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New Zealand Rugby

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Craig Joubert

Craig Joubert

South African Craig Joubert, the referee of the 2011 World Cup final between the All Blacks and France, has been appointed to control the final.

He will be assisted by Australians Steve Walsh and James Leckie.

The final will be contested between the Waratahs and the Crusaders in Sydney, Australia on Saturday the 2nd of August.

ZIPPY: Bernard Foley takes the ball up for the Waratahs during their Super Rugby semifinal win over the Brumbies.

ZIPPY: Bernard Foley takes the ball up for the Waratahs during their Super Rugby semifinal win over the Brumbies.

He accepted the adulation after scoring one of the most memorable tries of the Super Rugby season to secure the NSW Waratahs’ first home final, but Bernard Foley prefers to dwell on the defensive effort that set up a third title showdown with the Crusaders.

Foley’s completion of a sweeping counterattack in the 76th minute at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night was a belated reminder of the Waratahs’ offensive capabilities – though a bruising semifinal with the Brumbies also highlighted another champion-winning prerequisite: unyielding defence.

As the Waratahs headed for their first debrief today ahead of Saturday’s final at ANZ Stadium, the incumbent Wallabies first five-eighth was still marvelling at his side’s ability to withstand immense pressure and prevent the Brumbies scoring after halftime before they closed out a 26-8 victory.

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New ZealandStar flyhalf Dan Carter has been returned to the All Blacks squad for this season’s Rugby Championships against Australia, South Africa and Argentina at the expense of his Crusaders’ teammate Colin Slade.

Carter, the world’s leading points-scorer in tests with 1,440, missed New Zealand’s June test matches against England while on a seven-months “sabbatical” from rugby during which he toured the world, attending events such as this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.

The 32-year-old returned to the Crusaders squad for its most-recent matches in Super Rugby, including Saturday’s semifinal against the Sharks, but has been playing at inside center to allow Slade to continue at flyhalf.

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WaratahsInjured skipper Dave Dennis believes Waratahs’ unity will see them win Super Rugby title.

THE Waratahs must overcome one of the longest losing streaks in professional sport to win their first Super Rugby grand final, but injured skipper Dave Dennis believes his team’s unshakable unity will finally deliver a win and the premiership against the Crusaders on Saturday.

The Tahs have not been beaten the Crusaders in a decade, losing 11 straight games that include their previous two grand finals in 2005 and 2008.

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Nemani Nadolo

FLYING FIJIAN: Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo bursts through a Sharks tackle in Saturday’s semi-final win.

At last the Crusaders have a chance to erase the nightmare of losing the 2011 grand final.

Having ripped apart the Sharks 38-6 in Saturday night’s semifinal at AMI Stadium, the Crusaders now prepare to carry their rage to Sydney for this weekend’s grand final against the Waratahs – a side floating high on the back of eight consecutive wins.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, as much as anyone, will have been praying for this chance.

The only other time the Crusaders have qualified for a grand final under his control was when they met the Reds in Brisbane in 2011; and that epic campaign, when games were played out of Christchurch because of the earthquakes, ended with a 18-13 defeat.

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Colin Slade

HARD LUCK: Despite keeping Dan Carter out of the Crusaders No 10 jumper, Colin Slade is likely to miss out on the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship.

Colin Slade may be keeping Dan Carter out of the No 10 jersey for the grand final-bound Crusaders but he is likely to be the backline casualty when the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship squad is named today.

Slade was called up for the England series to cover first five-eighth and fullback with Aucklander Charles Piutau out injured and Aaron Cruden still in the early stages of his comeback from a broken thumb.

But Slade did not play, with Cruden proving his fitness to start all three tests and Beauden Barrett used in reserve.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter’s calm presence was crucial for the Crusaders as they set about dismantling the Sharks.

Dan Carter, refreshed after his break away from the game and energised by his performance against the Sharks and the opportunities of the week ahead, is promising more.

