Five talking points from Super Rugby Round 17

Charlie Lawry Roar Guru

By Charlie Lawry, Charlie Lawry is a Roar Guru


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    Super Rugby Round 17 is in the bag. Here are five talking points as we approach the pointy end of the season.

    1. There’s life in the Moon Dogs yet
    A second-half blitz by the Sunwolves helped them sign off their season in style against the Blues at Prince Chichibu Stadium.

    Japanese fans have been starved of highlights this year, but their team delivered an afternoon full of them. Down 14-21 at half-time, the home side found another gear, powering past the Kiwis to win 48-21.

    The Blues did themselves no favours with a number of errors, but it was the relentless Sunwolves pressure in sweltering heat that forced the turnovers. Yoshitaka Tokunaga’s miracle try at the end capped off a cracking result.

    It was the perfect tonic to many viewers’ late-season malaise. I say ‘viewers’; I meant ‘Australians’. Anyway, welcome to the conference.

    2. The Brumbies have no business hosting a final
    Maybe it’s unfair to make direct comparisons between the Brumbies and the Chiefs. Unfortunately, they played each other, so we have to. It was a stark contrast of ability in Hamilton on Saturday.

    The Brumbies tried to do the right thing, keeping the ball in hand, but found it tough to penetrate. Every time the Chiefs spread the ball, they found space. The passing and intuition of the Kiwis was always that much crisper.

    Led by Tawera Kerr-Barlow, the likes of James Lowe and Damian McKenzie had a field day. McKenzie alone threw three flick passes. A timely reminder that rugby can be fun.

    Meanwhile, the Brumbies look like little more than training fodder for the Hurricanes next week.

    3. The Crusaders are beatable
    Despite a raft of last-minute changes, the Hurricanes showed that the table-topping Crusaders are human after all, inflicting their first loss of the season.

    With Beauden Barrett and Vince Aso withdrawn in the hour before kick-off, the Crusaders dominated the early exchanges, racing to a 12-0 lead. Their trademark composure and winning instinct abandoned them soon after, however, as did the referee’s favour. Glen Jackson stung the Crusaders for 16 penalties compared to just seven against the home side.

    Despite the good vibes at Westpac Stadium, plenty of All Blacks fans will be asking why the wrong Barrett was kicking in the drawn third Test against the Lions. Jordie Barrett had a laser in his right boot all night ‒ five out of five mostly from the sideline.

    Ngani Laumape Wes Goosen Hurricanes Super Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    4. Full-stop or ellipsis on the Force farce?
    There’s always a risk we appreciate things more when they’re on the verge of extinction. Fans in Perth have certainly found their voice in recent weeks as the season winds down.

    Yet in the face of contract ambiguity, the Force have made a serious case for survival. The scenes at nib Stadium as the Force trounced the Tahs 40-11 were something else. In pouring rain, the crowd rose as one to urge foundation player Matt Hodgson to kick a farewell penalty at the final whistle. You know he slotted it, too.

    Think on this. The Force finish 2017 with the same amount of wins as the Brumbies. One of them gets a home final. The other is being primed for the chop. However things plays out, the ARU has cooked it through its inaction.

    5. Waratahs fall off a cliff, into a ravine, over a waterfall…
    And CLANG into the bottom of the barrel. At least you’d really, really hope that’s the bottom.

    There’s nothing left to say about the Waratahs. They’ve gone from underachievers to laughing stock to abomination. The fans (…anyone?) don’t deserve the sludge that’s been served up in 2017.

    Daryl Gibson must need the money because anyone else would have resigned out of embarrassment. The lowly Sunwolves have conceded more than 80 points twice this season, yet even they finish with their heads held higher.

    Imagine being the biggest rugby franchise in the country and having to stick with your inept coach for another whole year because you can’t afford to pay out his contract.

    Burn it down. Start again.

