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The Crusaders and the Lions have saved Super Rugby with a super final

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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73 Have your say

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    The Super Rugby 2017 final, won by the Crusaders over the favourites the Lions 25-17, was played with such ferocious intensity and high skills from both sides that the multitude of problems that have plagued the tournament this year were reduced to insignificance during the 80 minutes or so of battle on the field.

    As Shakespeare’s Hamlet noted, “the play’s the thing …”

    In the end, tournaments like Super Rugby stand or fall by what happens on the field, not what happens or does not happen from decisions made in the offices of the administrators.

    And this was a memorable final, the equal or better than virtually any other since the tournament started in 1996.

    The quality of the final and the response from the crowd and the players involved in it revealed this is a tournament that is almost impervious to its off-field problems. Notice I use the qualifier “almost.”

    It was a startling and moving moment, for instance, when the vast home crowd rose to their feet at the end of the match and roared their support for their side with rolling chants of “Lions, Lions, Lions…” This was the sort of emotionally-committed response you would expect from supporters of one of the great football clubs.

    To hear rugby supporters so connected with their team as the Lions supporters clearly were was one of the most exciting rugby moments of the year.

    The truth about the Super Rugby tournament and its primary attraction as a competition is that it is a fiendishly hard tournament to win. The iron Darwinian law of ‘the survival of the fittest’ applies to this tournament, virtually above all others in world rugby.

    To begin with, there is the travel component. No other rugby tournament requires teams to play matches in countries as far distant from each other as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Singapore and Japan.

    Then, for this year at least, there is the complicated system designating home finals in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to the respective conference winners, immaterial of the number of points collected during the tournament.

    A team has to win its local conference to have any chance of winning the tournament.

    And complicating matters is the fact that the stronger the conference, like the New Zealand conference this year, the harder it is to win it. Conversely, the weaker the conference, the easier it is to win.

    So the Crusaders, guilty of losing only one match in the Super Rugby schedule despite playing in the dominant New Zealand conference, found themselves having to travel to Johannesburg only hours after winning their home semi-final against the Highlanders at Christchurch the previous weekend.

    Even though the Crusaders had played in 11 finals and had won seven of them, few of the pundits, even in New Zealand, gave them much hope of defeating the Lions, a team that lost the final last year going down to the Hurricanes in Wellington.

    Playing at home this year against the Hurricanes in the semi-final, the Lions ran rampant in the last 20 minutes to record a surprisingly easy victory.

    The tyranny of distance is one of the most potent weapons that home teams have in most Super Rugby finals.

    So the new coach of the Crusaders, Scott Robertson, break-dance exponent extraordinary and fine flanker in his playing days, has pulled off something of a coaching miracle in his first Super Rugby tournament.

    The Crusaders have been invigorated by his coaching and that of his staff in the same way the Waratahs were invigorated under Michael Cheika.

    Robertson identified that the east-west passing game of the Todd Blackadder Crusaders was too easy to defend against. The lack of pace in the back four, too, accentuated the passive, lateral nature of the Crusader’s attacking systems.

    Here some shrewd selecting (is anyone in Australian rugby taking note!) came into play.

    Robertson brought in David Havili to play as a running fullback in the Ben Smith mode. It is interesting, for example, that the worst attacking game the Crusaders played all season was against the British and Irish Lions with Israel Dagg at fullback.

    Crusaders Israel Dagg runs after the ball

    (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

    Dagg, on the wing in the final, played splendidly as a catcher of high balls, on defence and attack. His slinky running opened up gaps in the Lions defence which he further exploited with some adroit passing.

    Dagg is developing a new winger/fullback role in the process of moving from the back of the field to the side of the field.

    The Robertson Crusaders, too, had real power and pace on the wing with the conversion of Seta Tamanivalu from the centre position. This was another Robertson gamble that has paid off handsomely for the Crusaders.

    It was Tamanivalu’s aggressive break-out from just outside his own 22 and his subsequent runaway try that gave the Crusaders an early 7-0 lead.

    I would say that the only side capable of beating the Lions at Johannesburg in the final were the Crusaders with their stack of All Blacks in the forwards and a key All Black, Ryan Crotty (my man of the match), dominating the midfield in attack and defence.

