CRAIG LEWIS identifies some of the good, the bad and the ugly to take away from the semi-finals of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Take nothing away from the Jaguares and Crusaders. There is no doubt that these are two fully deserving finalists, with the Jaguares now set to go on the hunt for a historic first-ever Super Rugby title, while the Saders will be chasing a third consecutive triumph. Although the Jaguares’ comfortable victory over the Brumbies was a rather dour one-sided contest, the cracker dished up in Christchurch was one of the games of the season. The Canes have been an undeniably gutsy side throughout this year, and very nearly caused a massive upset on the Crusaders’ home turf. Ultimately, though, after so many weeks of competition, we are left with a contest between two in-form sides that should certainly be worthy of a title decider.
The disadvantage created as a result of long-haul travel has always been one of the major issues affecting the credibility of Super Rugby. It’s particularly come into the spotlight ever since the Jaguares joined the competition, with teams having experimented with various means of travelling to Argentina in the hope of finding a solution. Some teams have opted to send second-string sides to face the Jaguares, or tried travelling at different times of the week. There’s just no getting away from how much of a serious challenge it is to travel all the way across to South America, and then face up to the feisty Jaguares on their hostile home turf. I’d suggest the Brumbies arrived with a 10-point handicap for Saturday’s semi-final due to to the travel burden after heading across to Argentina from Australia, and the clash as a contest was unfortunately over within the opening quarter as the hosts raced into a 20-point lead.
Last weekend, respected pundit Nick Mallett highlighted how decisions from the officials had undoubtedly favoured the home team, the Hurricanes, in their quarter-final against the Vodacom Bulls. With this in mind, it was hard not to cringe when Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock got away with a cynical infringement at the breakdown in the closing stages of their semi-final win in Christchurch. With the match hanging in the balance, it was truly unfortunate that a moment like that went unnoticed and negatively influenced the final stages of what had been an enthralling contest up until that point. Perhaps the World Rugby powers-that-be need to look at enforcing a DRS (Decision Review System) as is used in cricket, which would allow each side one opportunity to call for a TMO referral.
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