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    The Crowd Says (157)

    • July 16th 2017 @ 8:47am
      Brizvegas said | July 16th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      To have so much time together for the Wallabies to gel in their combinations but without match intensity again

      • July 16th 2017 @ 9:23am
        Adsa said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Shades of 2016, when clowns boys lost to England the Cheikafiles all came out with the excuse that Eddie had the English squad for a longer lead up time for the tests and it was a bit harsh on Cheiks.

        So then he had the full Wallyb squad for an extended period in the lead up to Bledisloe 1 to prep them and they put in the most limp and tepid performance ever. Ground hog day coming up.

    • Roar Guru

      July 16th 2017 @ 8:57am
      PeterK said | July 16th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      Crusaders finishing second is a blessing to having more even finals.

      If saders finished first then a lot more travel affected matches would have occurred.

      probable draw / results showing travel affected matches
      qfs –
      Crusaders – Sharks
      Lions – Highlanders
      Stormers – Chiefs

      sf’s –
      crusaders – chiefs
      lions – canes

      crusaders – lions / canes

      so 6 finals affected

      now it would be
      qfs –
      Stormers – Chiefs

      sf’s –

      Lions – crusaders / canes

      so only 2 matches affected

      a far better and fairer outcome

      • Roar Guru

        July 16th 2017 @ 9:15am
        Fox said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        A fairer outcome PeterK ?

        So let me get this straight – you think its fair that a team that does not have to play any teams from by far the toughest conference is “fairly” on top of the table

        I suspect your take on this is not about fairness at all but about NZ dominated semis and final – I hate to tell this but teams from SA that didn’t face NZ sides last season got thrashed in the quarters…and the Lions are good but I have a feeling they will get creamed in the semis assuming they beat the Sharks and we will have an all NZ final anyway

        I am sure you hope I am wrong- time will tell

        But fair? you gotta be kidding me Peterk – even more unfair when one of their conferences gets away Scott free avoiding NZ sides in the regular season – flattering their stats – while Australian sides have to face them every season.

        • Roar Guru

          July 16th 2017 @ 9:26am
          PeterK said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          don’t put words in my mouth

          I have said often the current conference system is very unfair and favours 1 sa conference far too much.

          That said it is what it is, and so accepting that is the system I looked at the outcome for all teams and matches involved not just 1 team the crusaders.

          a fairer outcome in that far fewer matches are affected by jet lag.

          2 verse 6.

        • July 16th 2017 @ 11:06am
          Hannes said | July 16th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          You cannot use Super 18 and fairness in the same sentence:
          – how is is fair to axe the Kings or Force but keep the Sunwolves?
          – how is it fair that no NZ side had to travel to Argentina this year?
          – how is it fair that the Stormers and Brumbies get home finals?.
          – how is it fair the NZ conference is so much tougher that any other conference?
          – how is it fair that the Lions end up first without playing any of the other best sides?
          – how is it fair that the Lions have a larger step up to the finals than any of the finalist?

          Make your pick.

          • July 16th 2017 @ 3:09pm
            taylorman said | July 16th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

            Well to be fair the forth one has nothing to do with fairness in the context of the Super18.

          • Roar Guru

            July 16th 2017 @ 4:32pm
            Timbo (L) said | July 16th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

            Ultimately a Lions-Saders Final, that is fair.
            At Loftus, Unfair.

            • July 17th 2017 @ 9:14am
              Hannes said | July 17th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

              Will be at Ellispark not Loftus => 80 meters higher above sea level.

              The Lions lost one game when they rested their best side and send their second best side to Argentina. They did the same last year and that costed them a home final and last year they played all the Kiwi sides. My view is that the Lions will be disadvantaged by the conference system as they are not used to playing tougher teams week in and week out and will need to adjust during the finals. Playing on Ellispark is only an equaliser. Anyway the weather is great this time of the year that will make for a much better final than windy Wellington (last year) or foggy Christchurch (the game we could not see anything).

              • Roar Guru

                July 18th 2017 @ 12:16pm
                Timbo (L) said | July 18th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

                I stand corrected,
                My knowledge of SA is limited to Large Dutch men and Fast African men smashing the hell out of the opposition, usually at altitude.