    A measure of the achievement of the Crusaders is that their victory was only the second time a final has been won by a team playing outside the country where its franchise resides.

    The Crusaders under Robbie Deans won a final against the Brumbies at Canberra.

    This was the first time, too, that a South African team has lost a home final.

    The achievement of the Crusaders in defying all the predictions and winning at altitude against a very good Lions side cannot be overrated.

    Just as an aside, if the Springboks can take the main elements of the Lions’ ball-in-hand power game into their game plan and add some sophistication to some of their attacking plays, they are going to be an extremely difficult team for any of their opponents, especially at home, in the coming Rugby Championship tournament.

    The Crusaders obviously were helped by the fact that the Lions played the last 40 minutes of the final with 14 players.

    One other thought, too, arises out of this final. The conditions in South Africa and the history of the nation have created a way of playing rugby that is direct, physical, emotional and always confrontational, a method that is unique to the Republic.

    This different and successful method of playing rugby is one of the reasons why the New Zealand Rugby Union will always support having South African teams in any form of Super Rugby in the future.

    The heavy emphasis on set piece confrontations, bulk and collisions in the South African game is a useful and, indeed necessary, reminder to New Zealand coaches, administrators and players that the highly successful ‘basketball’ rugby favoured in their country needs always to be balanced by a physical element in attack and defence.

    The Hurricanes were overwhelmed in the end in their semi-final at Johannesburg because their set pieces collapsed.

    A main reason why the Crusaders won the final is because their set pieces (their scrum particularly when Jaco Peyper finally worked out the shonky tactics of the Lions) were very much better than those of the Lions. And it is the emphasis on set pieces that is the hallmark of South African rugby.

    Now, back to the final.

    The quality of play from both sides, on attack and defence, were more than worthy of the occasion and the record crowd of 62,000 and more who crammed into Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

    When you see hard-shouldered and clever rugby of this quality, played at a blistering pace throughout 80 minutes, you understand why the southern hemisphere sides that are tempered in the heat of Super Rugby battles have won all but one of the eight Rugby World Cup tournaments.

    At the end of the final, with Richard Mo’unga booting a penalty into touch with time up, the Crusaders players exploded into a sort of joyous exuberance of leaping, embracing, laughing and back slapping that only teams that have achieved an impossible dream are capable of demonstrating.

    Sam Whitelock Crusaders Super Rugby Union 2017

    (AP Photo/Phil Magakoe)

    You had hardened All Blacks back-slapping and high-fiving their excited younger teammates as if they had won their first trophy, even though many of the squad had won a winners medal at the Rugby World Cup 2015 tournament and three of the players had won a Super Rugby tournament final in 2008.

    I hope SANZAAR officials take notice of the passion of the spectators and the players in the final. This tournament is not something to trifle with, to experiment with too expansively or to bring in systems that compromise the integrity of the final outcome of the tournament.

    To put it bluntly, SANZAAR needs to look carefully at making the tournament fairer and easier for spectators to follow by ensuring that all teams play each other. It is a nonsense that the Lions got into the finals without playing a single New Zealand side.

    Abolish the conferences and let the finals teams and locations reflect the standings of the top sides in terms of their points accumulation.

    And there needs to be a return to neutral referees for all the finals.

    The appointment of South African Jaco Peyper to referee the final was described by the New Zealand Herald’s Gregor Paul this way:

    “The men running Super Rugby seem determined to metaphorically throw the competition in the microwave, set the thing on high and watch it explode in a hopeless, devastating mess. SANZAAR really had just one job to take care of ahead of the Super Rugby final at Ellis Park – appoint neutral officials.”

    And even Jake White, a South African who believed the Lions would win, was not impressed with Peyper’s appointment. PlanetRugby quoted him making these valid points:

    “In a sport where coaches get hired and fired on results, and television rights are in the millions of dollars, how do we not have a neutral referee in these games?

    “Do you think New Zealand will ever play in a World Cup final with a Kiwi ref? If the answer is no, then how can we accept it in Super Rugby?”

    As it happens, the only crucial decision Peyper made was to give a red card to Lions flanker Kwagga Smith late in the first half.

    Referee Jaco Peyper of South Africa

    (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

    The decision had to be made this way, given that Smith had mistimed his running and charged straight into David Havili while the Crusaders fullback was in the air. Havili landed on his neck, making the red card mandatory.

