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Crusaders

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Get CarterOPERATION “Get Carter” is being hatched at the Waratahs’ Moore headquarters this week, with NSW defence coach and hardman Nathan Grey devising a special strategy to smash Crusaders superstar Dan Carter out of the grand final.

The world’s greatest pointscorer stands in the way of the Waratahs first premiership, and the Tahs plan to ensure that Carter has no room to breathe when the teams collide in the decider at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

Waratahs enforcer Wycliff Palu successfully targeted Brumbies playmaker Matt Toomua in last weekend’s semi-final, and Tahs five-eighth Bernard Foley said they will have similar plans for Carter.

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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.

Bernard Foley

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Justin MarshallYou can attribute a large part of the Highlanders’ demise last week to their struggles at scrum time against the Sharks.

This was reminiscent, too, of the way the Crusaders succumbed to a short-staffed Sharks team in Christchurch during round robin play.

So, without resorting to the obvious, it is vital that the Crusaders avoid getting dragged into a set-piece arm wrestle against the same opposition tomorrow.

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CrusadersA few years ago there was a discussion at Crusaders’ management and administration level about what would be considered a good season.

It came down to this: making the final or winning the final?

Some thought making the final would be satisfactory – given the vagaries of referees and possible disadvantage of travel and so on. But after a short discussion it was decided only winning the final would be acceptable; the inference being anything short of being crowned champions would be considered a failure.

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Richie McCaw

TOUGH AS TEAK: Richie McCaw

He endured the pain of a broken bone in his foot during the 2011 World Cup but Richie McCaw said that was a doddle compared to playing with a fractured rib.

All Blacks captain McCaw hurt his rib in the second test against England on May June 14 and, thinking it was just bruising, he ignored the discomfort to play the third test a week later.

During that match, however, McCaw knew something was seriously wrong.

“By the end of that third test I was pretty sore. With an injured foot it doesn’t hurt when you go into contact – it is only when you are running.”

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SuperBruSuper RugbyRugby-Talk’s SuperBru competition for the 2014 Super Rugby tournament is drawing to a close with only three matches remaining.

In last week’s Qualifying rounds JohnR earned the yellow cap with a solid 5 pointer moving him up 12 places to 31st. Carol still leads the pack of hungry wolves chasing at her heels, but refuses to relinquish her coveted 1st spot. Sharks_Lover is still a close second, with less than a point separating the two.

Both Winston Champ and Charo at 3 and 4 respectively have fallen slightly off the pace, with 3,5 and 5,2 points separating them from Carol.

Before making those SuperBru predictions, let’s have a look at some picks, tips and predictions first.

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Pat Lambie

Pat Lambie

The Cell C Sharks team named by Director of Rugby Jake White shows a number of changes from last week’s line-up, albeit not in any major disruptive way as the team prepare for Saturday’s Vodacom semi-final showdown with the Crusaders, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.

With Anton Bresler falling foul to a knee injury against the Highlanders in last week’s quarter-final win at Kings Park and not making the journey to New Zealand, Willem Alberts shifts from flank to the second row, with his place on the side of the scrum taken by Jean Deysel.

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Todd Blackadder

Todd Blackadder, coach of the Crusaders

It’s a very fine line between hero and zero. No one is more acutely aware of that than Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.

There was a time at this stage of the season when the Crusaders were unstoppable. Not any more.

Making it to this point has been something of a meritorious specialty for the last 13 years. However, for all the criticism that is directed his way, Blackadder is the first to admit that he has won nothing.

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Richie McCaw

BACK: All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has been named to return from injury in the Crusaders starting lineup for their Super Rugby semifinal against the Sharks

Richie McCaw has been named at blindside flanker and Corey Flynn will start his 150th Super Rugby match when the Crusaders meet the Sharks in Saturday night’s semifinal in Christchurch.

All Blacks captain McCaw, who hasn’t played since carrying a fractured rib into the third test against England on 21 June, has predictably been named at blindside flanker to allow the in-form Matt Todd to start in his specialist openside flanker role.

Flynn has been elevated ahead of Ben Funnell, who started the previous two matches against the Highlanders and Blues, in the only other change to the run-on side that thumped the Highlanders 34-8 at AMI Stadium on 12 July.

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Nemani Nadolo

LEADING THE WAY: Nemani Nadolo’s speed and strength has boosted the Crusaders this year – helping to push them to the NZ conference title

Former All Blacks fullback Greg Cooper can’t believe Nemani Nadolo is yet to unwrap one of his deadliest tricks.

Cooper, who coaches Nadolo at his Japanese club NEC Green Rockets, hasn’t been surprised the Fijian wing has been a sensation at the Crusaders this season but reckons he can offer even more.

While everyone knows how effective Nadolo can be with the ball in hand, Cooper says one of the best ways to expose defences is to sling cross-kicks to his left wing and reckons there is an 80 per cent chance of scoring if it is executed correctly.

“He is the best winger I have ever seen when taking the ball from cross-kicks,” Cooper, speaking from Japan, emphasised.

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Chris Boyd

INSIDER KNOWLEDGE: Chris Boyd, who will coach the Hurricanes next season, was an assistant at the Sharks in 2009 and 2010 under John Plumtree

Former Sharks assistant coach Chris Boyd doesn’t expect to see the South African side resorting to cynical behaviour or niggle to unsettle the Crusaders.

The Sharks caused a 30-25 boilover when the teams last met in Christchurch in May but they had to do it the hard way, playing 64 minutes with 14 men.

Poor discipline plagued the Sharks with loose forward Jean Deysel sent off after stamping on the face of Crusaders opposite Jordan Taufua. Fellow flanker Willem Alberts was sinbinned in the second half for a professional foul.

Boyd, who will coach the Hurricanes next season, was an assistant at the Sharks in 2009 and 2010 under John Plumtree.

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