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Super Rugby's Talking Points

Super Rugby's Talking Points

Super Rugby's Talking Points

CRU_HIG_QF2017_primary
10 Talking Points from Quarter-Finals weekend in Super Rugby.
 
1) Forward Power Rules. Well, on a rotten wet night in Christchurch it does. The Highlanders forwards have done well this season, but on Saturday night they were owned by the Crusaders pack who were the major reason 75 percent of the game was played in Highlanders territory. 
 
2) Sam Whitelock led the way, and his calm captaincy has been a revelation. It hasn’t blunted his game, he doesn’t badger the refs, he makes good decisions and he leads from the front.
 
3) Scott Robertson’s post match comments about the stadium are food for thought. Let’s be fair, given the impact of the bad weather a lot of people probably couldn’t have made it anyway, but it does make you wonder about how good a roofed stadium would be for the loyal fans of Canterbury and beyond.
 
I’ve stayed out of the Christchurch Stadium discussion in the past, because there have been greater priorities, greater needs to attend to post 2011, but I’ll lob a couple of things in here. Firstly, the current stadium was only ever supposed to be a temporary one, and its lifespan was due up at the end of last season. It’s already starting to look a bit worn.
 
Secondly you just need to look at the numbers of people drawn to Dunedin by the brilliant Forsyth-Barr experience to know that a state of the art covered stadium could really boost the ongoing rejuvenation of Christchurch, and give their very good teams a proper stage to perform on - not to mention bringing back regular test matches. 
 
4) The Chiefs have a big job on their hands, having to fly back to New Zealand, which is always considered the tougher direction to recover from. People are saying they didn’t play all that well against the Stormers and it’s been described as a poor game, but how much does that really matter? They won. They know they’ll need to be better, and they have played really well against the Crusaders over the last five years. Hopefully conditions will be better because this could be test match level rugby. 
 
5) Damien McKenzie is test ready. 
 
6) The Hurricanes are in good shape for their trip to South Africa. They weren’t at their best in Canberra, but were still too good and the numbers stack up well for them, having won the last eight against the Lions, including a 50 pointer in the round robin last year and the comfortable win in last year’s final. The key is stopping the Lions on the gain line and not allowing them momentum, which they did brilliantly in Johannesburg last year. Elton Jantjies looked as jittery as an ant against the Sharks and if they can put pressure on him, there’s a fair chance he will cave.
 
7) Australia’s feeble Super Rugby campaign has been put out of its misery with defeat in the Brumbies unearned trip to the playoffs. Zero for 26 against New Zealand teams and just six  wins, 13 losses and a draw against other overseas opposition (five of the wins came against expansion teams the Kings and Jaguares) is an appalling record, and yet they continue to mount emotional arguments against dropping a team.
 
The fact that only 7,000 could be bothered to turn up in Canberra for a playoff match says much about the trouble the game is in. Weak leadership, players who think they’re bigger than the game and a noisy gallery of ex-players and coaches who think they know what’s best are contributing to a mess that other codes are laughing at.  
 
8) Is Michael Cheika a fan of X Factor? Is that where he got his “Tape Face” idea for Wallaby training?
 
9) Will the Lions lack of play against New Zealand opposition this year count against them over the next two weeks? They are a very good team, even if they were not at their best against the Sharks, and have a massive advantage playing at altitude at Ellis Park. But if the Hurricanes can strike form quickly and impose their running game it’ll be a step up in velocity to anything the locals have faced since last year.
 
10) Time to farewell Tony Brown, Scott McLeod and Malakai Fekitoa from the Highlanders. McLeod is stepping into the All Black role so fair enough, but Brown is a real loss. He really struck a chord, as you would expect, instilling a real sense of belonging to the south with his team even if they came from far and wide, he got the best out of a number of journeyman players and always came up with an interesting game plan. Fekitoa was facing massive competition for an All Black jersey and maybe hadn’t quite fulfilled his potential at elite level, but he was still a weapon for the Highlanders and will be hard to replace. And would you turn down that sort of money?