    I received an interesting email from a South African friend who has this to say about the incident:

    “The Red card, in terms of the Laws, was justified. But is it time the Law is amended to allow a substitute played to make up the numbers in the case of the unintentional stupidity of Kwagga Smith, but not for blatant and dangerous foul play?

    “I know you will say, where is the distinction?

    “But I think anybody who has played rugby can see the difference between an over-zealous but dumb challenge like Kwagga Smith’s clumsy effort, and blatant thuggery.”

    This is an interesting contribution to what is going to be an ongoing debate within the rugby game. The fact is that this final and the second Test between New Zealand and the British and Irish Lions were both compromised by justified red card rulings.

    It is clear that Smith’s challenge was unintentional.

    But could Sonny Bill Williams’ head-high shoulder charge in the Lions Test have been deemed unintentional?

    My guess is that All Blacks supporters would say that the charge was unintentional and that Lions supporters would disagree.

    I favour a 20-minute sin bin punishment for a red card infringement, while accepting that the replacement concept has merits that deserve to be considered.

    Perhaps the compromise is a 20-minute sin bin together with a compulsory replacement.

    Back to Jaco Peyper and the final. The penalty count was 11-11. And generally, the 50-50 decisions went 50-50 to both teams. He had a good final.

    But perception is the issue here. It is not possible for local referees to seem to be fair if they rule consistently or make a controversial ruling, even if the rulings are fair, against the visiting side.

    An Australian friend sent me an email that sums up accurately, I believe, the essential truths about the final:

    Lions Crusaders Super Rugby 2016

    (Christiann Kotze/AFP/Getty Images)

    “The Crusaders had broken the Lions early in the second half to lead 25-3.

    “The Lions were down a man. The Crusaders looked like they were going to ran away with it. The Lions thought otherwise. With strength and creativity they hit back. Two converted tries. 17-25. About eight minutes remain.

    “The Crusaders played like the champions they are. They did not stifle, they did not kill time.

    “The final was played in great spirit. No Australian franchise can enter the paddock against these teams other than receiving a thrashing.”

    This is a summary that tells the truth about the state of Australian rugby right now, I fear.

    I know looking ahead is fraught with danger in these matters but I think the Lions, without their inspirational coach Johan Ackermann, will struggle next year. And especially so, if the bossy Zuma government officials insist on the franchise falling into line on the black quota system within South African rugby like the other franchises.

    As for the Crusaders, they look to be favourites to win next year’s Super Rugby tournament, whatever configuration SANZAAR applies and whatever system of refereeing appointments it decides to implement.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (73)

    • August 7th 2017 @ 9:10am
      ozinsa said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      I’m not sure I agree that this was a classic match Spiro. The Lions looked to me like a side nervously bumbling their lines in the first 50. Lots of mistakes, Jantjes too deep and the passing flat and no obvious plan to get around the Saders defence.

      The courage they showed was phenomenal but when they had the bit between their teeth the attacking lineout went to pieces. Individuals were fantastic with second efforts and driving through tackles but the strategy seemed not to be there to break down the Saders.

      All in all a disappointing performance that played into the hands of a side who planned to attack the set piece, tackle like crazy and live off scraps.

      The 2014 final was a far better game with two sides playing well to their strengths. Anyway, a rip-roaring atmosphere and a closer game than might have been expected but a disappointing opportunity missed by the Lions in my view.

      • August 7th 2017 @ 10:45am
        Phantom said | August 7th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Spot on oz…plus watching a 14 vs 15 final will always be a anti climax.
        Good on Lions for giving the saders a fright.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 7:45pm
          etienne marais said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

          Agreed. Great to watch, but not a pretty game and neither a classic test match type game either. Robertson and his team had clearly done their homework and came up with an excellent tactical plan, which they then executed with brutal efficiency. The Lions played like lions, but unfortunately, in keeping with their credo, they just let it all hang out there; all energy and guts, but not any real tactical plan. It has been a consistent feature of their past two seasons: losts of heart, guts and sparkle, but sadly a bit of naivete on the tactical front.

      • August 7th 2017 @ 11:20am
        Cynical Play said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        “…the equal or better than virtually any other since the tournament started in 1996…” ….. Spiro may have had too much coffee, no?