The All Blacks No10, excelling in his role at second-five for the Crusaders outside Colin Slade, expects an improvement from his team for the final against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night, and, just as importantly for a winner-takes-all match, better accuracy from his goalkicking.

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Todd Blackadder

Todd Blackadder

CrusadersAfter watching his team demolish the Sharks and qualify for next Saturday’s final, Todd Blackadder was asked how he thought he would feel if he got to lift the Super Rugby trophy as a coach after doing it three times as Crusaders captain.

“I wouldn’t know, I can only imagine,” was Blackadder’s response.

For Blackadder, now is not the time to either tempt fate or get overly emotional. He said the latter was one of his team’s major problems in the lead-up to their last final, the 2011 loss to the Reds in Brisbane. The travel from Cape Town, where they had comprehensively beaten the Stormers in their semifinal, was a big factor, but so, too, were the heightened emotional levels of making a final after a season on the road because of the earthquakes.

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Taine Randall

Taine Randall feels that the Waratahs might just go all the way in 2014.

The glory boys, those pretty boys out of Australian rugby, who have a long history of not living up to the hype, are finally delivering on their promise.

History shows the Waratahs always start well and are always full of talent but tend to welter towards the end. What we’re seeing this season is that may not be the case. They finished the strongest in terms of position on the table and form. They are top qualifier; guaranteed home advantage as long as they’re in the competition and it would be pretty tough to say it wasn’t fully deserved.

The first person you choose in the team is the coach. If you had to choose between the best player and the coach you choose the coach. The coach sets the attitude of the team and there’s no doubt Michael Cheika deserves the greatest credit for the turnaround in fortune of the Waratahs. He’s been a breath of fresh air.

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Sir Gordon Tietjens

Sir Gordon Tietjens is New Zealand’s legendary sevens coach with training techniques to scare the fittest players.

He’s one of the most decorated coaches at the Commonwealth Games, but where did it all begin for New Zealand’s long-time Sevens coach?

“From where he was, from a fancy-free, practical joking, happy go lucky player to where he is now. It’s bloody legendary.”

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WaratahsAn enemy turned ally holds the key to the Waratahs’ hopes of securing their maiden Super Rugby championship with a hoodoo-busting victory over the colossal Crusaders.

The Waratahs will tap into the vast knowledge of assistant coach Daryl Gibson, a vital cog in five of the Crusaders record seven Super Rugby titles, in a bid to conquer the champion New Zealanders for the first time in a decade.

The Tahs have lost their past 11 encounters with the Crusaders, including the 2005 and 2008 title deciders, but have identified Gibson’s expert insight into the competition’s perennial superpowers as priceless.

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Gareth Anscombe

Gareth Anscombe

Outgoing Chiefs and Auckland utility back Gareth Anscombe said that he decided to switch his allegiance from New Zealand to Wales after realising he had little hope of making the All Blacks.

Anscombe, 23, who has signed to play for the Cardiff Blues, said he spoke with All Black coach Steve Hansen earlier this year and found he was well down the pecking order in his favoured position of flyhalf.

“There was a lot of factors, but I mean, there’s a lot of classy No 10′s that are floating around in New Zealand right now and they’re all pretty young as well,” he said.

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Dan Carter & Richie McCaw & Keven Mealamu

BACK SEAT: Where the All Blacks sit on the team bus is one of the great traditions around the team that continues to survive. Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu wave to fans from the team bus.

New ZealandIt’s a place that has been central to the All Blacks’ domination of world rugby, a place where tactics have been spawned, standards set and discipline dished out.

It’s the back seat of the team bus, where seats are filled according to seniority, and positions are treasured.

It’s a ritual that has survived the test of time, though there have been tinkerings along the way, especially to accommodate the demands of the professional era.

Respected Hawke’s Bay rugby administrator Dr Tom Johnson, a former All Blacks trialist, has co-authored Legends In Black, interviewing some of the greats of the Kiwi game to try to unravel some of the secrets of the team’s culture and remarkable success.

