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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Super Rugby: Quarters & Semis


In 2015, Hurricanes knocked the socks off nearly every man and his dog, finishing league play with 66 table points, fully 13 points ahead of their closest chaser, Highlanders. But it was the Men of Dunedin who went up 3-nil in the 2015 Super Rugby Championship at the 4th minute on a Lima Sopoaga sticksplitter, and they never trailed, obtaining a 21-14 result and the trophy. That epic clash may yet be revised, but first the semis: 
Hurricanes v Chiefs at Westpac on Saturday, 1:35am MST – live at espn.go.com (choose “Watch”, then in the search box, type “rugby”); you can do it live or it’s on replay.
ü  Hurricanes will host until they lose; the 9-10 combo of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett are thrumming along at impressive rate with it being difficult to find an aspect of either halves’ game that isn’t fully in tune with play; one must figure any side that can rely on a talent the likes of Julian Savea coming off the bench has got a back or two in its three-quartersline; and the forwards are no sloths either with brother Ardie playing off the hook at openside; ‘Canes blasted Sharks last weekend, 41-nil, at the wet and blowy Westpac, but the adverse weather conditions did no real disadvantage to mine hosts handling nor footing, though a couple turf-slips were inevitably expected and accepted;  

ü  Road Warriors – this month, Chiefs have gone well over four-fifths the distance around the globe (21,300+ miles), contesting and winning  three-from-four Super Rugby matches in their travels, one of them the Knockout at Newlands last weekend in which El Jefes hammered Stormers 60-21, though in truth a standing eight count might have been levied after Damian McKenzie’s 45th minute grounding; the transit down State Highway 1 to the Westpac for the upcoming blockbuster this weekend will seem like a drive down the cornershop for the visitors; Perenara-Barrett v Weber-Cruden with a shot of James Marshall v Damian McKenzie, Ardie Savea v anyone in his way – this match is already legendary;
Lions v Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday, 7:00 am MST on espn.go.com
o   Lions short end game of resting everybody in their Round 17 road defeat at Buenos Aires to Jaguares - even when that loss meant the likelihood of travel for the final would be on - appeared to bear fruit as the Big Cats ran out to a 22-10 halftime lead over Crusaders, then stretched that advantage to 30-10 past the hour mark, before finishing well for a 42-25 ticket to the semifinal, once again at the venerable venue of Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa; 9-10, Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies are looking very smart in their connections and Jantjies 7-of-9 conversion rate last weekend though not perfect, was effective and his overall kicking admirable; flyer Ruan Combrinck did not seem to get that much play and yet managed 66 meters and a dot… hold on to your bonnet, Nellie, if this man takes off on the upcomer; blindside Jaco Kriel had the good work rate all over the shop last weekend and he’ll need to ditto-up on the Saturday in Jo’burg;


o   Highlanders got the job done in Canberra with the forwards intercommunication efficiently effective; the Aaron Smith-Lima Sopoaga 9-10 pairing another one of the best twosomes in world rugby on display; Liam Squire and Luke Whitelock looking comfortable in the spine of the scrum and Sopoaga’s excellent distribution being well-used by his three-quartersline; can the Men of Dunedin best the beast in its lair? If stoic form and fluid function are the day for the travelers, then yes

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