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Final

ScrumAfter the Xerox Golden Lions demolition of the Cell C Sharks scrum in the Currie Cup Semi-Final last weekend and the average performance of DHL Western Province in the scrums against the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the other Semi-Final, this week’s hottest debates has raged about what will happen in the scrums in the Final and how the referee, Craig Joubert, will officiate this aspect of the game.

Balie Swart, adviser to SARU and to the Referees on scrumming in South Africa, came under heavy bombardment from DHL Western Province and in particular Gert Smal and Allister Coetzee. They are unhappy that SARU’s man is not impartial, when he declared that the Golden Lions scrum is ahead of all other South African scrumming units.

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DHL WPDHL Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has kept the changes to a minimum for Saturday’s 2014 ABSA Currie Cup Final clash against the Xerox Golden Lions at DHL Newlands (kick-off 17:00 SA Time).

In the only change to the starting XV that beat the Blue Bulls by 31-23 last weekend, fit-again centre Jaco Taute returns in the No 12 jersey to resume his partnership with skipper Juan de Jongh, who will be playing in his 50th match in the Blue & White hoops of DHL Western Province.

Michael van der Spuy reverts to the bench for Saturday’s final, where he is joined by lock Gerbrandt Grobler, who comes into the matchday squad at the expense of prop Oli Kebble, who came off the bench last weekend.

No 8 Nizaam Carr, who left the field in the first half of last week’s semifinal, has been passed fit for the final, with coach Coetzee praising the consistency in selection during the business-end of the 2014 ABSA Currie Cup.

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Vodacom Blue BullsThe Blue Bulls Company have released the team sheets for the Under 19 and Under 21 teams for the ABSA Currie Cup Finals at Newlands, Cape Town against the age group sides of DHL Western Province.

Some of the Blue Bulls senior Currie Cup players have been added to the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under 21 team, with Jesse Kriel starting at Centre, Jacques du Plessis at Blindside flank and with Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg on the bench.

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Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

DHL Western Province’s injury concerns have improved ahead of their Currie Cup Final against the Xerox Golden Lions at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.

Eighthman Nizaam Carr, who cried off with a hip injury midway through the first half of the Semi-Final clash against the Vodacom Blue Bulls last Saturday was walking comfortably on Monday afternoon.

Centre / fullback Jaco Taute was running without discomfort after he was forced to miss the Semi-Final because of a rib injury and was tested in a contact session on Tuesday.

Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said it was pleasing to read the team’s latest medical report because the wider training squad had been given a clean bill of health.

“Nemo (Carr) is feeling much better and is walking with ease,” Coetzee said.

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WhistleCraig Joubert will take charge of the ABSA Currie Cup final between DHL Western Province and the Xerox Golden Lions at Newlands on Saturday, with Jaco Peyper and Pro Legoete named as the Assistant Referees.

Legoete has also been tasked with handling the ABSA Under 21 A Division final between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls, while Rodney Boneparte will officiate the ABSA Under 19 A Division final also between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls.

The referee appointments for the provincial play-off matches this weekend were made by the South African Rugby Union on Monday.

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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

Retired South African referee Jonathan Kaplan says the Crusaders can feel hard done by after a late penalty cost them the Super Rugby title.

The Waratahs beat the Crusaders 33-32 in the Super Rugby final in Sydney last Saturday courtesy of a late penalty by flyhalf Bernard Foley.

The Crusaders looked headed for their eighth Super Rugby crown when flyhalf Colin Slade put them in front with a penalty in the 76th minute.

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Waratahs

Waratahs celebrating their maiden Super Rugby victory.

The Waratahs won a drama-laden Super Rugby grand final 33-32 in Sydney with Bernard Foley breaking the Crusaders hearts by kicking a 45m penalty in the final seconds.

This frantic contest had multiple dramas, starting with the Crusaders trailing 14-0 in as many minutes, losing their talismanic general Dan Carter with an ankle injury in the first half and then having to mount a spirited comeback in front of a record 62,000-strong crowd.

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Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods’ swing, the unlikely source of Cheika’s motivation.

Michael Chieka didn’t quite take a sledgehammer to the Waratahs’ chronic problems; he took golf clubs instead.

As his players gathered in the change-room before the biggest Super Rugby game of their careers, and for most the biggest in their lives, Cheika slowly began to pull out 23 golf clubs, each personalised with female names.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

He’s loath to talk about dynasties and sustained dominance, but NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is already plotting a path to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

With a season remaining on his three-year contract, Cheika laughed off speculation he could be heading off to coach the Argentine national team after guiding the Waratahs to their Holy Grail.