They didn’t hold back when he confronted them regarding the seating arrangements on the team bus down the years.

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Jake White

Jake White cut a forlorn figure as he watched his troops getting slaughtered

Sorry, it doesn’t cut it for me to hear people state upon their crushing exit on Saturday from Super Rugby 2014: “Well done Sharks, at least you got to the Semis.”

If they are simply putting it in the context of their superior performance in relation to the other South African sides, my retort is “big deal”.

This was a year, after all, when the collective SA challenge was lamentably disappointing and our teams hogged the basement terrain on the overall table.

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Richie McCaw & Nemani Nadolo

STILL GOT IT: Crusaders and All Blacks veteran Richie McCaw celebrates a great night for the franchise with Fijian flier Nemani Nadolo.

New Zealand exhales. Turns out rumours of the decline of Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter have been greatly exaggerated.

McCaw and Carter both produced timely high-quality performances in Christchurch tonight as the Crusaders won through to their 11th – yes, 11th – Super Rugby final with a 38-6 dismantling of the Sharks. The Red ‘n Blacks are now 80 minutes away from their eighth championship – but notably a first since 2008.

On a night when Kieran Read illuminated the big occasion with a stellar demonstration of his remarkable quality, and Fijian find of the year Nemani Nadolo was equally as destructive, the old soldiers McCaw and Carter were not a million miles off the standard set by the best player in the world.

With Read, this sort of stuff is as predictable as it is enjoyable. He is a colossus of the game completely at the peak of his powers. His every minute on the field these days is to be savoured.

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Commonwealth Games 2014South AfricaThe Commonwealth Games was underway and the first Rugby games of these games were on Saturday 26 July 2014.

All games were played at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow.

South Africa won the Gold Medal, New Zealand the Silver, Australia the Bronze!

Before the Final of these Games, New Zealand had not lost a single Commonwealth Games Sevens game… well, that record no longer stands.

The new Commonwealth Games Gold Medal Champions are South Africa’s Blitzbokke… for 4 more years!

It was a tough and physical Final, and New Zealand still deserve their plaudits for being the premier Sevens side in World Rugby.

Herewith the Fixtures & Results:

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Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith has re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union through to 2016

Nine All Blacks have re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union, six of which re-committing through to 2016.

All Blacks and Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith, who has played 29 tests since making his debut in 2012, has re-signed with to 2016.

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Corey Flynn

Corey Flynn will face his rival as the Crusaders take on the Sharks in Christchurch

Corey Flynn’s journey to tonight’s semifinal, his 150th match for the Crusaders and a clash against Bismarck du Plessis, considered the best hooker in the world, has been a long and often painful one.

There have been the five broken arms which would have forced many to think about packing it in. Not Flynn, though. He has been in and out of the All Blacks – painful in itself, but he believes his many injuries have given him the mental strength to handle it.

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Charles Piutau

Charles Piutau is set to be recalled to the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship

Dan Carter and Charles Piutau will be named in the All Blacks’Rugby Championship squad on Monday, but their return to fitness has provided the selectors with some tough decisions.

Who to leave out of the 31-player squad in order to include them? The most vulnerable might be two Crusaders who will be playing alongside Carter in the Super Rugby semifinal against the Sharks in Christchurch today – Colin Slade and Ryan Crotty. Both have been consistent performers this year.

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Super RugbyIt is the Semi-Finals of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! We have only the 2 Semi-Final games in this Round, as all the other 11 teams have now been dispatched. Both games take place on Saturday 27 July 2014.

It is crunch time, as only the winners advance to the Final on 2 August 2014.

The Crusaders and Waratahs host the Semi-Finals, as top contenders on the Combined Super Rugby Log. The challengers are the Cell C Sharks and the Brumbies, who have had to travel in order to see if they can advance against strong home ground advantage, for the Final.

Only 3 Super Rugby games for 2014 remain!

Bonus points for tries and losses within 7 now does not matter anymore, all that is needed is a win.

Let the games continue….

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