Super Rugby Finals revisited

Date published: July 2 2015

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The Hurricanes and the Highlanders will face off in the Super Rugby final on Saturday and look to match the excitement of recent years.

It has now been ten years since the competition was extended from 12 to 14 teams, before the arrival of the Rebels bumped it up to 15 in 2011.

We've taken a look back at the last decade of finals, with some thrilling showdowns and glory for teams in all participating countries.

With Super Rugby set to change once more next season with the arrival of conferences, as well as an Argentine and a Japanese side, let's check out some of the more recent highlights.

2014: WARATAHS 33-32 CRUSADERS
ANZ Stadium, Sydney

An absolute thriller in Sydney a year ago saw the Waratahs crowned for the first time in their third final. On each occasion they've reached the final, they've gone up against the Crusaders, and they finally got the better of the men from Christchurch. It was a match-up of the two biggest attacking threats in Super Rugby with Israel Folau on one side and Nemani Nadolo on the other. Early on though it was Adam Ashley-Cooper's try and Bernard Foley's kicking that fired the 'Tahs into a 13-0 lead. The Crusaders fought back and when they led following Matt Todd and Nadolo tries, the comeback looked complete. Ashley-Cooper then grabbed his second, before Colin Slade and Foley exchanged penalties, with the Wallaby pivot sealing the win with virtually the last kick of the game after Richie McCaw, of all people, was pinged at a ruck. Referee Craig Joubert came under fire from the Crusaders for that call, but over the course of the season it's fair to say the 'Tahs were the best side, finishing well clear as number one seeds in the table.

2013: CHIEFS 27-22 BRUMBIES
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

The defending champions made it two in a row in Hamilton but were pushed all the way by the Brumbies until the fatigue kicked in late on. Games in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in successive weeks proved too much for the Australian franchise, although they dominated much of this final and looked like they'd win it when they led by ten points with less than 20 minutes remaining. Christian Lealiifano scored all the points for Jake White's team, with a first-half interception score and five penalties helping them to a 22-12 advantage. Two tries in five minutes from Liam Messam and Robbie Robinson turned the match on its head however and Aaron Cruden added a fifth penalty of his own to seal it for the table-topping Chiefs.

2012: CHIEFS 37-6 SHARKS
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

Notable for being the only time a fifth or sixth seed has made the final, but it told as the Sharks proved no match for the Chiefs, who claimed their first title. The Durban outfit, with Freddie Michalak pulling the strings at fly-half, surprised everyone by knocking off the defending champion Reds in Brisbane, before returning to South Africa to down the top-seeded Stormers in Cape Town. The Chiefs battled past the Crusaders in their semi-final, but were clearly much the fresher outfit come the final. An early Michalak penalty but the Sharks in front, but that was as good as it got for them. Tim Nanai-Williams went over in the first half for the Chiefs, who led 13-3 at the break, and they cut loose in the second half, with Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga and Sonny Bill Williams completing the rout.

2011: REDS 18-13 CRUSADERS
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Only one final has seen fewer points scored than this one back in 2011 when the Reds won their maiden title in the first season of 15 teams. It was an exciting game however, with a Reds team inspired by the Genia-Cooper halfback combo edging out a Crusaders team trying to pull off a miracle after a season on the road following the Christchurch earthquake. The game was tight early on, with Quade Cooper opening the scoring after 32 minutes. The Crusaders responded with a magical try from Dan Carter thanks to a little grubber and regather, and led 7-6 at the break after Cooper added a second three-pointer. The Reds moved in front when Digby Ioane sliced through the Crusaders after a poor kick-chase, but the decisive moment came when Will Genia raced 60 metres after spotting a gap in midfield to score what proved to be the winning try 12 minutes from time.

2010: BULLS 25-17 STORMERS
Orlando Stadium, Soweto

A third title in four seasons for the Bulls, but this game was most notable for the fact it was played in Soweto. With Loftus Versfeld unavailable as a result of the Football World Cup, the Super Rugby final was shifted to Johannesburg and the predominantly black area of Soweto. It was a historic moment for the country as a whole and on the field it was the Bulls who claimed a second straight crown. They dominated from the off, with Morné Steyn's kicking and a Francois Hougaard try helping them race into a 16-0 lead after just 25 minutes. Bryan Habana's second-half score reduced the deficit to six points, with Peter Grant chipping in with a conversion and a penalty, but the Bulls responded with three more penalties from Steyn. Despite Francois Louw's try three minutes from time, there was no way back for the Stormers, who were well-beaten in their only final to date.

