Crusaders Crank It Up
Crusaders Crank It Up
Crusaders Crank It Up
The Super Wrap
Congratulations to the Blitz Boks wrapping up the HSBC World Sevens Series with a round to go. It is hard to understand how South Africa can get their sevens programme so right, and keep it so free of political interference, while the fifteen aside game has got so mired in politics and parochialism.
Meanwhile the obligation to send New Zealand’s most promising sevens player, the guy the team should be built around for years to come, Vilimoni Koroi, back to Otago to prepare for the Mitre Ten Cup says a lot about the priority sevens gets in New Zealand. All things considered, third in Paris wasn’t bad, but the team is going to finish fourth overall and we’re used to better than that.
New Zealand Conference :
A pulsating, knifed edge derby in Christchurch provided the best clash of the weekend, and the sole defeat for a New Zealand team.
The coming weeks are going to see a more of this sort of cannibalising going on, and it will be an impediment to New Zealand wining Super Rugby, but still great for the bigger picture.
Power Ranking for this week.
After copping out big time last week and giving everyone an equal rating, here they are :
1 : The Crusaders tailored their game for the occasion, leaning on their greatest strength, their set piece. That and their smothering defence kept the lethal Hurricanes backline in check, and to do it without Read and Whitelock is testimony to their depth, and to their coaching and group leadership.
2: The Highlanders almost got bogged down in the mud in Pretoria, but once again found a way to win with a patched up team. Tougher than it needed to be, given that the Bulls try should not have stood and the Naholo red card was perhaps harsh, and it might have gotten away on them but for a really dumb act by a Bulls forward.
3: The Blues win three in a row, as they should against a Cheetahs team that always gives it a crack on attack, but is nothing much more than a collection of cracks on defence. The Blues have now gone over a year without losing to an overseas team. This weekend in Cape Town will put that to a firm test, but they look good enough to keep it going.
4: The Hurricanes : were edged in the battle up front, restricted on defence, and made more mistakes than normal as a consequence. Not a terminal defeat by any means, they’ll still be too good for most teams in this competition, but have a few “work-ons” if they’re to claim back to back titles. A few less injuries would help, but that’s a boat occupied by many teams at this point of the season.
5: The Chiefs had a weekend off to restore some energy ahead of the next attempt to tip up the Crusaders on Friday night.
Australian Conference :
In the current climate the Reds beating the Rebels and the Force beating the Jaguares is considered a successful weekend. To be fair the Force were pretty good, even if the Jaguares were dreadful.
The Brumbies had a good chance to beat a below par Lions, but let Kwagga Smith bolt on them, and paid the price for their limited game plan.
South African Conference :
The Lions know they’re just a Crusaders slip up away from pole position and are keeping the wins coming. They were not great against the Brumbies, but good enough and that’s all that matters. Their next three games against the Bulls, Kings and Sunwolves are gimmes, before a final round home game against a Sharks team that will only stand a chance if they are having an “up” day.
The Jaguares appear to be blowing a great opportunity for a wildcard, while the Bulls appear to be playing with the same collective IQ as a bag of spanners.
Stormers v Blues this weekend should be interesting.
Six of the Best :
1) Ryan Crotty showed why he is so valuable to the Crusaders and the All Blacks. Ultra-reliable, mistake free, a leader of the defence, and in this game producing some nifty kicks, one a la BB that almost produced a try. Class.
2) Akira Ioane. Apologies for the error last week crediting Akira with Reiko’s performance. “Mondaymorningitus” is not a good thing.
This week it’s definitely Akira. Used effectively as a lineout forward which is another string to his bow. The Jerome Kaino injury has given him an opportunity he is grabbing with both hands, proving he is more value as a starter than off the bench.
3) Aaron Smith. In impossible conditions, he provided as much control as humanly possible, driving the Bulls back with his well weighted kicks and keeping the forward pack on point.
4) Dillon Hunt meantime put in a massive shift on defence with 19 tackles, the most by any player over the weekend.
5) Ngani Laumape stood out in a beaten team with his power running and some great offloads. They sent him down Mo’unga street a few times to telling effect.
6) Samu Kerevi. It would be a shame if he is going to spend the rest of his career used as a battering ram when there is so much more to his game, but if you want bash he will do it for you.
It Wasn’t Such a Good Week For :
1) SANZAR : Very little coming out of their meeting in Japan, but the word is things are very, very messy. It looks suspiciously like a legal threat by the Rebels and possibly Force will actually give the ARU the excuse it needs to get a stay of execution on the Super Rugby cull, and force us into a repeat of this discredited format next year.
2) The Bulls. Walloped by the Crusaders and then beaten at the death by the Highlanders after having a go-ahead try ruled out and a player sent off for an act as dumb as it gets. Ten years ago they were embarking on a dynasty, now they’re a dinosaur.
3) The Jaguares. Losing to the Force at home severely dents their playoff hopes. It’s good to have them in Super Rugby but not if they are only going to use it as a shake down for their test team.
4) Waisake Naholo. One angle made it look like a standard, everyday clash between two players going for a loose ball. Another angle was less sympathetic and as you can imagine, that was the one that held sway. Maybe a tad harsh, but the card put his team at risk.
And finally, Stats Watch
• Since coming on late in the Blues Highlanders game in round three, Dillon Hunt has gone from being a promising newcomer to an outstanding regular, and has now made 110 tackles, the most of any player, averaging a competition high 12 per game.
• Samu Kerevi was the first to top 50 defenders beaten this season. Mostly by running over them.
• Three clean breaks in the Christchurch game has put Ngani Laumape alongside Lions winger Courtnal Skosan for the most, at 25.
• Raymond Rhule had few attacking chances at Eden Park, but kept up his season average of missed tackles, and now leads this category.
• Hard working, and under rated Lions lock Franco Mostert has 10 lineout steals, twice has many as the next best.
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