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Semi-Final

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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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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Tah Man

Tah Man will have the Allianz Stadium sidelines to himself

The Waratahs – Brumbies Super Rugby Semi-Final showdown has been robbed of one of its marquee match-ups, with reports that Brumby Jack has been “banned” from Saturday night’s encounter.

The iconic Brumbies mascot has, according to the Canberra Times, been denied a request to strut his stuff on the field and will instead have to be content with a seat alongside Brumbies supporters in the Allianz Stadium stands.

 

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira did not travel to New Zealand

The Cell C Sharks squad that has made the long trek to New Zealand to face the Crusaders in the semi final clash in Christchurch on Saturday, is missing some key players.

The Sharks will spend a week in Christchurch preparing for their Super Rugby semifinal against the Crusaders.

“We’ve got some great memories there — a couple of months ago we had a great time,” White said.

“I think it would be disrespectful not to get to New Zealand straight away. I’m old school and I think if you’re going to play in that country you’ve got to live in that country.”

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Golden LionsGolden Lions head coach Russell Winter has named his 22-man side to front the Vodacom Blue Bulls in a Vodacom Cup semi-final clash on Saturday.

The team remains unchanged from last week’s side that trumped the Cell C Sharks XV 27-20 in Durban.

The venue for the game has been changed to take place at Loftus Versfeld, after carefull scrutiny of the rules of the tournament, leading to the conclusion that the Vodacom Blue Bulls are ahead of the Golden Lions on the Logs and therefore should host the semi-final.

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ABSA Currie CupSo, we find ourselves close to the end of yet another great Currie Cup season, but don’t get sad because there are still 5 big Currie Cup clashes left – 2 Promotion / Relegation matches, 2 semi-finals and the BIG Currie Cup final.

Our starter for the weekend will be a Promotion / Relegation match on Friday evening between GWK Griquas and Steval Pumas in Kimberley. This will be followed by two main courses on Saturday. The one course will be served Newlands style with a side of “big hits”, whilst the second course will be served Kings Park style with a side of “open and running rugby”. Desert will be a choice between pure bliss or extreme sadness, depending on main course selection.

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DHL WPJean de VilliersJean de Villiers will start at outside centre for defending champions DHL Western Province in Saturday’s Absa Currie Cup semifinal meeting with the MTN Golden Lions at DHL Newlands (kick-off 14:30).

National captain De Villiers replaces Michael van der Spuy in the only change to the WP line-up that defeated the Sharks by 17-13 in Durban last Saturday – a result which sealed a top-of-the-log finish for the reigning champions.

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SharksFrancois SteynThe Shark have named close on their strongest starting line-up for Saturday’s Absa semi-final clash with Free State as they look to emulate four of the past five campaigns.

The Sharks featured in the 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 finals and will be hoping to make it a fifth appointment (seeking their third victorious campaign after titles in 2008 and 2010) this year if they can see off Free State’s challenge.

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