2009: BULLS 61-17 CHIEFS
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Undoubtedly the peak for a dominant Bulls side came as they claimed their second title, hammering the Chiefs in Pretoria. Unbeaten all season at Loftus Versfeld, the table-topping Bulls dismantled their opponents in the final, with the win wrapped up inside 20 minutes. Fourie du Preez was outstanding, running in two tries in the opening quarter, and setting up a third for Bryan Habana, as the Bulls reacted to Lelia Masaga's opening score. Morné Steyn kept the scoreboard ticking over, before an interception score from Habana on the stroke of half-time killed off any hopes of a comeback, with the Bulls leading 34-7. As they had in the first half, the Chiefs scored first after the break, thanks to a Mils Muliaina try, but that was as good as it got for them, with Victor Matfield, Wynand Olivier, Pierre Spies and Danie Rossouw all crossing to complete the shellacking.

2008: CRUSADERS 20-12 WARATAHS
AMI Stadium, Christchurch

The Crusaders claimed a seventh title in 11 years with this win over the Waratahs, though few would have predicted it would be their last to date. The dominant team during the regular season, the Crusaders finished nine points clear at the top of the table, before seeing off the Hurricanes in the semi-final. They were up against it early on in the final though, with Lachie Turner running in two tries for the 'Tahs, who led 12-3 after 25 minutes. Dan Carter reduced the deficit with a penalty before Mose Tuiali'i went over on the right just before half-time. The Crusaders moved in front thanks to another Carter penalty but had a try from Wyatt Crockett ruled out for a Brad Thorn punch, the veteran lock sin-binned for his troubles. It made no difference to the Crusaders though, with Carter adding a drop goal and another penalty to seal the win. Interestingly on the bench in this final was Nasi Manu, who will lead the Highlanders against the Hurricanes on Saturday, seven years on.

2007: BULLS 20-19 SHARKS
Absa Stadium, Durban

The first-ever title for a South African side and it was Bryan Habana's late try that stole it for the Bulls in Durban. Nowadays he wouldn't have been on the pitch to score it, with a horribly mistimed tackle in the air on Percy Montgomery somehow not even warranting a yellow card in the eyes of Steve Walsh. A similar effort this weekend would undoubtedly result in a red card. The Sharks took an early lead with a Montgomery penalty, but the Bulls came back with lovely score from Pierre Spies, set up by Victor Matfield. JP Pietersen replied with an interception score and Montgomery and Derick Hougaard exchanged kicks to make it 14-10 to the Sharks at the break. Albert van den Berg's try three minutes from time looked to have sealed it for the Sharks, but Francois Steyn missed the conversion and the Bulls still had a chance, trailing 19-13. They took it through Habana, in the 82nd minute, as he cut through the Sharks defence and Hougaard added the crucial conversion in what was the last away success in a Super Rugby final.

2006: CRUSADERS 19-12 HURRICANES
Jade Stadium, Christchurch

The Hurricanes' last appearance in a Super Rugby final was most notable for the fog that covered the pitch for most of the game, making the game hard to follow for the spectators. Given the conditions it wasn't a thriller, with the first half finishing 6-3 to the Crusaders thanks to two penalties from Dan Carter to one from Piri Weepu. The main talking point of the half was the failure to remove Weepu from the field of play after he was knocked unconscious, and the scrum-half later admitted to remembering very little of the game. The second half was much like the first, with Carter cancelling out a combination of David Holwell and Jimmy Gopperth, but the key moment came just after the hour. Casey Laulala slipped through the tackle of Weepu to cross for the only try of the game, with Carter converting to seal the win. After the controversy of the 'Fog Final' the post-match festivities were also notable for a fight between 'Canes teammates Tana Umaga and Chris Masoe, with the All Black skipper hitting the flanker with a women's handbag after a disagreement in a bar.

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