The quarter finals are here at long last. I thought you may find it interesting to hear the views from rugby writers in New Zealand, as all three our matches are against Kiwi sides.
I suppose a coach has to sound positive when the dice are loaded against his side, so I’ll forgive Gold his clichéd comments just before the side left, two days late, for New Zealand.
Campbell Burns writes in the NZ Herald:
The Sharks may be rank underdogs for Saturday’s Super Rugby quarter-final in Wellington, but the Hurricanes are not preparing for a romp.
Far from it. They still feel the pain of the 32-15 loss to the Sharks in May.
So while some pundits are predicting the Sharks will limp into the capital, feel the cold wind and get pumped by the Hurricanes, who are suddenly motivated by a throwaway line from a former Wallabies hooker five months ago, John Plumtree knows better.
“One thing about the Sharks, they don’t mind touring New Zealand,” says the Hurricanes assistant coach, who was at the tiller of the Sharks for several seasons. “The Hurricanes, I think, have beaten them just twice in the last eight occasions. So we have a horrible record against them.”
“They’ve got some big ball carriers and they are pretty effective choke tacklers, have a good drive and the set-piece is sound. They had the best defence in the competition, conceding the least tries of all the teams. They are a tough wall to break down, and they are a very capable side,” warned Plumtree.
Like we always say about the French rugby sides: The result will depend on which Sharks side pitches up on the day.
Stormers versus Chiefs
In the NZ Herald, Kris Shannon poses the following in an article titled, Battle-hardened Chiefs facing underdone Stormers.
Will the Chiefs, battle-hardened after coming agonisingly close to winning the Kiwi conference, be able to utilise those high-intensity repetitions in a knockout environment?
Or will the Stormers, having cruised through the round robin to triumph in the competition’s weakest conference, be well-rested and make the most of their home advantage?
“Without playing some of the Kiwi sides, you tend to lose out,” Robbie Fleck told Radio Sport. “Certainly the Kiwi sides have shown they’re the best in the competition…and you want to match yourself against the best throughout the year.
No doubt the weather and home crowd will impact favourably on the chances of the Stormers. Add to this the return of some serious heavy weights in the pack, and Schalk Burger’s influence as captain, and the Stormers may just pull it off.
The single biggest factor, in my view, will be whether Robert du Preez can rise to the occasion. Tactical kicking will be a deciding factor in the match played in torrid conditions which would suit the Kiwi side better than the Stormers.
The Lions must be the best placed SA side to progress to the semi-finals, but have a tough task to overcome the Crusaders.
Sam Hewat, in the NZ Herald, sketches a gloomy picture of the chances of the Crusaders. A tough match against the Hurricanes, where they had to put in 171 tackles, just two days rest and only being able to fly to SA on Tuesday due to a lack of flights must all impact on the side.
Nemani Nadolo will miss the match, but Andy Ellis and Sam Whitelock are expected to return after injury.
I have no doubt that this will the best match of the weekend, and rugby the winner. The Lions have shown the other SA sides that open rugby can be winning rugby. They need to live out this belief on Saturday, for their own sakes, and the future of SA rugby.
They have also shaken the old belief that rugby is a fifteen-man game – it is in fact a 23-man game, and not only about one or two stars in the side.