“What, for a holiday? No, I’m here. We’re well into our planning for next season,” Cheika said after the Waratahs’ last-gasp 33-32 win over the Crusaders in Saturday night’s final.

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Richie McCaw

PRETTY ANNOYED: Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw was hurting after he gave away the match-winning penalty to the Waratahs.

Two of the Crusaders’ favourite sons were ironically also their own worst enemies during an epic Super Rugby final last night, as Richie McCaw and Andrew Mehrtens both made significant contributions to the Waratahs’ historic triumph.

The All Blacks captain was a focal point of the Waratahs’ match-winning penalty in the final minute at ANZ Stadium while Mehrtens – who famously confirmed the Crusaders third title in Canberra in 2000 with a coolly taken three-pointer – played a more peripheral role in the Waratahs dramatic 33-32 victory.

Ultimately it was Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley who took centre stage by directing his seventh successful penalty attempt just clear of the crossbar with less than 30 seconds to play in a contest that completed the Waratahs resurrection as the dominant force in Australian rugby.

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Richie McCaw & Sam Whitelock

Richie McCaw cuts a forlorn figure after the match.

Todd Blackadder’s pre-match prediction that the Super Rugby final would be determined by a few crucial moments came back to haunt him as a “50-50″ call condemned the one-time competition kings to another bridesmaid experience.

Bernard Foley’s last minute penalty secured the Waratahs their maiden title on Saturday in Sydney and extended the Crusaders wait for their eighth to at least an eighth year.

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Bernard Foley

The moment: Bernard Foley puts boot to ball in the hope of winning the title.

When the Waratahs were awarded a penalty inside the last minute of Saturday’s night Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium, Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley didn’t flinch.

He immediately stepped up to take the kick – even though from 43-metre the attempt might be slightly out of his range.

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Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper playing for the Brumbies, before White deemed him surplus to requirements.

When the scholars trawl through history and attempt to unearth the origins of a Waratahs premiership, they may settle on two names.

Michael Cheika and Israel Folau? No? Okay, what about Kurtley Beale, or Nathan Grey?

All those will feature, certainly.

But in the timeline but they’d have to go back further and head 287km south to Canberra.

There they’d find the names Jake White and Ita Vaea, and a moment-in-time conversation between the new Brumbies coach and a kid with six starts called Michael Hooper.

The year was 2011 and Hooper had been at the Brumbies for two seasons; serving as back-up to the legendary George Smith in his debut year.

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Super RugbyIt is the Finals of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! The Waratahs host the Crusaders.

This weekend decides the honors for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

What a game we have to look forward to!

The Waratahs have been good and consistent all season whereas the resurgent Crusaders, who absolutely pummelled the Cell C Sharks last weekend have hit a rich vein of form.

A winner is difficult to predict, there are game breakers on either side, no matter how you look at it. In the final analysis the 2 best Super Rugby sides of 2014 are in the Final and both deserve to contest for ultimate glory in 2014.

13 Other Challengers already now lay by the wayside, done and dusted, only 1 more game to come…. this one!

Who do you think will take the crown and Why?

Let the game continue…. let the battle commence!

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Jacques Potgieter

Ripping in: Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter crashes into a teammate at training during the week.

The day the Waratahs wrapped up the minor premiership was the day Jacques Potgieter decided to tell his old club he was not interested.

The Bulls were having a chronic case of the Joni Mitchells – “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”. They had let Potgieter go after two seasons and watched him go from strength to damaging strength with a team that appreciated his skill set.

Now they wanted him back. Immediately. For three years.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Phil Waugh says he will be one of the great Waratahs and Daryl Gibson believes he is the “free spirit” rugby badly needs.

Jacques Potgieter just thinks he has never played with anyone better.

“I think Kurtley is the best rugby player I’ve ever played with and the best I ever will play with,” Potgieter says. “The best of the best. When he gets the ball it is like in slow motion, he has got so much time with the ball. And the thing he has taught me is that he always backs himself.”

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WaratahsFrom horror Tahs to Super stars – it’s been a rocky, 19-year ride for Waratahs rugby fans.

It certainly hasn’t always been pretty – think Matt Dunning’s brain explosion field goal, the 96-19 debacle in Christchurch and getting belted by the Brumbies in the semi-finals.

Yes, the Waratahs have had plenty of lows to match their rugby highs.

Perennial underachievers in the world’s toughest provincial competition, the Waratahs had always boasted one of the most talented playing rosters but were unable to turn that into on-field success.

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Todd Blackadder

FROM YOUNG BEGINNINGS: Todd Blackadder led the Crusaders to their first Super Rugby title win – a final victory over the Blues at Eden Park in the then Super 12.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has a chance to go where no man has gone before him in the Super Rugby annals.

