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Rugby: Who’s Hot & Who’s Not?

Matt Cassidy is here with today’s edition of Who’s Hot & Who’s Not, as we reflect on a good week for the Brumbies and a bad one for Aaron Cruden, amongst others.

Who’s Hot

Henry Speight

The Brumbies’ winger was at his rampant best in Canberra as he produced another brilliant performance. Speight’s stunning statistics of 13 carries, 11 defenders beaten & 140 metres accumulated in this playoff match was a key reason why the Brumbies secured the victory. It is easy to see why Wallaby selectors cannot wait to wrap the Green & Gold around the Fijian firecracker.

ACT Brumbies

The team from Australia’s capital gained revenge for last season’s final as they defeated double defending champs, the Chiefs, in a thriller at GIO Stadium. The Brumbies raced into a 22-3 lead through tries by Nic White, Robbie Coleman and Jesse Mogg. However, with the match seemingly won, the Canberra side let the Chiefs get a foothold in the match allowing the Kiwis to draw level at 25-25 in the second period. But the Brumbies composed themselves and hit the front again thanks to a try by Jarrad Butler. Great defence and a bit of luck allowed the Aussies to hold on for a 32-30 win. Next week is the Australian showdown with rivals, the NSW Waratahs.

Sharks

It was a case of the Beast killing the Beauty this time around as the functional Sharks got the better of the exciting Highlanders. The Sharks’ powerful scrum was the key component of this contest that ebbed and flowed. The set piece led to a try for the South Africans as they pushed the Highlanders off their own put in from a scrum, five metres out.

More importantly the Sharks won a scrum penalty allowing them to take the lead with only seven minutes left. The Sharks travel to the Crusaders next week and their scrum will have to be at its destructive best if they wish to reach the final.

Pacific Island Rugby

The announcement that the All Blacks will play a Test match in Samoa for first time was greeted with much jubilation by the island nation. Credit must be given the NZRU who will take a huge hit financially for playing in the islands but considering that many Samoan or ancestral Samoan players have represented the All Blacks, it is the least they could do.

Brian O’ Driscoll has also endorsed the idea saying the Lions should incorporate a game in the pacific on the 2017 tour rather than a money spinner match in Hong Kong or Japan. The Pacific Islands are finally getting the rugby recognition they deserve.

Who’s Not

Doping Cheats

The World Anti-Doping Agency released findings that in 2013 rugby had more positive results for banned substances than cycling or athletics. This is an embarrassment for the IRB who believe that their “intelligent anti-doping program” is working. From the records, it is clear the programme may need adjusting.

SANZAR

The Southern Hemipshere’s governing body has once again taken another decision on rugby based on money. Super Rugby will be expanding to eighteen teams in 2016 with a new Argentine franchise and another South African team joining the party. The final team will come from Asia.

The snub of a Pacific team is shameful in itself but the choice that the last team will come from Japan or Singapore is a joke. The argument for Japan to join is strong; their league has improved in recent years with the influx of foreigners, they are hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the national team have defeated Wales and Italy in the past two seasons. But how can Singapore, with no history or tradition in rugby, be considered? Once again money dictates where the oval ball bounces. A disgrace!

Aaron Cruden

The Chiefs’ flyhalf was crucial in his team’s stirring comeback against the Brumbies in Canberra. However, Cruden, who is favourite to wear the All Blacks’ number 10 jersey for the Rugby Championship, missed the crucial conversion that would have tied the scores and sent the game into extra time. Pity he did not lack the accuracy when he lined up that kick in the Aviva last November.

Highlanders

Perhaps a little unlucky to find themselves in the “Who’s Not” section after the sumptuous attacking rugby they produced in Durban on Saturday but their scrum woes were too bad to ignore. The Otago based franchise’s eight man set piece was bullied by the Sharks’ pack from start to finish. The scrum resulted in a try to the South African team and the match turning penalty which allowed the Sharks to gain the lead with minutes remaining. A couple of strong scrummaging props must be on the transfer wish list for the 2015 season.

Matt Cassidy, Pundit Arena.

Twitter: @Cass_maitias.

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