Monday, June 29, 2015
Aaron Smith, Richard Buckman, Waisake Naholo and Patrick Osborne all scored for the Highlanders as they knocked defending Super Rugby champions the Waratahs out at the semi final stage on Saturday. The 35-17 win wasn't without controversy though.
Referee Craig Joubert has come under heavy critiscism for his handling of a few key decisions, perhaps most notably with the yellow card and penalty try that he gave for what he deemed to be a high tackle by departing Waratahs star, Jacques Potgieter.
Coach Michael Cheika was none too pleased, but managed to control his emotions, while still making it clear what he thought of the decision. Highlanders Ben Smith however, said that is was clear enough.
"I had no doubt it was a penalty try," he said in the post match press conference, which you can see on page two. It includes words from Cheika, and disappointed Dave Dennis.
The Highlanders victory sets up a fascinating tussle with fellow New Zealand side the Hurricanes, who have been far and away the most impressive side in the competition all season. Their victory over the Brumbies was comfortable in the end.
With a few key stars however, the likes of Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa in particular, the Highlanders will fancy their chances, and perhaps relish the underdog tag.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
The Hurricanes will contest their first Super Rugby final since 2006 when they have the Highlanders in Wellington. The 'Canes beat the Brumbies 29-9 in Saturday's first semi final, before the Highlanders outplayed the Waratahs in Sydney.
The two leading teams of the 2015 season will lock horns in Wellington as the Hurricanes or Highlanders will etch their name on the Super Rugby trophy for the very first time.
The Hurricanes, who were only beaten twice throughout the regular season on their way to the NZ Conference title, have earned the right to host the decider after winning their sold-out Semi-Final.
The Highlanders will challenge them following a clinical 35-17 victory over the defending champion Waratahs, and next weekend will represent the first all-New Zealand Super Rugby Final since the Crusaders prevailed over the Hurricanes 19-12 in 2006.
The Hurricanes scored tries through Julan Savea, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea and Matt Proctor, as the Brumbies struggled to contain their attacking ability and power out wide.
"It's massive for us," said skipper Conrad Smith of the home advantage in the final. "It was a big motivation for us to know that if we kicked one in tonight we would play here, so it's a big edge for us."
credit: Brumbies TV/Le-Rugbynistere
Thursday, June 25, 2015
The Highlanders face the Waratahs in Sydney this Saturday in the first of two Super Rugby semi finals. The Dunedin side produced a superb performance to defeat the Chiefs in the playoff last weekend and despite this featured try being disallowed, it is still worth seeing.
The Highlanders are aiming to reach the final for the first time since 1999, where they lost 24-19 to the Crusaders.
This weekend also marks a return to the semi finals for Jamie Joseph's men, having last appeared at this stage in 2002, again falling at the hands of the Crusaders.
They will be without stand out flanker Dan Pryor who dislocated his elbow in the 24-14 playoff win over the Chiefs. There was also some doubt over Malakai Fekitoa, but Joseph says he is keen to keep the absences down to a minimum.
"Malakai's scratched his eye. Because it's an eye there's some sensitivity around the area but I think he will be fine. He's [Pryor] a big loss for us and Alex Ainley's played on a really crook knee, and he's tweaked that again," Joseph said.
While no team has got anywhere near the Hurricanes all season, defending champions Waratahs have been their closet challengers, winning 11 out of their 14 matches. For them it is their sixth semi final in ten years. They too have casualties, in the form of Kurtley Beale who has failed to recover from a quadriceps injury with the centre being replaced by Matt Carraro.
The last time these two sides met was in round 5 where the Highlanders ran out 26-19 victors in Dunedin. Will they complete a clean sweep or can the Waratahs exert revenge on Saturday?
You can watch last week's brilliant team effort below, as well as the full match of the last encounter between the two sides here (next page)
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Brumbies winger Henry Speight received a red card in last week's Super Rugby playoff match against the Stormers due to this dangerous tackle/clear out, and has since been suspended for five weeks following a SANZAR disciplinary hearing.
Brumbie's Jesse Mogg had kicked ahead and gathered the ball in the 74th minute before he was tackled by Seabelo Senatla. As Juan de Jongh and Speight came in to the ruck, Speight tried to prematurely clear the centre out but only succeeded in flipping him onto his head.