The 42-year-old former All Blacks skipper could become the first person to captain and coach title-winning teams.

Blackadder guided the Crusaders to the first three of their record seven championship victories, the first coming in 1998 when they beat the Blues, 20-13 at Eden Park, breaking the Auckland-based franchise’s hold on the title.

Blackadder endeared himself to the entire top of the South Island region by making a post-game speech acknowledging the team represented Nelson Bays, Marlborough, Buller, West Coast, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury.

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Michael Cheika

GAME CHANGER: Michael Cheika brought Irish side Leinster out of the shadow of their great rivals Munster. He now stands on the brink of equaling that achievement in Super Rugby.

Unusually it was Michael Cheika who found himself on the receiving end, even if the abuse wasn’t personal when he was appointed head coach of the NSW Waratahs after another forlorn Super Rugby campaign.

The abrasive former club rugby No 8 was appointed after Australian rugby’s under-achieving franchise finished a disappointing 11th in 2012 – an outcome that prompted disillusioned fans to detail their frustrations for head office.

Cheika, a Heineken Cup-winning coach with Leinster in 2009, could afford to smile when, on the eve of the Waratahs’ historic home final with the Crusaders, he recalled handling the correspondence.

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Nathan Grey

Waratahs defense coach Nathan Grey

He is renowned for arguably changing the course of the 2001 British and Irish Lions tour in the Wallabies’ favour by concussing key English flanker Richard Hill, but now Nathan Grey is devising more cerebral tactics to knock the Crusaders of out whack.

Grey’s elbow to the temple of the Lions blindside in the 32nd minute of the second test in Melbourne was credited with shifting momentum against Graham Henry’s team who were unable to recover from the loss of the inspirational Hill for the remainder of the three-test series.

The 39-year-old doesn’t like to dwell on his airborne assault at Docklands (now Etihad) Stadium – it took until the Lions’ next tour to Australia last year for the hard-hitting midfield back to revisit a controversial incident that paled only in comparison to Duncan McRae’s unprovoked attack on Ronan O’Gara in the tour match against New South Wales.

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Kieran Read

Crusaders skipper Kieran Read was stood up by Michael Hooper

NSW Waratahs have stoked the fire ahead of the Super Rugby final after skipper Michael Hooper failed to turn up for a photo promoting Saturday night’s blockbuster.

Hooper was supposed to be photographed alongside Crusaders captain Kieran Read and the Super Rugby trophy on Friday.

But the All Blacks No.8 and reigning IRB Player of the Year got sick of waiting and walked off ANZ Stadium with Hooper still a no-show 20 minutes after the scheduled time.

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WaratahsCrusadersAhead of the 2014 Super Rugby Final, we have decided to pick out the key head-to-heads set to take place at ANZ Stadium this Saturday.

Five players wore the red and black the last time the Crusaders won the Super Rugby title in 2008, that 20-12 win coming versus the ‘Tahs, who also had five in action. So for Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson the game may well have some feeling.

Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Wyatt Crockett were those on the triumphant XV in Christchurch, but will they be again?

Here we look at six battles set to take place in Sydney and judge who might have the edge in the critical areas that could decide the fixture.

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The inspiring scene of the movie Invictus came to life on the Waratah’s training pitch.

It was like a scene out of the movie Invictus.

After the Waratah’s final training session before Saturday’s Super Rugby final, Adam Ashley-Cooper dropped to a knee with the entire squad huddled around him, arm in arm, and recited a poem he wrote himself.

The rhyming stanza lasted for 20 minutes and was met with rapturous applause at its conclusion.

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TEMPER, TEMPER: Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is known to get hot under the collar on occasion.

The Waratahs trained in the open in Sydney today and the pressure on coach Michael Cheika was obvious as he oversaw the team’s final significant practice session before Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders.

Already on the equivalent of a good behaviour bond after incurring a suspended six-month ban by SANZAR for abusing a cameraman during the Waratahs’ loss to the Sharks in Durban, the notoriously volatile head coach was again irritated when a photographer took images of lineout drills.

“What if I come to your work and start f…king photographing you?” Cheika shouted at the photographer situated behind the goal posts at the Kippax ground near Allianz Stadium.

That message got through but soon afterwards the 47-year-old noticed another photographer at the other end of the field, prompting Cheika – in more conciliatory tones – to ask the Waratahs’ media manager to warn him to stop shooting.

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Phil Waugh believes that the Waratah pack can dominate the Crusaders

Former Waratahs captain Phil Waugh says the Waratahs pack can “dominate” the Crusaders in the crucial forward battle, if their mental game is spot on.

