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The Art Of Winning

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The Art Of Winning

The Art Of Winning

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Significant wins for three New Zealand teams, humiliation for the Blues, and some creative refereeing mark week seven.
 
New Zealand Power Rankings: 
 
1) Crusaders: Trail the Hurricanes on point’s differential, but get top spot because of the way they got through a match in which a lot of factors were against them.
A match set down for the mid-day heat of high veldt Johannesburg for no other reason than to give the home side an advantage, three tries disallowed (two with good reason, one a complete fabrication) against a desperate Lions side. Showed championship quality.
 
2) Hurricanes: A benchmark game in Melbourne. The Rebels are an improved side but after copping a couple of lucky breaks on the way to an early 19-8 lead were reduced to the role of spectators as the ‘Canes racked up 42 unanswered points.
The Hurricanes are full of explosive talent and as long as they get a bit of pill they’re going to be hard to contain.
 
3) Chiefs: Probably deserve a higher ranking given they were in a derby game, but third is where they sit in the NZ conference.
Considering the number of occupied beds in their casualty ward they have done superbly to be just three points off the overall lead with games in hand, and plenty of good players to return to action in the coming weeks.
 
4) Highlanders: It’s hardly crisis time, but suddenly two losses on the bounce.
They’re every bit good enough to win more than they lose from here on in and make the playoffs, but in the last two games against NZ opposition they’ve been forced to play too much footy inside their own half, and with not enough ball, and that will have to be rectified.
 
5) Blues: To score six tries and still lose by a comfortable margin says it all about this team. Way too many soft moments amongst the occasional brilliant ones.
Right now, they’re lucky the Sunwolves are still in Super Rugby, else they’d be rock bottom.
C’mon guys, you are better than this.
 
Six of the Best:
 
1) Ben Lam. BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM. Say no more.
2) The du Preez family. Give the old man a bit of credit for getting them up after an abysmal effort in Melbourne last week, but My Two Sons get the glory, Jean-Luc for his turbo charged ball carrying, and Robert Junior for an unblemished 38 point haul, the second best in Super Rugby history.
3) Manasa Mataele. Jack Goodhue had the best attack stats, but Mataele came off the bench and made the impact needed to break open a tight game with his powerful surges down the right and through the middle, and some deft offloading. Strike Power.
4) Sam Cane: On the surface you might say nothing extraordinary in his 100th game. Look again closely and see the number of times he turned two hard metres into three or four. It was that sort of power and determination that kept the Highlanders on the back foot. A leader in every respect.
5) Adriaan Strauss. A widely respected player, he might have been a bust as Springbok captain, but it says much about him that he is still pitching up for the Bulls, marking his (South African) record breaking 149th Super Rugby game with a hat trick as the Stormers were sent back to Cape Town empty handed.
6) Taqele Naiyaravoro: Scored both Waratahs tries in a hard won victory over the Brumbies. Of the rather large group of Fijians dominating the Australian attack force in Super Rugby, this guy looks the best right now. And he’s leaving at the end of the season.
 
Aussie Conference: 
 
The result in Melbourne was a sobering one, bringing Australia’s losing run in Trans-Tasman Super Rugby contests to 33, and it was no close thing.
Fact is they’d played little by way of top quality opposition, and this puts their previous results into context. They have a tough run coming up including a trip to South Africa.
They and the Reds have started well but the key will be their ability to sustain their effort. You get the sneaky feeling the Waratahs will be Australia’s best bet, but they’ll need to be far more consistent.
 
South African Conference:
 
Two excellent wins, for the Bulls and Sharks, but these mask a South African challenge that is actually in a spot of bother.
If the playoffs started tomorrow*, the Lions would be their only representative in the quarter finals, and they have now lost three of their last four games, and only just beat the Sunwolves. Warren Whiteley doesn’t make THAT much difference does he?
Elsewhere their teams are cannibalising each other and there are still a lot of games to be played offshore.
 
Please note: *I mistakenly said on Rugby Nation that the two two from each conference go through. This would have been true a year ago. Sorry, it’s the top team only and the rest are wildcards taken in order from the combined log.
 
Refs (Gold) Watch : 
 
There were a couple of dodgy calls in Melbourne that didn’t affect the result, while Ben Skeen, a world regarded TMO, made some rather nit picking incursions at Eden Park
 
You get that.
 
More seriously though, was that not for the first time, a South African team playing at home appeared to benefit from the choice of TV replays in determining whether a try had been scored in the case of George Bridge’s first touchdown.
 
It’s hard to imagine there weren’t better angles available, those shown were either inconclusive, or from an unhelpful ground position. The ball appeared to leave Mitch Hunts hands at an acceptable angle and how Marius Jonker could find clear and obvious reason to overturn the on field call of try is disturbing.
 
Jack Peyper was good, he pretty much always is, and perhaps his biggest mistake was not to sin bin George Bridge for a bad aerial challenge. But the influence of his crew made a tough job even tougher for the Crusaders.