealand affair of the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. The Canes have all the advantages - they hammered the Sharks last week, so spirits are high, and they're at home for the second week in a row. The Chiefs meanwhile, while not being exactly taxed by playing the Stormers last weekend, have just basically flown around the world in the last week, which isn't the best preparation for a sharp physical  on form side like the Canes. So the Canes for me.

The in Joburg it's the Lions entertaining the Highlanders. The Lions produced a massive performance last weekend to dispose of the Crusaders, slept in their beds this week, and will be well up for this match. If they win, it'll be their first final. The Highlanders had a tough away match with a lot of travel last weekend, and back that up again. So travel is going to be a factor, a huge factor, again home advantage is going to do it for me in this match.

Finally, in Schmidt watch, the plot thickens, with Steve Hansen signing up for another two years with the All Blacks. And who knows, he could sign up for another four years after that. So does Joe take up a Super Rugby position, a step backwards, and play the waiting game? He has personal family reasons as well, and whatever he chooses, he's done so well by Ireland. But it probably swings the possibility of staying slightly more likely.

Super Rugby semi-finals   
Saturday, July 30   
Hurricanes v Chiefs   
Lions v Highlanders 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Lions join the the three Kiwi teams in the Super Rugby semi finals!

The Super Rugby quarters played out as expected, apart from the Lions victory at Ellis Park. I watched the first half of that, and they were right up for it, playing a fast paced skillful game, making the Crusaders looked leaden footed. The Crusaders have turned from the dominant team in the competition to also-rans, and Todd Blackadder leaves at about the right time I think.

I also watched the Brumbies fall to the Higlanders, in a pretty close match. The Brumbies will feel like they didn't get the advantage they deserved from their dominant scrum, but it was the Highlanders who played most of the rugby, and on balance totally deserved that win.

Elsewhere, the Hurrricanes duly slaughtered the Sharks, with coach Chris Boyd graciously pointing out the disadvantage of travel for the South African team. That's a factor alright, but the Sharks have won away before in semis, they just weren't in that match.

Finally, the Stormers were crushed at home by the Chiefs, so the travel argument didn't work in this case. It's a crazy competition where the Stormers didn't play a Kiwi's side until the quarters.

Friday, July 22   
Brumbies 9 - 15    Highlanders
Saturday, July 23   
Hurricanes 41 - 0    Sharks
Lions 42 - 25    Crusaders
Stormers 21 - 60    Chiefs
Super Rugby semi-finals   
Saturday, July 30   
Hurricanes v Chiefs   
Lions v Highlanders