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Super 18 Final: Six Gamebreakers That Will Have An Impact

The Super 18 final this coming Saturday in Wellington between the Hurricanes and the Lions from Johannesburg is a mouth-watering match up.

Two aggressive teams who play open, adventurous rugby but with sound defensive systems. Who could crack the defensive lines and drive their team to the title? We look at six players that will matter on the day.

Beauden Barrett

Super Rugby Semi Final - Hurricanes v Chiefs

‘Is there any more influential player on the planet?’ sideline Sky commentator Ian Smith roared after Barrett had produced yet another outrageous play which combined a chip and chase, a 60-metre run and a fine offload, ending in a Hurricanes try.

Barrett added an intercept try later in the game and his superb form in general play has spread to his goal kicking. The Super 18’s best player and leading points scorer, he’s playing at home and in the best form of his career. If he plays to his instincts, the Hurricanes’ title drought will be over.

Elton Jantjies

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 08: Elton Jantjies of the Lions during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Southern Kings at Emirates Airline Park on July 08, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Johan Rynners/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The Lions fly half matched Barrett in both skill and influence against the Highlanders, combining exceptional vision and a short kicking game with instinctive and pacy running. His place kicking was also exemplary, and his match haul of 22 points showed that he is a player for the big occasion.

He’ll be tested by the Wellington weather and the line speed of the Hurricanes’ loose forwards, in particular a flying number 7 with a distinctive afro (hint: next on our list).

Ardie Savea

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 16: Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders blocks the ball during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes at AMI Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Christchurch, New Zealand.  (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Savea had a monstrous game in the semi-final, dominating Sam Cane and shutting down the wily crafts of Aaron Cruden. The back row also passed Cane in the highest number of tackles in the Super 18 during the game.

He showcased his freakish speed and skills with one memorable break out and chip and chase. Ardie will be focused firstly on knocking Jantjes off his game, and then using his pace and power to win the race to breakdowns.

Lionel Mapoe

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 30: Lionel Mapoe of the Lions during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Highlanders at Emirates Airline Park on July 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Mapoe and Rohan Van Rensburg form a formidable 12 and 13 unit, scoring 19 tries in the Super 18, and it is the midfield where the Lions have an edge over the Hurricanes.

Mapoe has sizzling pace and an eye for a gap but the Hurricanes tryline has not been crossed for 212 minutes. Can he find a way through the storm?

Jaco Kriel

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 30: Jaco Kriel of the Lions scores during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Highlanders at Emirates Airline Park on July 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Kriel is a one man terminator and is the sole player who could overpower the ferocious Hurricanes forwards. The forward momentum he gives his team from set pieces will be crucial and when he roams wide in the backline, he is a huge tackle-busting threat.

The no.8 has beaten the same number of players as Israel Folau in the Super 18. The question is whether he will have enough support from his packmates to be able to make his attacking power plays.

Michael Fatialofa

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15:  Michael Fatialofa of the Hurricanes runs with the ball during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Rebels and the Hurricanes at AAMI Park on April 15, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The Chiefs were expected to dominate line outs and ruck clear outs with their international locks Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird. However, and as has been the case for the second half of the season, Fatialofa and Vaea Fifita are just ferocious.

Add in Savea, Brad Shields and Victor Vito, and the Hurricanes have lock and loose forwards who are equally athletic, powerful and skilful. Fatialofa has been the most consistent performer of the bruising bunch.

Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.