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Super Rugby

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw knows from past experience, both sweet and bitter, that a crucial moment can decide Saturday’s Super Rugby final result against the Waratahs in Sydney.

“When it comes down to one or two moments, the teams that are good enough to take those opportunities are the ones that win,” the All Blacks captain said.

“If you drop your guard for one or two moments, you’ll come second.”

He will be making his eighth Super final appearance, the first being in 2002 against the Waratahs when the Crusaders won the competition for the fourth time.

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Frans LudekeVoor mense aanstoot neem, hierdie is net ‘n grappie, dis nie ernstig of waar nie!

Beste Murray,

Ek is op die oomblik effens depro na vanjaar se Superrugbyseisoen. Wel, die seisoen is amptelik natuurlik nie verby nie, maar vir my en die Bulle is dit natuurlik neusie verby. Ek was in ’n stadium lus om myself aan ’n dakbalk in my garage op te hang, maar as ek eerlik moet wees, het die Sharks se pak slae in Christchurch laasweek my minder kak oor myself laat voel.

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Australian Flag“OUR support goes with the Australian side from here on in – we’d like to see them bring it home,” and with that Brumbies captain Ben Mowen pledged his support for the Waratahs.

It’s a situation unique to Super Rugby within Australian sport where fierce provincial ties are up against a sense of national pride, where this week rugby fans will be encouraged to overlook their dislike for the Waratahs for the greater good of the local game.

The Waratahs will on Saturday host a Super Rugby final for the very first time when they take on long-time nemesis, the Crusaders, at ANZ Stadium.

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Richie McCaw

GOOD NERVES: He may have 113 Tests, 3 World Cups and 137 appearances for the Crusaders to his name, but All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw still gets anxious before the big matches.

For Richie McCaw the job of preparing for big rugby matches should be as simple as flicking dust off his shoes.

That, he says, is nonsense – the anxiety will never go away.

Despite playing 113 tests, appearing in three World Cups and making 137 appearances for the Crusaders, the 33-year-old flanker still finds himself burning-off nervous energy ahead of crucial matches such as Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs in Sydney.

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WaratahsThe Waratahs have predictably named an unchanged starting line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium as they seek to convert an eight-match winning streak into a maiden title.

With no injury concerns following last Saturday’s 26-8 semifinal win over the Brumbies, head coach Michael Cheika has retained the 23-man squad that provided the success-starved franchise with a historic home final.

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Steve Hansen

TOUGH CHOICES: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen naming his squad for The Rugby Championship.

If some of the Crusaders’ players needed any extra motivation to win Saturday’s Super Rugby grand final, then All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has provided it.

The Crusaders have eight players in the 31-man Rugby Championship test squad but three omissions were the talking point yesterday.

Hansen dropped Crusaders openside flanker Matt Todd, midfield back Ryan Crotty and first five-eighth Colin Slade.

Todd and Slade have been keeping All Blacks aces Richie McCaw and Dan Carter out of their preferred positions in the Super Rugby arena.

Hansen rang the trio to explain.

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Andrew Mehrtens

Andrew Mehrtens

There’s something different about these Waratahs, who stand between the Crusaders and their eighth Super Rugby title, and I think I’ve worked out what it is.

They’ve finally stopped telling everyone how good they are; and just set about proving it on the field.

Over the years the drums would always get beaten whenever the Waratahs had a big pre-season or early season, and it was so often just noise. Inevitably they’d fail to live up to their own hype.

This year, conversely, they’ve done the most when they’ve said the least.

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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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Tendai Mtawarira

Beast Mtawarira: Feels privileged to play with the Du Plessis brothers

Sharks prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira has revealed that he will leave the Durban-based franchise at the end of 2015.

Mtawarira confirmed that he will further his career outside of South Africa after next year’s World Cup in England.

The veteran of 55 Tests with the Springboks, who has played for the Sharks since 2007, said he hopes to get a fresh challenge in Europe.

“My goals for 2015 is to help the Sharks do well in Super Rugby and to help the Springboks win the World Cup,” he told the MyPlayers website.

That would be a dream come true.

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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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Nick Phipps

Nick Phipps of the Waratahs was outstanding on cover defence.

We’ve got the Super Rugby final we wanted as a tantalising entree to the Bledisloe Cup.

Through the whims of the skewed draw, the Crusaders and Waratahs bypassed each other in the regular season but will slug it out on Saturday for the title as the best side in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Tahs have lost 11 on the bounce against the Crusaders since 2004 yet this season there is more spine about them and more collective heat they can generate although that could be more of the hot air which is generated in the guise of objectivity across the Ditch.

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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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Will Skelton

BIG UNIT: Young Waratahs lock Will Skelton is developing a strong ability to offload in the tackle.

Dimension-wise they appear far from clones as professional footballers, yet there is a passing resemblance between Will Skelton and Sonny Bill Williams.

The Auckland-born forwards currently play different codes – though Williams returns to rugby at the end of this NRL season – but they share one skill set: an uncanny ability to offload the ball when under defensive pressure.

Williams propensity to keep the ball alive has been a hallmark of his league and rugby career and now the giant Waratahs lock is also emerging as a dab hand at putting teammates into space.

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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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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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Jacques Potgieter

SLIPPING THE DEFENCE: Lock Jacques Potgieter makes a break for the Waratahs during their 26-8 Super Rugby Semi-Final victory over the Brumbies

The Waratahs have earned a home final beating the Brumbies in the semi final. The Crusaders will travel to Sydney to contest for the Super Rugby title.

The NSW Waratahs’ history-making season is one step from completion with the Super Rugby title favourites hosting the final for the first time after eliminating the ACT Brumbies with a convincing 26-8 semifinal victory at Allianz Stadium tonight.

An eighth consecutive win in 2014 underscored the Waratahs prospects of claiming their first title, though the team that thwarted that ambition in the 2005 and 2008 finals stands in their way.

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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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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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