Five talking points from the Super Rugby quarter-finals

Oliver Matthews Roar Guru

By Oliver Matthews, Oliver Matthews is a Roar Guru


93 Have your say

    Super Rugby has reached the Finals. Since the June internationals the competition has been staggering and stumbling as it has tried to get going again after the break.

    But there’s nothing like finals rugby to get the juices flowing and this weekend has delivered some fantastic games to enjoy, and plenty to talk about…

    Say what you like about them, the Tahs are entertaining!
    In the game of the round, the Tahs played the second half of their lives and outscored the Highlanders 24 – 0. At halftime the Tahs had given all their critics plenty to talk about – a disorganised defence that has haunted them all year, poor decision making and what looked like a worrying lack of heart.

    But Daryl Gibson must have given some Al Pacino-style halftime speech because in the second half the same Tahs jumped on every opportunity and booked their place in the semi-finals. It was an incredible game and while the come back will give the Tahs plenty to feel good about, they cannot let their opposition get out to these sort of leads in the semis.

    How bad must Naholo feel today
    While the Tahs did play a great second half, they were helped a lot by a terrible decision from Waisake Naholo. His head high swinging arm tackle and the yellow card that followed opened the door for the Tahs and they came bursting through with 21 points in eight minutes. The momentum shift was incredible to see and the Highlanders never recovered.

    Of course, there were other factors in the game that contributed and it’s not all down to Naholo, but if he had just kept his calm and tackled the rampaging Taqele Naiyaravoro six inches lower then the Highlanders would likely be looking forward to a semi-final instead of starting their offseason.

    To be fair though – it’s worth noting that just a minute beforehand the Highlanders were just centimetres from the Tahs’ try line. If they’d held their heads and got that try then their lead would have been 24 points and the game would have been over.

    Kiwi #10 battle
    There’s been lots of chat about the All Blacks #10 shirt. Yes, Beauden Barrett is deservedly the first choice but one of the reasons for the All Blacks’ success is that they have genuine competition and depth for this critical position.

    Beauden Barrett

    (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

    This weekend we’ve seen the fight for that shirt hot up and players shift around a bit. Barrett didn’t play one of his electric games against the Chiefs but he did exactly what was needed and controlled the game well. In the same game, however, Damian McKenzie showed that he’s still got some work to do on his ability to deliver in the high stakes games.

    Richie Mo’unga might not have been up against as tough opposition but he put in a great performance against the Sharks and with Lima Sopoaga heading to Wasps in the UK for next season Mo’unga has arguably jumped over McKenzie as the direct back up to Barrett.

    Whatever the situation – the fact that this competition exists at all is the envy of Rugby Australia who would love to see Bernard Foley challenged for the #10 Wallabies shirt.

    Big game players step up
    When it’s winner takes all you really do need your big guns to step up. This weekend we’ve seen the difference this makes quite clearly.

    McKenzie didn’t step up and the Chiefs lost (not saying he’s the only reason they lost of course, but just saying that they really needed him to step up).

    The first half for Tahs – Foley, Beale and Folau were too quiet and the NSW side struggled.

    The second half for Tahs – those same players tore the Highlanders to pieces and got the win.

    Elton Jantjies was busy and controlled the game well and the Lions booked their third successive semi-final spot.

    Elton Jantjies Lions Super Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    As we move into the next round this matters even more. The quality of teams at this stage of the competition is such that you need your stars to stamp their mark all over the match. If they go missing in action your season is over.

    One question to consider – will we see Beauden Barrett step up in the semis and make the difference against the Crusaders?

    The two sides of Nick Phipps
    The Tahs #9 gets his fair share of abuse and in the first half against the Highlanders he did a lot of things to justify that abuse. Passes that bobbled along the ground and the now famous Phipps “two step” where he dances a bit before choosing to pass to his first receiver (who is most likely getting crushed by an opposition flanker at the same time as the ball arrives).

    But in the second half he became the inspiration that the team needed to get them going. He made good decisions and really brought an energy to the team that helped them get back into the game.

    Of course the yellow card helped and it was Foley and Folau who scored the actual tries, but Phipps was a much better player in the second half. If that Phipps can be present against the Lions in Jo’burg then the Tahs will be all the better for it.