Referee Jaco Peyper and the TMO had no option but to show a red card, with the referee saying "I understand that it was accidental but it was still dangerous play".
Speight tried to argue the case saying he was only pushing De Jongh out the way but it is worth noting captain David Pocock completely agreed.
The hearing took place on Wednesday, with Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC finding:
"After taking all relevant facts into consideration, I found that the referee's decision to issue a red card was correct. I found the incident to have a lower end entry point for breaching of 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle.
"The tackle caused De Jongh’s feet to lift and his head to make contact with the ground first. It was not a legitimate clean out at a ruck and the player was fortunate not to have been injured. The offending was however not premeditated and occurred in reaction to De Jongh having impeded Speight’s progress.
The Brumbies won the game 39-19 so will face the Hurricanes in the semi final this weekend.
Today it is exactly 20 years since South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup by famously beating New Zealand 15-12 in a tense Ellis Park final. The win saw the newly democratic country overcome a number of odds, including stopping the imposing figure of a young giant named Jonah Lomu.
The surviving members from that historic day in 1995 got together in Johannesburg today to relive the wonderful occasion, and share in what was a very special time for South Africa. While the late coach Kitch Christie and star flanker Ruben Kruger were notable absentees, their memory lives on in what the Springboks accomplished at a significant time for the country.
The result unleashed a tide of goodwill and nation-building across South Africa, which a year earlier had celebrated democracy after decades of racial segregation.
"Mr Mandela together with that Springbok team pointed the way to a new future for our people and 20 years later that day still has a massive resonance. We continue to salute the 1995'ers for what they achieved as a rugby team and what they meant to a nation," said SARU president Oregan Hoskins.
As described by Springbok right wing on the day, James Small, centre Jampie Mulder's tackle on Lomu was a hugely signicant moment in the match. It's a tackle that will forever be remembered by South African fans, at a time when Lomu was all but unstoppable.
Yes, it might not have been perfectly executed, and he may not be the best street dancer on the planet, but New Zealand Under 20 coach Scott Robertson's World Championship winning celebrations perhaps gives us an insight into the kind of bond shared within the group.
The former All Blacks and Crusaders forward was clearly overjoyed at the victory over England, so couldn't help himself when a circle formed and he was called upon to bust some moves.
While it's just a former player dancing, it's great to see that rather than wearing a suit and tie and trying to keep himself above the rest of the squad, his approach is to just be one of the guys. And it clearly works. We have to wonder though, will this catch on, Steve Hansen?
Sunday, June 21, 2015
New Zealand secured their fifth Under 20s World Championship after beating England 21-16 in an enthralling final in Cremona on Saturday. It was the first title for the Baby Blacks since 2011 and their triumph brought to an end a two year winning streak for the English.
England started the game strongly and scored a cracking opening try through Max Clark. The centre, latching onto a superb flat pass rom Rory Jennings, burst through the Kiwi defence and showed considerable pace to breeze round full back Mitchell Hunt for the score.
Jennings added the conversion and a further penalty extended the lead as New Zealand got on the scoreboard with a Otere Black penalty after 8 minutes.
Vincent Tavea-Aso came on as a substitute for injured centre TJ Faiane and made an immmediate impact taking just 20 seconds to score a brilliant individual try. The 20 year-old evaded several defenders en route to a sensational score in the far corner.
The conversion was missed but Black added a penalty on the brink of half-time to take an 11-10 lead.
New Zealand came out firing in the second half and scored their second try after just five minutes. Number 8 Akira Ioane barged over from close range to dot down near the posts; Black converted to increase the lead to 18-10 with England having scarcely touched the ball in the second period.
Ioane's celebrations were short-lived however as he received a yellow card three minutes later, for not using arms in a tackle on Jennings.
England pounced on the numerical advantage and so nearly scored their second try to reduce the deficit. However the TMO ruled that replacement Piers O'Conor was in front of Howard Packman as the winger chipped ahead.
Jennings slotted two further penalties but New Zealand made sure of victory with a third Black penalty. The Baby Blacks then held off a valiant challenge to grab their fifith World Championship in seven years.