        Spiro Zavos quotes Gregor Paul…. why?

        • August 7th 2017 @ 12:08pm
          Phantom said | August 7th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

          They are both kiwis up their sides perhaps?

    • August 7th 2017 @ 9:12am
      Ron49 said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Careful about changing the laws pertaining to Red Cards which are primarily there to protect players. Havili was inches away from becoming at best, a paraplegic, at worst, a quadraplegic. A lesser penalty, where the offending team is allowed 15 players, would put greater risk on players being taken out in the air and injured. Ben Smith and Beaudan Barrett, with their exceptional talents, would be targeted and more prone to this. To minimise damage the greyhounds of rugby would be replaced by Outhouses – not my preferred rugby direction. The Kwagga Smith action was brainless as have been most of the cards shown this year for similar offences. In all instances, for the same reason – the safety of the player in the air is paramount. How difficult can it be to understand this?

      • August 7th 2017 @ 9:41am
        SteveDarke said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        It’s not about not protecting the players. It’s about preserving the integrity of the match for players and fans alike.

        Any top level match which involves an early sending off, well, you may as well stop the game there and then as there is no point continuing.

        If it’s just the threat of being sent off which prevents players from actions like that, then keep sending them off. But let the team be able to send on a replacement after 20 minutes. It’s a substitution they don’t want to make and they were a player down for 20 minutes. There’s enough of a penalty there to make it difficult, but not impossible.

        The real penalty should lie with the player – ban them for months if you have you; fine them a stack of dollars. But don’t effectively kill the game.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 10:59am
          Simon said | August 7th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

          The problem with this idea is that if the encroaching player injures an opponent, then both teams are in the same position (down a player and making substitutions early) so there is no real penalty. It is on the players not to get sent off. Blame them and thier actions that resulted in their ejection for ruining a game.

          • August 7th 2017 @ 11:19am
            SteveDarke said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

            I take your point about a case where the opposition player gets injured. But what is the solution then to ruining the game? We should just continue to let it happen? Surely the game is a bit more nuanced than that?

            • Roar Rookie

              August 8th 2017 @ 5:22am
              cashead said | August 8th 2017 @ 5:22am | ! Report

              Or, you know, the players could be a little less reckless? Amazing how this revolutionary and radical notion never entered your train of thought.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:44pm
                Simoc said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:44pm | ! Report

                A situation arose recently in Rugby League where a key player, Billy Slater, was taken out of the match blatantly and late. The offender was put on report. That is a hopeless situation where a sides equal best player is targeted by thuggery which succeeds. Winning on the day is what it is about.

                The send off is good as it is. It is the players fault and the team pays the price as it should.

                Psychologically it is not so easy as the team with more players is expected to and should win easily while the side with less players is forced to come up with new tactics.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 11:50am
          scrum said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

          Sorry Steve-when you put your enjoyment of the game over player safety that is not a good place. Risking long term serious injury for personal enjoyment is impossible to defend. Since the penalties for taking the player in the air has toughened up there has been a noticeable decline in these tackles. In other words the deterrent works. It is not about a particular match-it is about changing player behaviour in general thus increasing safety. Smith was never in a position to contest the ball & should have pulled out. Whether it was his intent is irrelevant-he put a player in a very dangerous position and could have avoided the outcome. All the other solutions – 20 min Sin Bin etc- is nothing more than a cop out in relation to accountability. Other sports avoid taking the hard decisions on Foul Play but thankfully Rugby has stood strong on reducing Foul play incidents by tough but fair sanctions.

          • Columnist

            August 7th 2017 @ 12:20pm
            Geoff Parkes said | August 7th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

            Well said scrum.

            Thanks Spiro – excellent point about what NZ rugby gains from keeping close contact with SA rugby.

          • August 7th 2017 @ 12:44pm
            SteveDarke said | August 7th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            You’re missing my point. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a penalty for that type of situation. I’m saying that red cards should be done away with altogether. Let’s come up with a penalty that reflects the ‘crime’ but doesn’t end the game.

            Red cards, no matter the offence, kill games.