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    The Crowd Says (93)

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 9:36am
      Ex force fan said | July 22nd 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Did anyone get the official crowd numbers for the Australian semi-final? In a city of 5 million in the rugby heartland, with RA head office attending, I was surprised that the stands was not packed.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 22nd 2018 @ 10:59am
        Paul D said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        Look! Over there in the corner EFF. There’s a bucket of worms with your name on it.

        • July 22nd 2018 @ 12:57pm
          Reverse Wheel said | July 22nd 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          Looked like about 20k to me. Disappointing.

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 1:58pm
        Davo said | July 22nd 2018 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

        Unfortunately I was only 12,000. Sydney’s sporting so called fans are the worst in the country a state they will only support teams when they are winning. Most of the people that stayed at home probably looked at last week’s results and assumed the Tahs would lose. The crowd that was there was fantastic in supporting the team especially in the second half, one of the best atmospheres in my 20 years of attending the Tahs super rugby games.

        • July 22nd 2018 @ 8:49pm
          Boomeranga said | July 22nd 2018 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

          There are 14 pro footy clubs in Sydney. 10 of them have been there for 100+ years. Line up the other Super rugby cities and tell me which ones can make anything like the same claim? Melbourne is the only one. Sydney is struggling with rugby but its not alone there.

          • Roar Rookie

            July 23rd 2018 @ 12:04pm
            piru said | July 23rd 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

            So they just don’t like Super Rugby?

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:20pm
        Brian George said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:20pm | ! Report

        Sooo many of the 5 talking points are from the one semi? Why would that be? Could it be that theroar is rubbish?

        • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:22pm
          Brian George said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

          P.S. I wonder how long that comment will last?

          • July 23rd 2018 @ 2:40am
            Colvin said | July 23rd 2018 @ 2:40am | ! Report

            Brian, why are you commenting?

            • Roar Guru

              July 23rd 2018 @ 6:59am
              Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | July 23rd 2018 @ 6:59am | ! Report

              The Australian rugby site is just too focused on…….Australian Teams?

              • July 23rd 2018 @ 12:26pm
                Jacko said | July 23rd 2018 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

                The article says 5 talking points from the SR 1/4 finals…It doesnt say 5 talking points from 1 1/4 final and in case you havnt noticed the SR comp covers 5 different countries

      • July 23rd 2018 @ 10:33pm
        Rugger said | July 23rd 2018 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

        Good question EFF.
        There would have been 70 or 80 ‘rusted-on’ Force fans watching a real ding dong battle between a bunch of nobodies against a third rate Pacific islands team. The Force are such an embarrassment now – they should think about recruiting Bernard Tomic for their match against Christmas Island

        • July 24th 2018 @ 10:03am
          Ex force fan said | July 24th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          There were more than 11,000 mostly in the members bar and under the stands sheltering from the cold and rain in a miserable day watching a nothing game just to support their team, win or loose. The embarrassing part is not in the West.

        • July 24th 2018 @ 12:57pm
          concerned supporter said | July 24th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report


          You should think about recruiting a decent lawyer, to replace the resigned Elizabeth Broderick {ex Blake Dawson,

          Ashurst} on the RA Board of Directors, in case ASIC rightfully come down on your master, C.Clyne.,

          ASIC normally protect the “big end of town”, but recently they have shown some balls with AMP Society and Big Banks.

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:00am
      Fishboy said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      I must confess to having rubbished Phipps over the years, but I thought his 2nd half was great, and he deserves a lot of credit for some fearless play last night, which to my mind galvanised the others to get going. Impressive game from Miller too.

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:07am
        Cynical Play said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        You not from Berry are ya?

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 1:38pm
        Noodles said | July 22nd 2018 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

        Nice win. But the tahs plainly don’t have what it takes. The awful show against the brumbies and the continuation for most of the highlanders match are plain reflection of a mindset. Winning teams simply don’t allow it.
        Personally I’ve always thought of the nsw setup as a Silver spoon mentality. Starts with the officials and the more prominent fans. Not a way to build a tough mental attitude.