Waugh, the state’s most-capped player, rejected speculation from sections of the New Zealand media that the seven-time Super Rugby champions would have the Waratahs on toast at set-pieces in Saturday’s final at ANZ Stadium.

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Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has predictably made no changes for Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs in Sydney.

Given the way his team dismantled the Sharks 38-6 in Christchurch last weekend there was always an expectation Blackadder would roll out the same side for the showdown at the Olympic Park’s ANZ Stadium.

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RELAXED: Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty prepares to board the plane to Sydney for the Super Rugby final against the Waratahs.

He barely blinked during the white-knuckled flight over the Southern Alps and Ryan Crotty isn’t worried about what lies ahead in Sydney, either.

Strong westerly winds caused lively turbulence for the Crusaders’ Air New Zealand jet as it flew over the South Island’s spine yesterday, resulting in the pilot reducing altitude and slightly deviating the flight path to give his passengers a smoother voyage.

Given some of the hairy situations they have endured on the field the Crusaders have become accustomed to wild rides, so like his team-mates Crotty could only fasten his seat belt and wait for the bumpy ride to end.

It’s that sort of resolve coach Todd Blackadder will want from his men during Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs.

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Richie McCaw eyes toughest of Sydney test

It couldn’t be a more familiar sight. The Crusaders, Super Rugby’s most successful team, arriving to play in another final and Richie McCaw, the most capped All Black ever, sporting a freshly stitched gash under his eye.

The team from Christchurch is after its eighth title and, even away from home, bookmakers are taking three times the money from punters on a Crusaders win.

The Crusaders have history on their side, having beaten the Waratahs in two previous Super Rugby finals.

But this time they are in Sydney, where they haven’t played all season, and McCaw is paying no attention to past records.

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Out in force: The Waratahs are hoping to create a sea of blue at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night against the Crusaders.

A State of Origin-esque sea of blue, an Australian Super Rugby crowd record and the biggest take-up of corporate packages since the Manchester United exhibition match say ANZ Stadium will be the furthest thing from a ”neutral venue” when the Waratahs take on the Crusaders this Saturday.

As Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder and countless New Zealand pundits latched on to the notion the All Blacks’ 54 per cent win record at the Homebush Bay venue would take the sting out of the Waratahs’ home ground advantage this weekend, match organisers were putting the finishing touches to a plan to ensure it will do anything but.

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Nemani Nadolo

OLD BOY: Nemani Nadolo taking part in a Waratahs training session back when he was on their books.

Nemani Nadolo’s thick Australian accent is just one tell-tale sign the New South Wales Waratahs’ decision to let the rampaging winger slip through their fingers could come back to haunt them on Saturday.

The Fiji international crossed the Tasman Sea with his Crusaders side today intent on clinching their eighth Super Rugby title in the final against the Waratahs, who cut him loose after a solitary season in 2009.

“When you are unwanted and have got to go elsewhere and find opportunities I guess when the door shut there you do feel a bit sad,” Nadolo told Television New Zealand of his dumping by the Waratahs before the Crusaders flew to Sydney.

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CrusadersThe Crusaders’ forwards, who provided the platform for their semifinal victory over the Sharks with a dominant performance that at times embarrassed the big South Africans, are targeting an improved effort for Saturday’s final against the Waratahs.

Like the Sharks, the Waratahs’ pack is extremely big – lock Will Skelton weighs 137kg – but there is a suspicion they can be brought down to size with aggression and firepower, something this Crusaders outfit has in abundance.

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Tatafu Polota-Nau

HEAD STRONG: Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has learnt to think about tackling instead of diving in head first.

Tatafu Polota-Nau eventually realised kamikaze-style tackling was jeopardising his lifespan as a professional footballer, so the Crusaders should be relieved he has toned down a suicidal approach to defending ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby final.

The last time Polota-Nau played the Crusaders in 2012, the now 29-year-old was prone to suffering self-inflicted damage – the trade off when the abrasive NSW Waratahs and Wallabies hooker aimed up on a ball carrier or hit a ruck.

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Corey Flynn

GETTING READY: Corey Flynn, who leaves for French club Toulouse after the Super Rugby season, hopes to collect his fourth title before he departs Christchurch.

Corey Flynn concedes there’s nothing like a jolt of electricity to help determine a career path.

Things are trucking along pretty nicely for the 33-year-old these days but if he wasn’t a professional rugby player he isn’t certain what occupation he would have chosen after leaving Southland Boys’ High School.

Well, he is sure about one thing: He wasn’t going to work in an industry where he risked getting zapped from bare wires.

“I was looking at an electrical apprenticeship but that wasn’t my forte,” Flynn reflects. “Electricity scares the hell out of me because you can’t see it and I took a couple of boots.”

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