            • August 7th 2017 @ 3:04pm
              Jacko said | August 7th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

              Steve im not sure who the ref was but at the 2011 WC in the semi between France and Wales the ref sent a player off for a bad tackle…at the time the Wales players were imploring the ref not to ruin the gameand his reply was ” I am here to ref the game and if a player does something to warrent a red card then it is him. not me, who has ruined the game”
              Without the sendoff being a deterrant it opens too many possibilities of using the system to gain advantage EG: in a WC final an opposing player, who is retiring after the final….could target any opposition player from about minute 30 on knowing they will get replaced soon anyway…Or even a player who isnt retiring…

              • August 7th 2017 @ 6:02pm
                ClarkeG said | August 7th 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

                That player sent off was Sam Warburton and the referee was Alain Rolland who is now World Rugby High Performance Manager for Referees.

            • August 7th 2017 @ 7:50pm
              etienne marais said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

              “Red cards, no matter the offence, kill games.”

              Yes, but better than kill players.

          • August 7th 2017 @ 1:16pm
            Old Bugger said | August 7th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

            Absolutely scrum….

            The current penalties have reduced the incident levels however, even one incident per season is, one too many. If players are becoming complacent about the penalties then, there is only one solution. That is, to increase the penalty.

            Once the player, starts to see a season perhaps is lost through incurring such penalties well then, clubs may look twice at hiring these players and when that happens, the purse-pocket also, becomes affected.

            Sooner rather than later, players in the professional code will realise that the safety of their fellow competitors, will become paramount to the point of impacting directly, upon their own revenue/income earnings.

            • August 7th 2017 @ 6:31pm
              cuw said | August 7th 2017 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

              i think the implementation is weak .

              first of all , i see a drastic fall in the issuance of yellows – i think the refs have been told to minimize them.

              then there is no consistency in the punishments. they dont seem to to know how to punish people – look at SBW case.

              IMO the current refs are lenient with regard to punishment. becoz of that it becomes counterproductive.

              i think Joubert was the most strict ref and Owens next. others try to avoid cards – peyper is major anti-card ref.

              if u watch 7S , they are very quick to the draw. the 7S cards have a far bigger impact than in XVs – so u see less offenses in 7S that get carded.

              already i think a lot of things are ignored for the sake of the speed of the game and continuity. i would say 95% of lineout throws are not straight, scrum feeds are not straight, scrum setting is not straight and even scrum going down multiple times is allowed.

              what if – rather than toying with the laws every time and introducing new ones – the unions decide to implement existing laws more strictly?

              am sure the game will be fairer and all the by-games and trespassing to the edges of laws will stop.

          • August 7th 2017 @ 7:49pm
            etienne marais said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:49pm | ! Report



      • August 7th 2017 @ 11:28am
        jimmyjames said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        I agree that protection of the player in the air must be paramount but I think the referees need to take a closer look at this part of the game to take into account varying circumstances involved in these situations i.e. players moving towards the “catch zone” at differing speeds. Some players are attacking the ball a great speed and making long leaps to get under the ball. While this shows tremendous skill and bravery, it is fundamentally dangerous.

        I can imagine a scenario where a defending player is moving slowly to get in position to catch a high kick (possibly with two feet on the ground in order to take a mark) and an attacking player sprinting for the catch makes a long high leap for the ball making contact with the defending player and lands dangerously on his neck, back, head, etc..

        I hazard to guess the laws, as currently applied, would require the defending player to be yellow or red carded, notwithstanding the actions of the attacking player.

        Ideally, players going for high catches should get under the ball before leaping. While this is probably unrealistic, I think the referees should look at some way of discouraging players from taking long leaps into the catch zone. Another issue is that these players often have their knee up which, though intended as protection, poses a real threat to other players. By comparison, players can be penalised for raising/leading with the knee in contact/tackle.

        I don’t know what where the line is, but I am not sure that the refs do either.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 12:37pm
          Phil said | August 7th 2017 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

          I am a little bit with you on this,jj.While it was extremely athletic of Havili leaping for the catch,he also put himself at great risk,but I’m not sure how you can legislate against this.Perhaps it could be taken into account when deciding on the penalty for the defender?While Smith was a bit dumb with the challenge,it very nearly could have caused a serious injury to him as well,with Havili’s knees striking his head.At the time,I really thought a yellow was sufficient but acknowledge that Peyper had no choice in showing the red.Refreshing to see a local TMO having no hesitation in advising so,too.

