It's time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
It's time for Planet Rugby's weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They're on fire!
Waratahs: After 19 long years, it came down to the very last minute of the 2014 final for the 'Tahs to secure their maiden Super Rugby title – doing it in front of the largest Super Rugby crowd of all time. The most pleasing part of it all is the way the Michael Cheika's team played throughout the whole season as they kept us entertained every weekend. Congratulations to the 2014 Super Rugby champions!
Bernard Foley: That last-minute, 44 metre penalty will go down in history. It wasn't the hardest kick in terms of the angle, but was on the outer limit of Foley's range. It is those high-pressure moments in which titles are won and lost so kudos to Foley for holding his nerve. It's fitting that the season's top points scorer slotted the title-winning penalty and we've no doubt a toast was made to his efforts.
Adam-Ashley Cooper: Man of the Match in the final, Ashley-Cooper crossed for two deserved scores, in a brilliant display of gutsy rugby. At 30 years of age, the outside centre has been playing on the wing of late for the Wallabies but on this form he's given Australia head coach Ewen McKenzie a selection headache. Does he go for Tevita Kuridrani or AAC? Nick Cummins' absence could, however, mean the call is made for him.
Israel Folau: The Waratahs full-back joins a select group of players – including Sonny Bill Williams and Brad Thorn – to have won finals in both the NRL and Super Rugby. The Melbourne Storm had their 2007 title stripped from them due to massive salary cap breaches, making this title all the sweeter. Despite not scoring in the knockout games, Folau also finished joint top of the Super Rugby try chart. Not a bad season.
Nemani Nadolo: A try in the final saw the Crusader join Folau as the season's joint-top try scorers with twelve each for this lethal duo.
Cobus Reinach: Congratulations to the newest member of the Springbok squad. The Sharks scrum-half has been rewarded for a superb campaign as he is called up to fill the gap by injured veteran Fourie du Preez. With Francois Hougaard and Ruan Pienaar unconvincing in the green number nine jersey, Reinach has a golden opportunity to make an impression.
New Zealand, England and France Women: Top of their respective pools after the opening round of the Women's World Cup, the 2010 finalists and the hosts look like the teams to beat. The Black Ferns thrashed Kazakhstan 79-5, England hammered Samoa 65-3 while France drilled Wales 26-0. Also look out for the Wallaroos, who beat South Africa 26-3, with other wins going the way of Canada and Ireland in the opening round.
Russia and Uruguay: The duo will face off for the right to join England, Australia, Wales and Fiji in Pool A at RWC 2015. The Bears beat Zimbabwe 23-15 in their Repechage semi-final in Krasnoyarsk on Saturday while Uruguay defeated Hong Kong in Montevideo, running out 28-3 victors.
Crusaders: No, they didn't play badly. In fact, the men from Christchurch produced a top performance to come within inches of claiming an eighth title in a thrilling contest. But there can be only one winner. The Crusaders have made the semi-finals or final every year since their last title in 2008, but for the sixth consecutive year they fell short as coach Todd Blackadder was unable to add to his three winner's medals as a player. In captain Kieran Read's own words, they “didn't handle the pressure early on” allowing the hosts to open up a fourteen-point lead. The fightback was brave but they were left to lament a slow start. Looking back, the below-par start to the season ultimately cost them a home final.
Richie McCaw: Blackadder predicted that the final would be decided by a few key moments and King Richie was the guilty partly in giving away the match-deciding penalty. To be fair, the All Black skipper put in a big shift, tackling his heart out, but with a title on the line his decision to go for the ball at ruck almost in line with the posts was ill-advised. He admitted afterwards that he “should have known better.”
Stupid racist fan: After a brilliant season for the Crusaders, Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo showed tremendous character to not flatten some idiot who racially abused him in a central Christchurch bar on Sunday. “After all I've done to contribute to tis lovely city of christchurch to be called a UN FIT CHUBBY [N****] is disappointing [sic],” Nadolo tweeted. He didn't tell his team-mates who were present. If he had, the incident might have escalated, reckons Blackadder, who praised the player for keeping his cool, illustrating “what a great man he is.” As for the drunk fan, let's hope he tries it again in a dark alley with someone less forgiving….
CJ van der Linde: The World Cup winner's potential move to Toulon as an injury replacement is off after the staff at Europe's top club decided he was struggling to keep up while on trial in the South of France last week. After a playing a total of 20 minutes for London Irish during last season, it seems the 33-year-old prop is past his best. He'll hope for better days at the EP Kings during the upcoming Currie Cup.
Horrific tip tackle: Samoa full-back Soteria Pulumu was red carded in their Women's Rugby World Cup opener against England after lifting England scrum-half Natasha Hunt above the horizontal and then dropping her. Luckily the number nine was able to continue but that does excuse the dangerous nature of the tackle. Hopefully no more hits such as this one are on show in France.
Magners ain't champers: Something light-hearted to finish as with the Super Rugby trophy in their grasp, the Waratahs were all set to celebrate with cheers, fist pumps and big bottles of fizz. Little did they know that sponsor Magners were providing the bottles in Sydney. Thus followed a lack of spray despite the best efforts of Sekope Kepu and other 'Tahs