Final sideshows begin

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:11
Large waratahs training general

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder delivered the first verbal stouch, as the sideshows ahead of the Super Rugby Final got into full swing.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder delivered the first verbal stouch, as the sideshows ahead of the Super Rugby Final got into full swing.

The Waratahs, who host the Crusaders in the Final in Sydney on Saturday, opted to move away from their regular home venue - which will give them a chance of breaking the attendance record for a Final.

It has been 10 years since the Waratahs last beat Super Rugby's glamour side and in their attempt to arrest that long run of losses they have opted not to play at their favourite ground.

The decision to shift the Final from Allianz Stadium, where they Waratahs are unbeaten this year, to the bigger ANZ Stadium has been seized on by the Crusaders as a gift.

"There is no way I would ever give up home advantage to anyone," Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder told a media briefing.

"I don't think it will make a difference to them ... but for us it is just the psychological aspect. Going to a neutral stadium is just fantastic."

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has sidestepped talk about venues and an unfavourable history against the Crusaders, saying it was a matter of how his charges performed on Saturday that counted.

"History has tended to lead to the conclusion that we won't deliver on the day," he said.

"What we've got to do is go out there and up our game, improve from last week in certain areas and see if that's good enough."

Both sides have named unchanged line ups for the showdown which, through a quirk of the draw, will be the first time they have faced each other this year, heightening references to historical data for a pointer to the outcome.

While the Crusaders have seven Super titles in their cabinet, and have made the play-offs every year since 2002, the Waratahs have only reached the finals twice - in 2005 and 2008 - and on both occasions faced the Crusaders and lost.

In the 2008 Final, the last time the Crusaders won the Super Rugby crown, the Waratahs led 12-3 after 25 minutes before conceding 17 unanswered points to go down 20-12.

But this is not the Waratahs of old as they showed with a lion-hearted defence in their 26-8 win over the Brumbies in the semifinal last week where they refused to bow under pressure and counter-attacked at every opportunity.

It is a side filled with battle-hardened internationals with the skilful Michael Hooper, Stephen Hoiles and Wycliff Palu as a potent loose trio.

Halves Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley will guide a talented backline containing Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Israel Folau.

But in the history of Super rugby, the final has always been won by the side which commands the scrums and line-outs, and here the Crusaders appear to have a defining edge.

The set-piece work of their tight five - Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock and Dominic Bird - has been second to none this season.

They are complemented in the loose by Matt Todd, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read to complete an all All Blacks pack.

McCaw, who missed much of the year through injuries, will be at blindside flanker allowing Todd to retain the seven jersey.

Ace flyhalf Dan Carter will also be out of position at inside centre with Colin Slade in the number 10 he has worn all year.

The Final is set to become one of the biggest sporting events in Sydney this year.

With over 50,000 tickets already taken and three days of sales remaining, the Waratahs are confident of surpassing the previous record crowd of 55,000 set in the 2009 Final in Pretoria, South Africa.

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Fri, 27 May 2016
Hurricanes v Highlanders 07h35 Wellington
Waratahs v Chiefs 09h40 Sydney
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Border v Falcons 17h00 East London
Sat, 28 May 2016
Blues v Crusaders 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Sunwolves 09h40 Canberra
Western Province v Griquas 10h15 Newlands
Blue Bulls v Leopards 12h15 Loftus Versfeld
Stormers v Cheetahs 13h00 DHL Newlands
Namibia v Griffons 13h00 Windhoek
Golden Lions v EP Kings 13h00 Johannesburg
Saracens v Exeter Chiefs 14h00 London
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Sun, 29 May 2016
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 11 6 0 5 30
Brumbies 11 7 0 4 29
Rebels 10 5 0 5 23
Reds 13 3 1 9 16
Force 11 2 0 9 11
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Chiefs 11 9 0 2 42
Crusaders 11 9 0 2 41
Highlanders 11 8 0 3 37
Hurricanes 11 7 0 4 36
Blues 11 6 1 4 29
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Bulls 11 7 1 3 32
Stormers 11 6 1 4 32
Cheetahs 11 3 0 8 16
Sunwolves 11 1 1 9 9
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 11 8 0 3 37
Sharks 12 7 1 4 35
Jaguares 11 2 0 9 13
Kings 11 1 0 10 4