Lions fail again, Crusaders romp home

That the Lions lost their third successive super rugby final — to the Crusaders for a second successive time — came as no surprise, for nobody really gave them much of a chance to take the trophy home. The bookies, always the best informed, had the Crusaders at a dollar and the Lions at eight dollars. The final score was 37-18.

But there were some indications that once again — as in 2016 and 2017 — coaching decisions had played a part in the defeat. One amazing stat that emerged during the final was that Lions fly-half Elton Jantjies had played every game of the season in its entirety. (He also played the entire 82 minutes of the final).

One has to wonder why coach Sys de Bruin put such a strain on the man. The super rugby season is always arduous and in recent years it has become even more of a strain as there is a break in June for international games to take place. This was devised as a way to give teams the chance to recover from injuries, but in reality a broken season like this is more of a strain than one that runs unbroken from start to finish. Much in the same way that it is easier to run an 800 metres race rather than two 400 metres races with a short break in-between.
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Will the Lions be third-time lucky? And will the ref learn to hold his peace?

For a third successive year, South African super rugby side the Lions have made it to the final where they will, for a second year running, lock horns with the Canterbury Crusaders, the most successful team in the 23-year history of the competition.

Last year, the Lions took on the Crusaders at home but were beaten 17-25, with their coach, Johan Ackermann, to blame. Ackermann let the side down in 2016 too, when the Lions were beaten by the Hurricanes.

This year, the task will be harder as the final is being played at the Crusaders’ home ground.
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Erratic All Blacks will need to buckle up for 2019 Cup

At the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand bid goodbye to six players who had been around for what seemed like forever.

Richie McCaw, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Daniel Carter left, some to play in foreign countries, others just opting out.

At that point, nobody really raised the issue of how the All Blacks would adjust, for talented players seem to come in a never-ending stream in New Zealand. This, despite the fact that six mentioned above were all well above average in ability.
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Lions’ coach Ackermann asleep at the wheel again

Last year, Johan Ackermann, the coach of South Africa’s Lions super rugby team was literally asleep during the final against the Hurricanes. His team lost to the Hurricanes 3-20.

This year, he appeared to be dozing again as his team lost, only to a different New Zealand team, the Crusaders.

The Lions lost a player to a red card about a minute before half-time but given the inherent advantages they had — they were playing at home, at altitude which made the visitors prone to running out of gas, and in dry weather which has always suited them — they could still have won.
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French farce spoils great Test series in New Zealand

Referees or umpires can often put paid to an excellent game of any sport by making stupid decisions. When this happens — and it does so increasingly these days — the reaction of the sporting body concerned is to try and paper over the whole thing.

Additionally, teams and their coaches/managers are told not to criticise referees or umpires and to respect them. Hence a lot tends to be covered up.

But the fact is that referees and umpires are employees who are being paid well, especially when the sports they are officiating are high-profile. Do they not need to be competent in what they do?
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True to form, Wallabies whinge after defeat

In the end, what was expected eventuated. New Zealand won the second Test against Australia convincingly and retained the Bledisloe Cup for another year.

Australia? They played better than in the first Test, but could only convert three penalties. No tries, just two line-breaks, and a lot of whinging were what they brought to the table.

Quade Cooper wore the No 10 jersey but did not play the role that a five-eighth is supposed to. He stayed well back, shovelled the ball along and had his regular quota of mistakes, kicking the ball to a spot he never intended to once, and failing to collect a high ball in competition with Israel Dagg; the latter action led to an All Black try a few passes later. For the most part, he was a passenger.
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Picking Quade Cooper for Bledisloe II not the wisest decision

Australia’s rugby coach Michael Cheika does not appear to be one who learns from history. Or maybe he is ignorant of what has happened in the past when Australia included Quade Cooper in its team to play New Zealand.

Else, he may not have picked Cooper to play against New Zealand in tonight’s second Bledisloe Cup match in Wellington, a crucial game as far as Australia is concerned. If they lose or draw, then the Cup stays in New Zealand for another year. The last time Australia won the Cup was in 2002.

Let’s take a look back in time. Cooper was chosen to play in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against Australia. The match was played in New Zealand.
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Old is gold, but not when it involves rugby backs

It’s funny that none of the rugby scribes around wrote a single word about the selection of 34-year-old Matt Giteau, 32-year-old Adam Ashley-Cooper and 28-year-old Will Genia in the Australian side to face New Zealand in the first of the annual internationals.

In the normal course of things, one would assume that the coach of any team that has a chance of winning the World Cup would like to start aiming for that target right at the start of the four-year cycle. Australia made it to the last World Cup final and have won the Cup twice, so they are one of the nations that can reasonably entertain hopes of winning again.

But you can’t do that with a 38-year-old centre which is what Giteau will be in 2019 when the next rugby World Cup rolls around. And you wouldn’t want a 32-year-old scrum-half either. Neither would you want a 36-year-old winger for the 2019 team – and that is what Ashley-Cooper will be in four years’ time.
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Lions’ coach was asleep during final loss to Hurricanes

A good rugby coach knows when to bring a player on for maximum effect. He also knows when a player is not performing to expectations and brings on a substitute.

Given this, Johan Ackermann, the coach of South Africa’s Lions super rugby team should wear a goodly portion of the blame for the team’s loss to the Wellington Hurricanes in the final of the 2016 super rugby tournament.

The Lions’ entire game is built around running the ball wide, with the fulcrum being fly-half Elton Jantjies. In dry conditions, with quick ball coming his way, Jantjies is a formidable player, as he showed in the semi-final against the Otago Highlanders.
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New Zealand rugby has something going for it

NEXT weekend, teams from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will begin battling it out in the knockout phase of the 2016 Super Rugby tournament.

From 12 teams in 1996, the tournament now has 18 teams: six from South Africa, five each from Australia and New Zealand, and one apiece from Argentina and Japan.

New Zealand’s overall population is just a shade over four million. Yet half the teams in the playoffs who play for honours will be from those two islands they call the shaky isles.

It is a remarkable phenomenon.
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