Five lessons from the past weekend's Super Rugby semi-finals, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
A territory-based game plan requires accurate kicking
The Sharks have achieved relative success this season by playing the game in their opponents' half and feeding off their mistakes. But poor kicking prevented them from doing so in Christchurch on Saturday, with the Crusaders receiving the ball in space and running back at the Sharks. A poor kick from Paul Jordaan resulted in the Crusaders' first try, while Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn failed to find touch from penalties, with the former kicking the ball over the deadball line. In contrast, the Crusaders kicked well out of hand, particularly Israel Dagg, who gave his chasers a chance to compete in the air and regain possession. Andy Ellis, Colin Slade and Dan Carter also kicked well, keeping the Sharks pinned inside their half.
The Sharks struggle when their forwards don't dominate
One of last week's lessons was that the Sharks could not just rely on their set piece to progress further in the competition. In Christchurch, they were matched up front by the Crusaders' All Blacks-laden pack, could not assert themselves as a team, and therefore never looked like winning the game.
The Sharks need to show more attacking intent if they are to win Super Rugby
Jake White's side scored just 29 tries in 16 regular-season matches (compared to the Crusaders' 41 and the Waratahs' 55) and earned just two bonus points for scoring four tries (compared to the Crusaders' four and the Waratahs' nine). And while their territory-based game plan was good enough to win the South African conference and qualify for the play-offs, it wasn't good enough to win the competition, as they failed to cross the line in the Christchurch semi-final. If the Sharks are to lift the Super Rugby trophy next year, they will need to adopt a more balanced game and trouble teams with ball in hand.
Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are back to their best
The veteran duo both played out of position for the Crusaders on Saturday – McCaw at blindside flank and Carter at inside centre – and produced excellent performances. McCaw, who was returning from injury having played for the All Blacks against the Crusaders with fractured ribs, made 12 tackles (more than any Crusaders player) and carried the ball well. Carter, who returned from his six-month sabbatical after the June Tests, confidently attacked the advantage line, kicked well tactically and did his bit on defence. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen must be smiling with the Rugby Championship just three weeks away.
The Waratahs can defend just as well as they can attack
Michael Cheika's men have played an entertaining brand of rugby this season, scoring 58 tries in 17 matches, but they showed during Saturday's semi-final that they can defend too. The Tahs made 104 tackles in the match and only conceded one try despite the Brumbies launching several assaults on their line. They will need to be as committed on defence against the Crusaders if they are to win their maiden Super Rugby title.
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