        • July 22nd 2018 @ 8:25pm
          Drongo said | July 22nd 2018 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

          Yeah, cause coming from 17 points down at 1/2 time against a Kiwi team stacked with world class All Blacks displays anything but a good mental attitude, belief and guts …. oh, wait a minute…

          • July 23rd 2018 @ 4:33pm
            Phil said | July 23rd 2018 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

            I can’t believe I am saying this……good comment,Drongo!

          • July 25th 2018 @ 8:15am
            jimbo81 said | July 25th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

            down a player in the bin… let’s not forget that the Tahs had nothing until the yellow card. Also – all this praise for Foley: the Tahs only scored when Beale moved to first receiver – and let’s not forget Phipps’ disastrous first half.

            A more neutral assessment:

            Tahs lost the first half with trademark mistakes and do nothing attack, then they received a miracle intercept, followed by a yellow card to their opposition and managed to put tries on the board.

            I don’t want any Tahs in the Wallabies – the national team needs players who can win consistently and perform their core duties consistently – not flash in the pan one off miracle stuff.

        • Roar Guru

          July 24th 2018 @ 2:36pm
          jeznez said | July 24th 2018 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

          Think the team are in trouble. The Lions did them with so much ease last time, 0-29 and the Tahs were lucky to manage nil!

          Latu must start and hopefully Vui is on the bench for Ryan. Johnson-Holmes needs some time and the Tahs will be sweating on the HIA reviews for Wells and Simmons.

          Fully expect that Wells at a minimum is out which means they will likely bring in another lock and shift Holloway back to 8 – need to really find some fight in the forwards which is tough with this pack and their missing backrowers. Hooper and Dempsey definitely missed here.

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:06am
      Cynical Play said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Get a room.

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:18am
      Luke Ringland said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      The intercept on the Tahs line at 24-6 and the resultant momentum shift was quite a lot down to plain old luck I feel. Great to see the boys capitalise though. This is where the experience of Foley and Beale came into it, because they knew full well that momentum can be everything and they had to step up in that moment.

      I’m honestly not trying to be too negative. As a long suffering Tah supporter I enjoyed last night immensely. In many ways I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But as with the Wallabies, I don’t think it’s being greedy to hope that we can somehow play some steady rugby.

      At the moment there are not enough Tahs making big hits. It can’t be left to razzle dazzle alone to lift a team.
      One hopes Michael Hooper will be back for the Tahs though as his leadership, especially in defence was sorely missed. I hope this also helps people to see the value he brings to the teams he plays in. Leadership is not just the big speeches and tactical decisions, though these are needed, but the ability to help your teammates rise

      Good to see Tom Staniforth come on and put in a good shift. He is big human, and definitely used that bulk to great effect. One wonders if it isn’t worth starting with that kind of player and then bring on someone like Holloway or Hannigan latter in the match.

      Simmons has had some great games this season, but now seems to be struggling. I might get howled down here, but you have to wonder if being a new father is great prep to find that last 5% of performance in a sport like rugby. As anyone who’s played rugby knows, that last 5% is what it’s all about — the difference between a good personal performance or a mediocre one. There are plenty of fathers on here no doubt, what do you think?

      The last person I’d like to mention is Latu. His upside is so clearly evident. One wonders if the coaches simply do not trust him. The key statistic is not turnovers, but turnovers versus penalties conceded…last night he brought so much. Perhaps it’s just a risk the Tahs…need to take

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:42am
        KiwiHaydn said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        Coulda, woulda, shoulda for the Highlanders. I’m gutted they folded in the way they did after dominating for the first 55 minutes and coming so close to scoring. I was expecting a close contest, but to lose in that manner is galling.

        Credit to the Waratahs for having the ability to turn that game around. The trip to Johannesburg (and possibly back to Christchurch) seems a daunting one, but at least they’re there.

        • Roar Guru

          July 22nd 2018 @ 10:59am
          Machooka said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

          Yes Kiwi person 🙂

          Very ‘daunting’… like Donkey size daunting 😉

      • Roar Guru

        July 22nd 2018 @ 10:48am
        Machooka said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

        Interesting read Luke..