          • August 7th 2017 @ 10:09pm
            Sylvester said | August 7th 2017 @ 10:09pm | ! Report

            “While Smith was a bit dumb with the challenge,it very nearly could have caused a serious injury to him as well,with Havili’s knees striking his head.”

            True, but if he had stayed within the laws his head wouldn’t have been near DH’s knees at all. The law protects both players.
            A more likely approach, rather than banning the jump, is that coaches should decide whether they want their players to contest these kicks. Is taking part in a 50/50 contest worth the risk of a card?

        • Roar Rookie

          August 7th 2017 @ 7:27pm
          Shane D said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

          JJ – in this instance the big thing that caused it to be a RC offence for me is that Smith had no real chance of competing for the ball. A player in that situation must pull out of the challenge & get out of the way of the player in the air ( from a coaching perspective it is the better thing to do as it gives the player a chance of making a tackle once the jumper lands).

          • August 8th 2017 @ 10:28am
            jimmyjames said | August 8th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

            I should clarify that I think Kwagga probably deserved the red though I hate to see a contest ruined. I agree that better coaching, skill and tactics, is needed to avoid these situations and the need for red cards.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 4:36am
        Peter said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:36am | ! Report

        Brainless you say? taking into consideration that both players were competing for the ball up until the moment Havili decided to jump for the ball, how do you consider it “brainless” when all footage showed that Smith tried to avoid contact, it is very easy to pass judgement when watching the incident at slow speed.

    • August 7th 2017 @ 9:18am
      Gman said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      Saved Super Rugby ?
      Was a good game – but there was alot of garbage served up to get there.

      Good job Crusaders – now someone at ARU HQ give the Alaalatoa brother a call get a gold jersey ASAP …. a set of brothers schooled in Sydney propping together for the Wallabies …. now there is a story

      • August 7th 2017 @ 11:28am
        Patrick said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        Alaalatoa went well on Saturday, given Franks’ current injury issues I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the ABs squad announced today.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 12:10pm
          Jeffrey said | August 7th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          He’s not available till next year, Patrick. He still wouldn’t make it though at present even if he was available. Laulala, Moli, Franks and Ofa, who can play both sides are currently ahead of him.

      • August 7th 2017 @ 4:03pm
        double agent said | August 7th 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

        He missed a load of tackles and looked exhausted. Should slot straight into the wallabies!!

    • August 7th 2017 @ 9:46am
      wyn said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      This was clearly a red card (it had to be given) that ended any chance of the Lions had of winning. It was really bad luck for Kwagga and the Lions that on his way to ground, Havili’s back clipped the Crusader No 6 and he was tipped onto his neck. Without the contact with his teammate Havili’s landing would certainly not have been as horrific and the sanction would have been mandatory yellow. On the flip side, a little more contact on his way down and it could have been a lot worse. The lesson is a clear one, avoid contact with the man in the air going for the ball unless you are competing for the ball in the air.

      I agree that there is a difference between an over-zealous but dumb efforts and blatant thuggery. A neutral observer’s reaction to the first is “oh no you idiot!” whereas to the second it is more like “damn you, you ^&%*!” In order not to ruin the game as a spectacle the red carded player may be replaced after 10 minutes and a match review panel can deal with the red carded player. The subsequent penalties need to be severe enough to deter all players from infringing.

    • August 7th 2017 @ 9:50am
      Connor33 said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      There was possibly no intent, but Kwagga Smith was recklessly indifferent. It could have nearly killed the Crusader fullback had he not reached out to break the fall with his arm.

      None of this substitution stuff, Spiro. The red cards sends a message.

      Letting players use training camp games inclusive in their punishment also sends a message: are we serious about protecting players in vulnerable positions?

    • August 7th 2017 @ 9:50am
      Tooly said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      It seems to me with the current laws applying to challenges on the high ball that we are headed towards AFL this happens hundreds of times a week in the AFL no one gets red carded and no one gets hurt .
      The advantage rests with tall players like Folau who are good in the air and under the high ball , they can come flying in and even come in contact their shorter opponents with their knees . All the onus is on the shorter opponent even if they are on the spot first . Certainly not deliberate challenges but all players should be able to hold their ground and the high flyers need to take some responsibility in these actions as it is they are allowed a clear jump on the run .

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