                I just remember the Highlanders running out of puff at altitude last year and assumed it was at Loftus, where Hodge was attempting kicks from 60m against the Boks.

                Anyone who goes up there will need to take Loxygen. By that I mean a 6-2 Reserves bench, the Big men tire quickly.

                I see your point about playing at Mowson’s hut below the arctic circle or with a greasy ball in the Fog. It changes the style of the Game.

                There is a fine line between battle hardened and battle fatigue.
                The Kiwis have been bashing the beejebers out of each other and the BI Lions and the toll is starting to show…. I still think they will win everything but they will need to dip into their reserves to do it.

                My tip is the Canes, going on gut feel alone. But it will be a close game against the Golden Lions in the Semi’s.

        • July 16th 2017 @ 2:38pm
          Stephen C said | July 16th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

          Don’t forget that the Kiwi teams didn’t have to play the Lions either – and they are one hell of a team. In fact, they have been my pick from the beginning of the season and now with a top of the table finish, they will be almost unbeatable.
          The Lions play a high octane style of Rugby that is very close to the New Zealand template. Brutal forwards with offloading capability and extreme speed out wide, with all players able to exploit the slightest crack in the opposition’s guard – the try just on half-time last night against the Sharks was the perfect example.

          I think they would have picked up a couple of NZ scalps if they were exposed this year.

          Everyone agrees that the current system is flawed, but all teams knew of the quirks of the draw. The only way to guarantee a home final is to win your conference. It is a complete travesty that the Brumbies host the Hurricanes, but nobody changed the rules at the last minute.

          • Roar Guru

            July 16th 2017 @ 8:20pm
            Fox said | July 16th 2017 @ 8:20pm | ! Report

            ….they will be almost unbeatable.

            No I think are very beatable- they were harder to beat last year in my opinion…their D has looked good but it has not been tested like it will be against the kiwi sides…not even close. It has not faced sides that move the ball at speed and skill levels from 1-23 that the NZ sides do and they have no practice runs either.

            If I’m wrong then good luck to them but we shall see just how good they really are in the finals

            • July 16th 2017 @ 8:51pm
              Stephen C said | July 16th 2017 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

              Indeed, we’ll see how good they are.
              They’ve got to get past the Sharks again this weekend, but I’m predicting the final Super 18 trophy will be held aloft by a South African team……and I don’t mean the Stormers.

          • July 16th 2017 @ 8:39pm
            Rugby Tragic said | July 16th 2017 @ 8:39pm | ! Report

            They picked up a few NZ scalps last year…. both home and away .. (including Highlanders and Crusaders and Chiefs) … they were always going to be tough 2017

          • Roar Guru

            July 18th 2017 @ 1:31pm
            Timbo (L) said | July 18th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

            That is an interesting spin.
            We have all assumed that the Kiwis would have beaten them.
            In reality we have no current Evidence to conclude either way.

        • July 19th 2017 @ 1:21am
          Brent Horstor said | July 19th 2017 @ 1:21am | ! Report

          Nice fedora, m’lady

      • July 16th 2017 @ 9:16am
        JMB said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        Good point, the travel last year had such an obvious influence, although gotta feel for the Saders only dropping 1 game in a brutal conference and potentially losing the home final to the Lions who had one of the easiest runs.

        • July 16th 2017 @ 9:20am
          stainlesssteve said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          such a convoluted set-up makes it hard to say anything that’s got no ifs and buts and whether or nots, but i like PeterK’s point. As a Highlander fan, i saw my team without much doubt, pushed out of a fair result (winning, again) by grossly unfair travel

    • July 16th 2017 @ 9:21am
      rock said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      This from a Reds fan, if the Force get the chop it will certainly be a travesty – they are now seeing reward from their development pathways with some great young local players coming through the ranks. If they get the chop, all that is gone.

      Plus, as it was reported in Green and Gold rugby only a few weeks ago, essentially the black hole of money which the ARU has been loosing is chiefly because of the Rebels – thinking they could just put a team in the city and it would be a success – geez even the Storm still don’t have the footprint the NRL wishes they did.

