The SA Rugby magazine team identify what they would love to see come out of the semi-final round of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Craig Lewis (senior writer) is hoping to see the Jaguares progress to a first-ever final.
Earlier this season, the Jaguares copped some serious criticism when Wallabies legend Phil Kearns suggested that a team filled with so many international players was making a complete ‘mockery’ of the tournament.
‘If you want to have a provincial side in it, pick a provincial side … their whole side is basically the Test team,’ Kearns moaned back in May.
For me, the Jaguares have been a joy to watch this season, shaking off previous perceptions of a team haunted by ill-discipline, while mixing panache with power on the way to the final four.
More than anything else, die-hard fans of the lengthy Super Rugby competition deserve to see a competitive title decider. Even if the Brumbies were to somehow travel all the way to Argentina and pick up a semi-final win this weekend, there’s virtually no chance of them then having the energy to travel all the way back to New Zealand and launch a worthy effort in a probable final against the Crusaders.
However, there is just the slim chance that the Jaguares could continue to achieve something seriously special this season, and I’m backing them all the way.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants the fans back for the semis and final.
It’s been a largely forgettable tournament for the South African teams. None of the local sides will feature in the semis – for the first time since 2015.
It hasn’t been a great tournament in terms of crowd attendance. There have been a few bright moments, such as the Chiefs-Crusaders derby in Fiji. Otherwise most grounds have struggled to pull a crowd.
One would hope that the fans turn up to watch the next three games. Surely the Argentinian public will mark the Jaguares’ first appearance in a semi-final with a full house? Surely the supporters in Christchurch will pack the stands and cheer the Crusaders on to a semi win – a result that will place them well to claim a third straight title.
Something needs to be done to address the concerning crowd numbers across the conference phase. One would hope, at the very least, that big crowds turn out for the semis and final.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) hopes the match officials get their act together.
It says a lot about the quality of officiating in this tournament that we still have to call for accurate and fair refereeing in the penultimate week of the season. But rather late than never, right?
It may be too late for 11 of the other teams, but the four semi-finalists all deserve an equal contest without being handicapped by blindsided calls – or non-calls – from officials.
Last week we saw a dangerous and reckless no-arms shoulder charge from Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua on the Vodacom Bulls’ Simphiwe Matanzima not only go unpunished, but unchecked. There were also several breakdown calls that went against Marco van Staden, while Ardie Savea were awarded crucial penalties for replicated acts on the ground.
And that is just a couple of examples from one game. Those sort of inconsistencies from match officials have blighted games throughout the season and seasons gone by.
I hope the 2019 semi-finals are not ruined in the same way.
Dylan Jack (junior staff writer) wants to see two enthralling semi-final clashes.
Given the quality of the teams that are in the final four this year, how disappointing would it be to see a one-sided blowout this weekend?
Though the Jaguares and Crusaders will go into their respective playoffs as favourites, one hopes they are given a good contest by the Brumbies and Hurricanes respectively.
Earlier in the season, the Jaguares bagged a 20-15 victory over the Brumbies in Buenos Aires. The Hurricanes, however, have in both of their clashes with the Crusaders conceded more than 30 points, losing 38-22 in Christchurch and 32-8 in Wellington.
I sincerely hope that in each semi-final we get an interesting clash between two different styles of rugby and games in which the lead changes several times.
John Goliath (senior contributor) wants to see a great head-to-head battle between Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett.
Barrett and Mo’unga have been two of my favourite players to watch in Super Rugby over the last few years. These guys have got everything you could wish for in a flyhalf. They can pass the ball with precision. They can run as fast as their wingers. They can put the ball anywhere they want to with a swing of their right boot. In a nutshell, they make miracles happen.
But you already know that. I just can’t get over the fact that New Zealand have managed to compensate for the loss of Daniel Carter with two ‘once in a generation players’. It’s unbelievable.
However, Saturday it will be the ultimate last flyhalf standing contest, which could also determine the destiny of that famed All Black No 10 jersey for the Rugby Championship and, who knows, even the World Cup.
The neutral fan is in for quite a treat if both these players turn it on in Christchurch.
Photo: EPA/Craig Golding via BackpagePix