Matt Cassidy is here to discuss this week’s ‘Who’s Hot & Who’s Not’, following successful weekends in the Super Rugby for Crusaders and Waratahs.
The most successful team in Super Rugby history is one game away from adding to its collection of seven titles. The Crusaders crushed their South African opponents, the Sharks, crossing the whitewash five times in the process. Todd Blackadder’s men adopted an expansive style in order to run the Sharks’ enormous pack into the ground and stretch their defence.
The Kiwis’ gameplan worked perfectly as the Sharks were unable to cope with the speed and precision. 38-6 was the final score and Todd Blackadder’s charges will march on Sydney full of confidence.
The Tahs’ have played some aesthetically pleasing rugby this year but on Saturday they had to roll up their sleeves and slog it out with Aussie rivals, ACT Brumbies, to get the job done. The Sydney siders’ semi-final win was built on defence as they repelled attack after attack by the Brumbies.
Three tries from Alofa Alofa, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley were enough to send the Waratahs through to their third final. Will this be the season they take the final step and win the trophy?
Competition for the Openside flanker jersey for the Wallabies is fierce but the Waratahs’ Captain keeps putting in performances which mark him out as top dog. The 22-year-old’s speed and utter commitment to the cause was evident once again in the semi-final against the Brumbies. Hooper will be a key man for the Sydney siders next week in the final.
South Africa Sevens
The Blitzbokke claimed the Commonwealth Rugby Sevens Gold as they defeated New Zealand in front of a packed Ibrox. The South Africans were full value for the win as they outscored the defending champions by three tries to two which handed the Kiwis their first ever defeat at the Commonwealth Games.
IRFU & Lack of Irish Sevens Team
The Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens tournament brought the usual thrills and spills of the shortened form of the Union game. The regular big hitters of the circuit were there such as New Zealand, Samoa & Australia. But the participation of the likes of Sri Lanka, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Cook Islands, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados once again calls into question why Ireland does not have a team. These countries do not have vast resources or a rich tradition in rugby yet they are able to field sides.
Obviously Ireland could not compete at these Games but with Sevens in the Olympics in 2016 will the IRFU finally get its act together and assemble a squad for the Rio jamboree?
Also Ibrox, a bastion of Scottish football, was packed to the rafters for the two days of rugby action. How good would a packed Aviva Stadium be watching exciting games of Sevens? For the moment at least, one will have to imagine!
The LV Cup fixtures were announced this week and of course there was controversy. The LV Cup games coincide with Pro 12 weekends. The Pro 12 authorities have quite rightly refused to compromise and will not change the dates of their matches. And why should they? The English and Welsh teams show little respect to the Cup competition when they regularly field shadow sides.
Another question that should be asked of the LV Cup organisers is; were they unable to read the Pro 12 calendar, which was released a week earlier and schedule their matches accordingly to avoid a fixture clash? Clearly not!
A season that started off with so much promise ended with a humiliating hammering by the Crusaders. Jake White’s men play a simple and limited (boring) game where they kick for field position and try to squeeze penalties from the opposition. This tactic can be very effective in winning rugby matches when carried out to a high standard.
However, on Saturday, the Sharks kicked very poorly, handing over easy possession and the initiative to the Crusaders who exploited the South African side’s lack of mobility. The final try summed up the Sharks’ day when their massive pack, who usually dominates opposing forwards, were driven back over their own try line from a marauding Kiwi maul.
The Canberra franchise controlled territory and possession at Allianz Stadium in the Aussie derby but their lack of quality finishing and rugby intelligence led to their undoing. Questions must be asked of the Brumbies’ braintrust as they spurned a number of kickable penalties (12 points in total) to go for five pointers against a side who have conceded the least amount of points in the Super Rugby regular season.
Brumbies’ coaches, players and fans will look back on Saturday’s clash and wonder what might have been.
Matt Cassidy, Pundit Arena.