      • July 16th 2017 @ 12:31pm
        Hannes said | July 16th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        I am extremely proud of they way West Australians stood up for their team. The players, coach, administrators, supporters and leaders like Twiggy and Hodgson have shown that we will not be treated like a backwater by NSW and QLD dominated organisation like the ARU. If a decision to axe a team is made on merit then not even TWAS can argue that the Rebels should be safe. The Force outplayed and the Eastern State premier team, the Warratahs, tonight. The Force leadership have outwitted the interst groups that is at the core of Australian rugby problems.
        Twiggy it is time to get Stokes and Reinhardt to also step up as West Australians. The media coverage of the Force in the West Australian has been embaressing.

        • July 16th 2017 @ 2:37pm
          Ben said | July 16th 2017 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

          You speak the truth.

          • July 16th 2017 @ 6:57pm
            Piru said | July 16th 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

            Atmosphere was amazing last night.

            • Roar Pro

              July 16th 2017 @ 8:23pm
              Crazy Horse said | July 16th 2017 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

              Thousands of people standing in driving rain to cheer their team. Passion as good as any I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

        • July 16th 2017 @ 10:01pm
          Charlie Turner said | July 16th 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

          Twiggy doesn’t need mad Gina……..that would be counter productive.

          • Roar Rookie

            July 18th 2017 @ 11:08am
            piru said | July 18th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

            I’d much prefer madam bloody moneybags stay out of it personally

            • July 18th 2017 @ 2:43pm
              scottd said | July 18th 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

              yep, no crazy for me please

    • July 16th 2017 @ 9:34am
      David Briggs said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      SupeRugby was a disgrace from the Australian perspective this year and we don’t deserve a team in the finals. Waratahs were the worst offenders, the Force are now a proven side and the Rebels have the cattle to do better. Reds are still floundering and Brumbies are unremarkable. It is obvious that both Super Rugby and the ARU needs reforming. The first lesson is for those who run a reformed ARU to learn is that the A in ARU stands for Australia! Mat Hodgson for President.

    • July 16th 2017 @ 9:40am
      Vic rugby said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Got your dig in on gibson, well done.
      All the other coaches have been so much better.

      • Roar Guru

        July 16th 2017 @ 9:45am
        PeterK said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        you have to take into account the quality of players available.

        Out of the oz coaches only wessels has made the most of what he has.

        He coached well.

        He should be in the wallaby set up not larkham or grey.

        • July 16th 2017 @ 10:37am
          Red Menace said | July 16th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

          Why would Wessels want to join up with Cheika? His opinions won’t get heard, it’s Cheika’s way or the highway. Larkham only wants to be there because he thinks he is the next Wallaby coach, God forbid. Grey must need the money.

          • Roar Guru

            July 16th 2017 @ 10:43am
            PeterK said | July 16th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            why? to be the next wallaby coach thats why, only 2 years away.

            better at wallabies than without a job or at the rebels if force get axed.

            • July 16th 2017 @ 11:01am
              Red Menace said | July 16th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

              Disagree, Wessels would be better away from the Wallabies and continue producing results at the Force. If he went to the Wallabies he would be blamed for their up coming poor performances.

          • July 16th 2017 @ 12:53pm
            RahRah said | July 16th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

            If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas!!

          • July 16th 2017 @ 10:35pm
            superba said | July 16th 2017 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

            Why would Wessels want a Wallaby team ?
            Or , put another way , after Deans’ tenure , would the ARU appoint a foreigner as Au coach ?

    • July 16th 2017 @ 9:45am
      James Mathers said | July 16th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Were the Waratahs paid for last night?

      • July 16th 2017 @ 12:33pm
        Hannes said | July 16th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        A lot more than the Force players.

        • Roar Guru

          July 18th 2017 @ 12:19pm
          Timbo (L) said | July 18th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          If Hodgo’s spray at Hoops is accurate – $2 Mil a year more.