It is time for Planet Rugby's weekly wrap of who has their name in lights right now…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
It is time for Planet Rugby's weekly wrap of who has their name in lights right now…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons…
Australia: Expected to be a simple walk-over for a full-strength New Zealand outfit looking to move to within just one victory of Lithuania, a spare-parts Wallabies side – missing many of their leading stars through injury – ended the All Blacks' 16-Test winning streak with an honourable 18-18 draw.
The Sharks and Western Province: The two teams will battle it out in this year's Currie Cup final after wildly contrasting semi-final victories over the Blue Bulls and Golden Lions respectively. Sharks fly-half Pat Lambie turned in a second man-of-the-match performance in as many weeks to help his side to a 20-3 win in Durban in a match played on a rain-drenched pitch. And at Coca-Cola Park, Lions pivot Elton Jantjies kicked what seemed like a match-winning penalty with 90 seconds remaining – only for WP to maul flank Deon Fourie over the line on the hooter to seal a famous win.
Canterbury and Auckland: Christchurch will play host to the 2012 ITM Cup final after Canterbury and Auckland saw off Taranaki and Wellington in their respective semis. The Canterbury crowd were treated to one of the most entertaining games of domestic rugby in recent history, when their team prevailed 51-27 after extra-time to edge them closer to becoming the first team to win five consecutive ITM Cup titles. Trailing 22-14 late in the game, three quick-fire tries in the final 23 minutes saw Auckland storm home to book themselves a place in the grand finale for the first time since 2007.
Leicester v Ospreys: Leicester secured an unlikely bonus-point triumph with a blistering onslaught of 20 points in the last 18 minutes to leave the Ospreys shell-shocked during a pulsating Heineken Cup encounter at Welford Road. A fantastic advert for European rugby.
Saracens, Toulouse, Harlequins, Ulster, Clermont, Leinster, Toulon: All of these teams remain unbeaten after two rounds of the Heineken Cup and top their respective pools with the exception of Leinster, who occupy second spot in Pool Five below Clermont.
Get these guys a cup of warm soup!
Scott Higginbotham: We thought we saw the dumbest act of the season when Dean Greyling smashed his forearm into Richie McCaw's face during the All Blacks win over the Springboks in Dunedin earlier this year. Well, Higginbotham's acts of thuggery on the All Blacks captain in Brisbane last week certainly gives the Greyling incident a run for its money. The Wallaby has subsequently received a two-Test ban for his actions.
Steve Hansen: Talk about the wrong time to give an answer to this sort of question. Your team has just missed out on continuing their fine winning run and then coach Hansen decides to land a dig at the Australian rugby setup for its apparent “poaching” tactics. Maybe the heat of the moment got to the All Blacks boss but next time we are sure he will send those sort of questions back at the respective journalist with a straight bat and straight face.
Blue Bulls: The less said about the men from Pretoria's display in their Currie Cup semi-final loss to the Sharks the better. From the outset they struggled to get going and hardly threatened to score points. Their misery was compounded when Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn and young prop Morne Mellett were cited for alleged foul play. Time to regroup.
Situation at Sale: It is difficult not to feel sorry for Bryan Redpath as John Mitchell's arrival most probably ousts him from Sale's hot seat. Whatever the club may say about the Scot's position not changing, it is difficult to see a coach like Mitchell playing second fiddle at the Sharks. Mitchell has today been talking about the possibility of bringing in Brian Ashton to help improve Danny Cipriani as a player but also said “the team can only have one leader” and he (Redpath) is “employed to be a leader”. Mixed messages in our eyes we feel and unfortunately also for Redpath, who seems to have handled the exit of Steve Scott and now the Mitchell's arrival with real class. On the positive side, their performances are improving.