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Super Rugby Final: Head-to-Heads

30th July 2014 18:04

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Israel Folau alongside Israel Dagg

Top try scorer: Israel Folau

Ahead of the 2014 Super Rugby Final, Planet Rugby has decided to pick out the key head-to-heads set to take place at ANZ Stadium this Saturday.

Five players wore the red and black the last time the Crusaders won the Super Rugby title in 2008, that 20-12 win coming versus the 'Tahs, who also had five in action. So for Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson the game may well have some feeling.

Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Wyatt Crockett were those on the triumphant XV in Christchurch, but will they be again?

Here we look at six battles set to take place in Sydney and judge who might have the edge in the critical areas that could decide the fixture.

Super Rugby Final: Head-to-heads

Wycliff Palu versus Kieran Read: One of a few battles set to continue in international colours in the coming months, Palu's tussle with Read intrigues. Palu, as noted in our Ten bizarre Super Rugby stats, has the highest number of offloads by a forward this season on 23, and has enjoyed an injury-free run in the side which has seen him blossom.

Read's campaign meanwhile has been somewhat fractured by concussion concerns but he looked in superb form last weekend, popping up in the wide left channel on numerous occasions, one of which led to him scoring a key try.

Verdict: Both to have an impact in their own unique style but we expect IRB World Player of the Year Read to come out on top in Sydney.

Alofa Alofa versus Nemani Nadolo: It will be as close as David against Goliath as it gets on Saturday when Alofa Alofa takes on Nadolo. The latter has eleven tries to his name so far this season and will be a handful for the 'Tahs, not least the man he's up against.

Alofa Alofa opened the scoring last week as he intercepted and ran the 60 metres plus to the whitewash. We doubt he'll receive any gimmes from the Fijian.

Verdict: No doubt here from our point of view as Nadolo is a carrying machine. The 'Tahs will have to double up on this flying winger.

Jacques Potgieter versus Sam Whitelock: Two of the stand-out locks in this year's competition will meet on the biggest stage this week. Potgieter is an uncompromising carrier and defender, who at times can hover on the bounds of legality with ruck clear-outs and tackling, while Whitelock is more of your complete second-row forward.

Crowd favourite Potgieter will thrive on the vibe of a final, but he must keep a lid on his excitement as Craig Joubert will not stand for any nonsense. If he does struggle and Michael Cheika replaces him, on will come Will Skelton.

Verdict: While Whitelock has a more rounded game, Potgieter has been an integral part of the 'Tahs rugged pack and should edge this one.

Nick Phipps versus Andy Ellis: Phipps' defensive effort when he made try-saving tackles on either side of the pitch in quick succession was something to behold against the Brumbies, as his career goes from strength to strength since arriving from the Rebels.

Ellis meanwhile has finally locked down the number nine jersey at the Crusaders after a long rotation policy with Willi Heinz and was instrumental in Nadolo's try against the Sharks. Still just 30 years of age, a second Super Rugby crown for him would be richly deserved. Phipps though may say otherwise.

Verdict: So tough to judge which pack will be on top - the Crusaders having the better bench option in terms of props while the Waratahs have Skelton - as we expect both nines to enjoy spells of front-foot ball. The rest will be down to nous which we feel Ellis just edges matters.

Kurtley Beale versus Dan Carter: Two players who have settled into their new positions with ease, which shows what quality players they are. Beale has been wearing twelve all season at the 'Tahs as his redemption continues to see his stocks rise, while Carter is back from a much-needed sabbatical and is showing himself as a solid inside centre back-up for the All Blacks.

Carter's left boot alongside fly-half Colin Slade has been a welcome option for the Crusaders but if the Waratahs employ a rush defence on Saturday, the wingers in midfield could make them pay.

Verdict: A tough call as both have been vital to their side's progression to the final. But in a tight clash, Carter can guide his side.

Israel Folau versus Israel Dagg: The Israels go head-to-head on Saturday in what should be a box office clash between two outstanding full-backs.

Folau was well contained by the Brumbies last weekend - having a quiet game by his standards - but one wouldn't bet against him performing in the final. Dagg meanwhile is starting to recapture his form ahead of the Rugby Championship so expect both to have a big say.

Verdict: The Wallaby rarely has two ordinary games back to back so expect him to cause the Crusaders problems. Folau all the way here.

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PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621