It’s time for Planet Rugby’s weekly round-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!
Lions: First-time finalists, and they did it in style. Watching the Lions dictate proceedings at Ellis Park, we took a moment to think back to August 2013, when the Lions lost to the Kings in Johannesburg but were promoted back into Super Rugby on aggregate. Ruan Combrinck, Elton Jantjies, Julian Redelinghuys, Jaco Kriel and Warren Whiteley all started for the Lions that day. On Saturday they’ll be playing in the Super Rugby final. Johan Ackermann’s have played some sensational rugby this year and their tempo and accuracy against the Highlanders were exemplary. It’s been a fairytale year, with one chapter to go.
Hurricanes: Through to the final after outscoring their opponents 66-9 in the knockout stages so far. That’s impressive. The 2015 finalists will quite rightly be favourites at home in the final this weekend and they haven’t lost a game since the beginning of May. Not that they need any extra fire in the belly, but the agony of last year’s final defeat to the Highlanders won’t be far away from their thoughts all week long in the build-up. With a rock star at fly-half and on home soil, Saturday is a huge chance to right that wrong. They never let the Chiefs’ attack get going in the semi-final and through the back row of Shields-Savea-Vito will hope to do the same to the Lions.
Elton Jantjies: The performance we’ve all been waiting for. Jantjies never quite convinced in the June Tests against Ireland but on the Lions’ biggest ever stage he delivered probably the best 80 minutes of his career. Maturing into his prime at 25, Jantjies unleashed the full skill-set on the Highlanders including two delightful chip kicks in the second half which led to tries for Jaco Kriel and Lourens Erasmus and a weaving run in the build-up to Courtnel Skosan’s critically-timed finish. The message now? Go do it again in Wellington. If that happens, the Lions will have some chance.
Beauden Barrett: Jantjies up against Barrett – we couldn’t ask for more. Barrett’s interception of Sam Cane’s pass was timed to perfection – in fact if you wanted any player in the world rushing up in the defence to latch onto a stray pass, Barrett would be right up the top of the list. But he’d already by that point pulled off the real moment of magic this weekend, with the chip-chase and then awesome sprint around James Lowe at full speed before finding Willis Halaholo for the opening try. He’s supreme.
Lima Sopoaga’s finish: A weary old afternoon for the 2015 champions in Jo’burg but this was a highlight, as Sopoaga twisted and wriggled his way somehow to score in the corner in the second half. Swarmed upon by Lions tacklers, it took some effort.
Shivering in the cold!
Chiefs: Never got going, and were never allowed to. The Hurricanes were a little sharper, a little smarter, and arguably a touch cynical at times too. But the Chiefs were undone by Barrett’s brilliance and for all of their territory (65 percent) and possession (55 percent) plus a near perfect set-piece with 13 successful scrums and 12 out or 13 lineouts, their turnovers killed them – 23 overall. It’ll hurt, but we expect a strong run next year.
Matt Faddes’ loose pass: The big errors stand out more come the semi-finals, and that sloppy ball from Faddes was promptly latched onto by Rohan Janse van Rensburg and turned into a crucial seven points to put the Lions up 17-3. That 14-point margin wasn’t breached until Joe Wheeler’s consolation score.
No yellow for Victor Vito: We’re happy to see referees try and keep both sides at a full compliment with a bit of leniency here or there, but Victor Vito was fortunate to avoid a trip to the sin bin for deliberately collapsing the Chiefs’ maul despite some warnings from referee Angus Gardner. It could have been key.
No card for Vito on wilful collapse close to line sets a poor std for playoff rugby and changes shape of the game for the worse @SuperRugby
— Jonathan Kaplan (@RefJK) 30 July 2016
Touch rugby beach brawl: This is a total shambles. Gents, you’re playing touch for heavens sake. The police were required! Everyone go grab an ice cream and take a long walk into the sea…