Simon Borchardt

What we’ve learned

Ben Smith and Nasi Manu lift the Super Rugby trophy Ben Smith and Nasi Manu lift the Super Rugby trophy

Five lessons from the Vodacom Super Rugby final, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

It is possible to win a 15-team Super Rugby tournament the hard way
The Highlanders became the first team to lift the Super Rugby trophy, since the tournament expanded in 2011, having finished outside the top two on the overall log. That meant they had to win three play-off matches to become champions, which they did with a home qualifying play-off win against the Chiefs, an away semi-final win against the defending champion Waratahs and then victory in the final against a Hurricanes team that had topped the overall log. Sure, the Highlanders did not have to travel to South Africa at any time during the play-offs, but to win three consecutive do-or-die games is still a fantastic achievement.

Goal-kicking determines who wins finals
Beauden Barrett missed two penalties and a conversion in the first half of Saturday's final, which cost his team eight points. While the Hurricanes flyhalf did find his radar in the second half, succeeding with all three of his penalty attempts, those early misses proved crucial as the Canes fell seven points short. While Highlanders No 10 Lima Sopoaga missed a penalty in the second half, the two he kicked during the first half gave his side a 6-0 lead and he also nailed a touchline conversion that made it 13-5 at the break.

A drop goal can help win a final
A dozen one-pass crashes saw the Highlanders wind down the clock and get close to the Hurricanes 22, before sending the ball back to Marty Banks, who slotted a 78th-minute drop goal. That meant the Canes had to score a converted try to take the game into extra time, but a knock-on from the quick restart prevented that from happening. Drop goals may be frowned upon by some, but they remain a good way to win a final.

A big player must take the big moment
Julian Savea will forever be haunted by what happened in the 61st minute of the final when his side was trailing 18-11. The Hurricanes stole a lineout and, five phases later, went wide, with Brad Shields putting Savea away for what looked to be a certain try in the corner. However, the winger dropped the ball cold, with the look on his face, and the reaction of the Canes coaches, saying it all.

High-risk rugby can cost you a final
The Hurricanes played an expansive, ball-in-hand game in the first half and scored just five points. They then changed tactics in the second half, playing a territorial game that helped them get back into the match and put the Highlanders under pressure. Had the Canes played like that for the full 80 minutes, they may well have been the team celebrating at the final whistle.

Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images


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What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the Vodacom Super Rugby final, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

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