        As to Latu I think it’s more an issue of ‘upside’ v ‘downside’… he’s a demon of a player but he’s presently a card magnet!?!

        • July 22nd 2018 @ 5:39pm
          Worlds Biggest said | July 22nd 2018 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

          Chookman in my very humble opinion Latu must start. We need every ounce of mongrel at Ellis / Coca Cola Park what ever call it these days. Fitzy has been solid all season however with Marx wearing the other number 2 guernsey, Latu is a must.

          Rona has been all at sea the past two weeks and I think his confidence is shot. I’m moving Izzy to 13 and Hegarty to 15, come on Gibbo, give it a crack !

          • July 24th 2018 @ 1:41pm
            scubasteve said | July 24th 2018 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

            100%. izzy to 13 (though defence is a worry), Hegarty to 15 for x factor. 9 is still a worry in Fanga. Latu is fine. Half his cards he is carded for not being on his feet. Its just that his legs are so short.

            Thought Ned wasn’t playing at his best.

        • Roar Guru

          July 22nd 2018 @ 6:12pm
          cs said | July 22nd 2018 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

          Agree, Latu to start. He has surely learned to cool his hot head by now. Looks the real goods.

          Cheers, Machooka! How magical was KB!

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 11:08am
      Onside said | July 22nd 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      Thankyou Waisake Naholo .

      Yellow = 21 points in 6 mins

      15 v 14 : Waratahs win .

      15 v 15 : Highlanders win.

      • Roar Guru

        July 22nd 2018 @ 12:20pm
        Cadfael said | July 22nd 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

        You seem to fiorget that the Tahys akso had a plyer in the bin for the last 10 minutes. Why couldn’t the Highlanders match what the Tahs did?

        • July 22nd 2018 @ 12:40pm
          Onside said | July 22nd 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

          Good point Cadfael. Overlooked that. However, the 21 in 6, proved to be a paradigm shift from which the Highlanders never recovered. I thought it was a terrific game .

          • July 23rd 2018 @ 1:35am
            cuw said | July 23rd 2018 @ 1:35am | ! Report

            the way Highlanders lost the plot when down to 14 was a disgrace – particularly considering they played like 60 minutes without a wing in regular season and did much better.

            perhaps becoz of KO rugger they panicked.

            but it was strange that the ref seemed to ref each side on either half. first half tall the penalties were against the Waratahs , second half against Highlanders.

            again super rugger keeps shooting itself on each finger on the feet – by not using neutral refs.

            Sharks in particular may have been upset – maybe the result will not change , but then who knows with one or 2 decisions going ur way……

          • July 23rd 2018 @ 1:54am
            cuw said | July 23rd 2018 @ 1:54am | ! Report

            it was interesting that they did not use all the bench.

            if i remember correct – only the forwards came on .

            i would have thrown in Faddes to the mix at least for last 10 minutes.

            the rise and fall of Jsh Ioane is also baffling – he was not so cool in the last match but was still on the bench , but never came on.

            if im not mistaken – he is 19 and can play for under 20 team next year.

            and Sopoagas replacement is Gatland…..

          • July 23rd 2018 @ 3:18am
            Connor33 said | July 23rd 2018 @ 3:18am | ! Report

            Yes, Onside. The YC against the Tahs turns your whole equation upside down; something that even Major failed to acknowledge in the post match press conference—so you’re not alone conveniently forgetting that fact.

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 11:17am
      cm said | July 22nd 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

      Let’s face it, the Tahs always play a lot better when it’s 15 against 14.

      • Roar Guru

        July 22nd 2018 @ 4:00pm
        Machooka said | July 22nd 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

        Doesn’t usually everyone?

        Or, let’s face it, isn’t this comment redundant… usually??

        • July 23rd 2018 @ 4:45am
          MH01 said | July 23rd 2018 @ 4:45am | ! Report

          Not the Brumbies – that game Against the crusaders I was furious

      • July 23rd 2018 @ 12:29am
        London waratah said | July 23rd 2018 @ 12:29am | ! Report

        Hmmm…Highlanders should have done the same to Tge Tahs…they had 7.30 minutes to get 7 points. Why couldn’t they do that with all their ABs and all these skinny Baby Tahs??