Super Rugby Weekly Opinion

Super Rugby 2015 | SA Men

They spoke of taking the spirit of Jerry Collins with them on the field. The recent death of one of the toughest and most respected players in world rugby used to ply his trade for the same Hurricanes franchise that has been unstoppable this year, much like the man they seek to honour.  The Brumbies only had an outside chance to win this one, but the Canes never allowed them to get into the game and it was apparent from the first few tackle busts that the Brumbies would be in for a world of hurt, the fearsomely powerful backline of the Hurricanes being enough to beat any team in the world right now. Detailing every contribution of the Wellington based players would make for a very long essay, so take it from me that they were as usual, a victorious blur of yellow that has been equal parts of pace, skill and power.

The Highlanders game confirmed that Australia would have no participation in the final, while we have at least snuck in referee Jaco Peyper to officiate an all-kiwi final. Eightman Nasi Manu was incredible for the Highlanders, personifying the fast-paced and hard-hitting loose forwards that have helped carried the Highlanders this year.  During the week some have alluded to Aaron Smith being the most valuable player in the world right now and they might be quite right about the diminutive scrumhalf. He definitely surpasses anything we have at the moment. The Highlanders and Waratahs were closely matched until after half time, when things swung in favour of the Highlanders.  

A critical moment of course came when Craig Joubert had no choice but to yellow card South African Jacques Potgieter for a swinging arm to Patrick Osborne's head and award a penalty, seeing that his action prevented a try from being scored. The Waratahs were well defeated by then. There was all the usual skill and pace from the Highlanders, but it was a very clever kicking game that turned the Waratahs and eventually the effectiveness of it translated the game into a one-sided affair.

The Hurricanes have been the most dominant team this year and then some. Their season had been such a success that it's suddenly hard to remember when last a team had gone into a final with this much momentum.  Yet, I have a feeling however that the final might not go their way. Don't get me wrong here, it is the Highlanders that will travel yet again and play their third successive post-season game. They are, however, the one team that can be a hurdle for the Hurricanes.

One of the main differences between the Highlanders and the Hurricanes in the off-load is that the Hurricanes support runners come very flat, while the Highlanders prefer a runner that is slightly delayed, ensuring the safety of the pass. The Hurricanes have made an art of passing the ball in a way that on first impression tends to look forward. Veteran Ma'a Nonu is especially good at this, floating his  arms out in front of his body, gaining some ground while crucially making sure the "hands pointing backwards" is applied. This though is not an accusation.  In fact, it should a be cherished skill to squeeze every legitimate centimetre out of the pass, but on the day it might go pear-shaped for them if the officials blow a little less leniently in this area.

Also, if the Highlanders can somehow replicate the tactical astuteness they'd shown against the Waratahs it might be a field leveller, in which case a game breaking moment like the viper-strike intercept try of a certain Aaron Smith might decide the game. Regardless, the two best teams made it through to the final and if the Highlanders don't bring their best game, you can expect the Hurricanes to be rampant all the way until they lift that trophy.