Super Rugby semis: Four goes down to two


Crusaders or Chiefs, Blues or Brumbies.

Crusaders’ Leicester Finganku made an attempt, which was later rejected during a Super Rugby Pacific Round 10 match between the Crusaders and Melbourne Rebels at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
photo: Scott Barbour / www.photosport.nz

Four teams go into this weekend’s semi-finals but only two will emerge to play for the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific title.

Friday night’s first match was being held in Christchurch – and it would come as no surprise to learn that the 12-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders went in as the favourite.

But, having lost the season at home to his opponents’ Chiefs, coach Scott Robertson was taking nothing.

“They’re physical, they’re tough, they’re great at counter-attack.

“He showed some moments in himself” [quarterfinal win] Where they played certain feet, and we know from the last time they were down here that they can do that.

“You have to be right, and stick with them. It’s going to be one hell of a game.”

Some punters were predicting something different.

And it was for all of the above reasons, said Robertson, that the Crusaders had an edge over for preparation.

“You have to enjoy the week, but there’s always a little (inhalation and exhalation)… moments of deep sighs.

“Have you done enough and have you prepared the boys enough?

“My mind goes pretty deep anyway, but probably more than others these weeks.”

You can bet the same thing happened for Robertson’s Chiefs counterpart.

Clayton McMillan said he and his team were up for it and that when the Crusaders won their last 26 playoff matches at home, the visitors were less than optimistic.

“You just have to accept and respect the fact that it’s really hard to beat them there. They know how to get up and perform in final rugby.

“The challenge for us is to rise to the occasion and force them to commit some errors.

“There is no magic formula [but] We know we have a team that can go there and win.”

AJ Lamm of the Blues and Dalton Papley of the Blues celebrate the Blues effort during the Finale Christie Super Rugby Pacific match, Crusaders v Blues, Christchurch April 15 of the Blues.

AJ Lamm of the Blues and Dalton Papley of the Blues celebrate the Blues effort during the Finale Christie Super Rugby Pacific match, Crusaders v Blues, Christchurch April 15 of the Blues.
photo: John Davidson / www.photosport.nz

Both the teams participating in Saturday night’s second semi held equal faith.

For the Blues, most of that came from a team-record 14-match winning streak, which they took in a clash with the Brumbies.

Forward coach Tom Coventry said they were looking for their big names as they tried to have a home advantage for the final.

“Buden in the 10 jersey. This is probably an obvious solution to us that he does his best.

“I know he was quite hard on himself last week [about his performance] But he is a class player and we have a lot of players who know how to play big matches.

“We will rely heavily on them to extend and draw on their experience when needed.”

But the Brumbies crossed the Tasman in full confidence.

Particularly after coming back from three straight losses with a behind-the-scenes win over the Hurricanes in their quarterfinals in Canberra.

Coach Dan McKellar said he was up to the challenge of preventing another All-New Zealand match for the Super Rugby Silverwares.

“We’ve been here before, haven’t we. We had to go to Argentina [in 2019] And play the semi-finals there but we go to Auckland really confidently.

“We thought we should have won that game a few weeks ago (the Blues beat the Brumbies 21-19 in Canberra).

“There’s a lot of respect for him, he’s got threats all over the park but we think we have a game that can challenge him.”

Friday’s first semi-final was to begin at 7.05 pm, with the winner either heading to Eden Park, or the home crowd for next week’s decider.

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