It's time for our wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment … and who is making the rugby headlines for the wrong reasons.
It's time for Planet Rugby's wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment … and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They're on fire!
Chiefs attack statistics: Who needs truckloads of possession to score tries? Not the Chiefs. The Super Rugby champs racked up some impressive stats this year – including the most tries scored – but what makes their tally of 52 touchdowns so remarkable is the meagre amount of possession they needed to get over the whitewash so often. In the end, they scored one try for every four-and-a-half minutes that they had the ball in hand…wow.
Liam Messam: A great end to a great season for the Chiefs co-captain. 15 tackles against the Brumbies along with 57 metres made marked another standout performance for the All Black and confirmed his class on the biggest stage. Losing Craig Clarke is a blow to the champions, but with Messam around they will be fine.
George Smith: Jake White's frustration at not being able to send off the Brumbies legend with another Super Rugby title said it all. Smith played his fifth final in 2013 like he played his last one in 2004 – a tour de force and pest at the breakdown whilst putting up some impressive statistics. 19 tackles and 13 carries, the man is a legend.
Christian Lealiifano: This guy has been hot all season long. Whether it was facing the Lions or returning to the Brumbies and readying himself for the play-offs, Lealiifano has enjoyed an outstanding campaign and capped it with all the Brumbies points in Hamilton, including a well-taken interception try and 53 metres made. Rising star.
Scott Van Breda: Finishing on the losing side but not without putting in a noteworthy performance, Van Breda was excellent for the Kings at Ellis Park. Bagging the second try in the closing minutes that set up a narrow finish, Van Breda was also excellent with the boot throughout under intense pressure.
Sevens winners: After impressive showings this series, Newcastle Falcons, Leicester Tigers, Worcester Warriors, Gloucester, Saracens and Harlequins are the teams set to battle it out for J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7's honours at the Recreation Ground this Friday. In what has been an entertaining spell of action, this sextet fully deserve their spots in the final.
The Lions: So, the Lions got the job done and are back in Super Rugby. But you couldn't say that losing in front of a sell-out home ground was the best way to mark a triumphant return. Most worrying for coach Johan Ackermann was the manner in which his men went missing in the last quarter, squandering a healthy lead and coming within a hair's breadth of a failing in their mission. It was exactly that kind of lapse in concentration that left them at the wrong of the Super Rugby standings in 2012. Has anything changed?
Jake White's tactics: So the old 'choke 'em into submission' approach got the Brumbies to the final…but what do they have to show for it? White's influence has turned the Brumbies' fortunes around in a big way so it's hard to criticise his methods. Unless you're a fan of exciting rugby. Clyde Rathbone's scathing assessment of why the Brumbies lost would have hit a nerve with many an Aussie and certainly provides food for thought on the nature of our “entertainment industry”.
Someone turn up the heater!
Piri Weepu: The Blues veteran admitted his surprise at being left out of Steve Hansen's squad for the 2013 Rugby Championship, with TJ Perenara instead joining Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr-Barlow as New Zealand's three scrum-halves. Weepu has enjoyed a strong season in Auckland but Hansen pointed to his inability to lift the pace of his game to match the All Blacks' plans for a speedier, high-octane brand of rugby. Weepu has since vowed to fight his way back and we back him to do so.
James Haskell: Dropped from England's Elite Player Squad down to the Saxons as Stuart Lancaster named such youngsters as flank Matt Kvesic and number eight Billy Vunipola. Haskell is 28 years of age so is not even close to being over the hill but judging from how the aforementioned duo played in Argentina, the Wasp's route back into the main group will be a tough one.
Southern Kings: Three points. Three measly points were the difference between a spot in Super Rugby and playing second-tier domestic rugby in South Africa. Bye-bye, thanks for coming. And thanks for trying, because you really did give it a full go. But trying isn't good enough, only winning is hot. Better luck next time…whenever that is.