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While there have been fewer matches this week with none of the South African conference playing, there have still been some great games and plenty to talk about.
So much in fact that it’s easy to pass over topics such as the Crusaders still looking unstoppable, the Blues sad demise and the Rebels still being in contention for the finals.
With those glossed over, let’s get into some of the bigger talking points of the weekend.
When is a punch not a punch?
When you’re Julian Savea apparently. The Kiwi winger was saved from potentially serious punishment thanks to the cameramen at the ground being far too focused on where the ball was than where the action was. It does raise an interesting question though – what happens if the same thing happens at a key moment in a key match? In a time when we’ve got so much technology at our fingertips is it still possible that we don’t have complete coverage of matches in Super Rugby?
The ‘Tahs have got to be tougher in defence
The Waratahs versus Reds clash was a hugely entertaining game and the atmosphere looked incredible. It was a good win for the ‘Tahs who are getting closer and closer to winning the Australian conference. They scored some great tries and their attacking mojo is definitely back.
However, attack does not win competitions and leaking 41 points against a side who have only managed to score 247 points in the previous 12 rounds (average of 20 per game) is not exactly the signs of a top team.
And while we’re talking about this clash, just one quick thought…
Reds have to be Maroon
Nothing to do with the rugby but it was awesome to see the Queensland side in maroon this weekend for their Origin style clash and they really should wear it every week.
Ireland have go to buy some stilts
It’s not a new story – Folau scores try after soaring above opponents to take great catch.
But Irish coach Joe Schmidt must be looking at his back three (average height several centimetres smaller than Izzy) and wondering if he can get his guys some sort of stilts.
The real question, however, is not about whether Izzy will out jump his opposition. The question is can Bernard Foley deliver the aerial bombardment to give Izzy the chance? It’ll be interesting to see how the Irish defence look to pressure Foley to make sure he doesn’t have the time or space to put up those high kicks in the first place.
Hurricanes? More like a strong gust of wind
The Canes have looked fantastic all season long having added a real defensive wall to their attacking flair. But in the last couple of games that attacking flair has gone walkabout. In the first 14 rounds of the competition they were racking up scores of 30+ week in and week out but in the past two rounds, they’ve limped to 13 and 14 points and back to back losses.
Now, of course, this could just be a temporary blip and they are still one of the favourites to make the final. But we’ve seen this situation plenty of times before with other sides – an impressive start sweeping all before them and then a stumble later in the season when things really matter. Once we’re into the finals one poor game is all it takes to end the entire season earlier than expected.
The Canes have got a relatively straightforward run into the Finals with two of their final three games being against the Brumbies and the Blues. So there’s plenty of time to get their rhythm back. But that does need to happen because at the moment the all star back line is not clicking like it was earlier this season.
What does the future hold for the Brumbies?
A good win over the Sunwolves today should not distract anyone from the underlying issues in Canberra. They’ve had a terrible season and the expectations of both players, fans and pundits have not been achieved with the Brumbies right down the bottom end of the ladder.
With their final three games being against the Canes, Chiefs and Tahs it is quite likely that they won’t pick up another point this season and will limp into the offseason. During that downtime the club will have a lot to do including sorting out the coaching set up – with so many stories about the lack of alignment between playing group and coach there is definitely room for improvement.
It’s going to be a great few weeks of international rugby!
So many top teams are hitting good form in the Super Rugby competition and the top talent is about to go head-to-head with some of the best from up North. There are so many intriguing stories including how the 6 Nation champions Ireland will go against a Wallabies side desperate for form, or can Eddie Jones’ England get out of the rut they’re in or can a resurgent French side stand up to the might of the All Blacks?
There will be many, many stories over the coming months that talk about how teams are tracking towards the World Cup and there’s still time for nations to improve, but these matches are important in each team’s plans.