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Tipping panel – the Final: North versus South

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Expert
16th June, 2021
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The Super Rugby trans-Tasman Final is upon us, and it’s a battle of the extremities, with the blue team from the top of the North Island against the blue team from the bottom of the South Island.

North versus South. A real Yankee doodle dandy.

I looked back at everyone’s prediction for the Finals a few weeks ago, and none of us picked the Blues and Highlanders getting through to the last weekend of Super Rugby. But neither did you guys!

I scanned through all the comments, and I couldn’t see any Blues-Highlanders predictions there either. So at least we’re all in good company; none of us seem to know what we’re talking about.

For the Final, we’ll offering up a tip and Sure Thing as usual, along with a winning margin and a first try-scorer. Feel free to throw in your suggestions down below.

But the big question this week is whether Harry and Dan fall to opposite sides of this contest? Will we finish with an overall winner, or another tepid draw like last year?

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My thanks to guys for ripping into another year of tipping, some of which was even pretty good. And personally speaking, it was great to be able to jump back in the chair late in the season, too.

Stay tuned for what we’ve got in store for the July Internationals and the last of the great rugby tours: the British and Irish Lions once again leaving the Home Nations, this time for South Africa.

LAST WEEK: Digger and The Crowd 5; Brett 4; Harry, Dan, Geoff 3.

OVERALL: Harry and Dan 55, The Crowd 53, Geoff 50, Digger 49, Brett 45.

Digger
Short and sharp this drag race of a Trans-Tasman competition has found the two most consistent sides facing off for a second chance at a 2021 trophy: the glamour of the Blues versus the graft of the Highlanders.

For me, I think the Highlanders will get across the line.

I believe they play with more cohesion and certainty around their game plan, and handle and absorb pressure better than their northern counterparts.

And along with rumours swirling around who may or may not be available for the Blues this coming weekend has me further entrenched into the Highlanders camp.

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Having Aaron Smith helps too.

TIP: HIGHLANDERS by 12

FIRST TRY: Kazuki Himeno

SURE THING: The Blues will continue their fine tradition set by Dan Carter by having another World Cup winner waterboy in Beauden Barrett ferreting about.

Brett
Raising our predictions for the Final from a few weeks ago rams home how far off the mark I’ve been in 2021. I had the Chiefs meeting the Crusaders in the Final, and what actually happened was the Chiefs fell in hole, and the Crusaders’ world imploded on them after winning a game by four tries.

But it was hard to be anything but impressed with the Highlanders watching them up close last week. Well, that is, once I could work out if which team was running which way in the flood of white jerseys.

And I say that because obviously, nothing about the Blues impresses me!

That said, I am really looking forward to this game. It won’t really matter if Otere Black is out of action, because the Blues scrumhalves tend to just find the nearest big bloke with a single digit coming around the corner.

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If Black played for the Highlanders, Aaron Smith would knock the thermometer out of his mouth from thirty metres away off his left hand. And before Otere would even realise the ball was coming.

So two contrasting styles. Or about as contrasting as the Kiwi sides get.

TIP: Highlanders, obviously. By 7

FIRST TRY: Aaron Smith. For the Brotherhood.

SURE THING: I feel like I should be exempt from this when the Blues are playing.

Tom Robinson of the Blues wins lineout ball

Tom Robinson. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Harry
The best player on the pitch will likely be a Highlander.

The shrieking screams of Aaron Smith are horrendous (imagine how it sounds in the close confines of an airport loo), but he is still the best scrumhalf in rugby, despite strong challenges by Faf de Klerk and Antoine Dupont.

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Faf is a defensive maestro and Dupont an extra loose forward, but Smith still throws the longest, strongest, straightest passes, to the best targets, and so, he will probably keep the South Island mob in touch, for a while.

But in the end, the big bold Blue bullies will have too much: too much aggression, pace, championship pedigree, and reserves.

They will find space, and score. The Clan will score too, but not enough. Blues by 12. The bigger Ioane to dot down first.

TIP: BLUES by 12.

FIRST TRY: Akira Ioane.

Shannon Frizell of the Highlanders

Shannon Frizell. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Dan
There’s only one pick this week: the Highlanders to snag an upset win in the final.

The reason? Well, it would be very boring if the two best tipsters on the panel went the same way for the final round of the season rather than allowing us to have a clear winner.

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Which is to say, Aaron Smith will once again fire perfect, pinpoint passes all around the field to mastermind a victory. The Landers’ lineout will run like precision clockwork, and their team effort (with the help of Smith) will outclass the greater individual talents of the hosts.

TIPS: HIGHLANDERS by 2

FIRST TRY: Ash Dixon

SURE THING: After last week’s debacle, the Highlanders will be sure to avoid wearing their away kit again and therefore don a lovely shade of navy for the decider. Which is obviously very different to Auckland blue.

Aaron Smith of the Highlanders prepares to feed a scrum

(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Geoff
In a chat after the Blues put 50 points on the Rebels in Round 1, Blues coach Leon McDonald fixed a deathly stare and explained to me how they had visited the room of mirrors, admitted their shame and disappointment at not making the SR Aotearoa final, and resolved to make up for it in this comp.

Perhaps I’m easily influenced, but it was entirely believable.

And for that reason, no matter the appeal of Aaron Smith, Jona Nareki and Liam Coltman’s second half precision, dart-like throws, plus the possible loss of the big ginger Tom, it’s redemption day for the Blues on Saturday.

TIP: BLUES by 5

FIRST TRY: Billy Harmon (who will then request a TMO review on himself and have it rubbed out)

SURE THING: The Eden Park crowd will be 8-10,000 below expectations due to fans staying at home, to ensure they don’t miss any of the cricket.

TT-FINAL Harry Brett Dan Digger Geoff The Crowd
BLU v HIG BLU HIG HIG HIG BLU BLU
Margin 12 7 2 12 5
First try A Ioane A Smith A Dixon K Himeno B Harmon
Last week 3 4 3 5 3 5
Overall 67 45 57 61 55 53

Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon AEST.

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