Tipping panel – the Final: North versus South

The Super Rugby trans-Tasman Final is upon us, and it’s a battle of the extremities, with the blue team from the top of the North Island against the blue team from the bottom of the South Island. North versus South. A real Yankee doodle dandy. I looked back at everyone’s prediction for the Finals a […]

Tipping panel – the Final: North versus South

The Super Rugby trans-Tasman Final is upon us, and it’s a battle of the extremities, with the blue team from the top of the North Island against the blue team from the bottom of the South Island.

North versus South. A real Yankee doodle dandy.

I looked back at everyone’s prediction for the Finals a few weeks ago, and none of us picked the Blues and Highlanders getting through to the last weekend of Super Rugby. But neither did you guys!

I scanned through all the comments, and I couldn’t see any Blues-Highlanders predictions there either. So at least we’re all in good company; none of us seem to know what we’re talking about.

For the Final, we’ll offering up a tip and Sure Thing as usual, along with a winning margin and a first try-scorer. Feel free to throw in your suggestions down below.

But the big question this week is whether Harry and Dan fall to opposite sides of this contest? Will we finish with an overall winner, or another tepid draw like last year?

My thanks to guys for ripping into another year of tipping, some of which was even pretty good. And personally speaking, it was great to be able to jump back in the chair late in the season, too.

Stay tuned for what we’ve got in store for the July Internationals and the last of the great rugby tours: the British and Irish Lions once again leaving the Home Nations, this time for South Africa.

LAST WEEK: Digger and The Crowd 5; Brett 4; Harry, Dan, Geoff 3.

OVERALL: Harry and Dan 55, The Crowd 53, Geoff 50, Digger 49, Brett 45.

Digger
Short and sharp this drag race of a Trans-Tasman competition has found the two most consistent sides facing off for a second chance at a 2021 trophy: the glamour of the Blues versus the graft of the Highlanders.

For me, I think the Highlanders will get across the line.

I believe they play with more cohesion and certainty around their game plan, and handle and absorb pressure better than their northern counterparts.

And along with rumours swirling around who may or may not be available for the Blues this coming weekend has me further entrenched into the Highlanders camp.

Having Aaron Smith helps too.

TIP: HIGHLANDERS by 12

FIRST TRY: Kazuki Himeno

SURE THING: The Blues will continue their fine tradition set by Dan Carter by having another World Cup winner waterboy in Beauden Barrett ferreting about.

Brett
Raising our predictions for the Final from a few weeks ago rams home how far off the mark I’ve been in 2021. I had the Chiefs meeting the Crusaders in the Final, and what actually happened was the Chiefs fell in hole, and the Crusaders’ world imploded on them after winning a game by four tries.

But it was hard to be anything but impressed with the Highlanders watching them up close last week. Well, that is, once I could work out if which team was running which way in the flood of white jerseys.

And I say that because obviously, nothing about the Blues impresses me!

That said, I am really looking forward to this game. It won’t really matter if Otere Black is out of action, because the Blues scrumhalves tend to just find the nearest big bloke with a single digit coming around the corner.

If Black played for the Highlanders, Aaron Smith would knock the thermometer out of his mouth from thirty metres away off his left hand. And before Otere would even realise the ball was coming.

So two contrasting styles. Or about as contrasting as the Kiwi sides get.

TIP: Highlanders, obviously. By 7

FIRST TRY: Aaron Smith. For the Brotherhood.

SURE THING: I feel like I should be exempt from this when the Blues are playing.

Tom Robinson. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Harry
The best player on the pitch will likely be a Highlander.

The shrieking screams of Aaron Smith are horrendous (imagine how it sounds in the close confines of an airport loo), but he is still the best scrumhalf in rugby, despite strong challenges by Faf de Klerk and Antoine Dupont.

Faf is a defensive maestro and Dupont an extra loose forward, but Smith still throws the longest, strongest, straightest passes, to the best targets, and so, he will probably keep the South Island mob in touch, for a while.

But in the end, the big bold Blue bullies will have too much: too much aggression, pace, championship pedigree, and reserves.

They will find space, and score. The Clan will score too, but not enough. Blues by 12. The bigger Ioane to dot down first.

TIP: BLUES by 12.

FIRST TRY: Akira Ioane.

Shannon Frizell of the Highlanders

Shannon Frizell. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Dan
There’s only one pick this week: the Highlanders to snag an upset win in the final.

The reason? Well, it would be very boring if the two best tipsters on the panel went the same way for the final round of the season rather than allowing us to have a clear winner.

Which is to say, Aaron Smith will once again fire perfect, pinpoint passes all around the field to mastermind a victory. The Landers’ lineout will run like precision clockwork, and their team effort (with the help of Smith) will outclass the greater individual talents of the hosts.

TIPS: HIGHLANDERS by 2

FIRST TRY: Ash Dixon

SURE THING: After last week’s debacle, the Highlanders will be sure to avoid wearing their away kit again and therefore don a lovely shade of navy for the decider. Which is obviously very different to Auckland blue.

Aaron Smith of the Highlanders prepares to feed a scrum

(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Geoff
In a chat after the Blues put 50 points on the Rebels in Round 1, Blues coach Leon McDonald fixed a deathly stare and explained to me how they had visited the room of mirrors, admitted their shame and disappointment at not making the SR Aotearoa final, and resolved to make up for it in this comp.

Perhaps I’m easily influenced, but it was entirely believable.

And for that reason, no matter the appeal of Aaron Smith, Jona Nareki and Liam Coltman’s second half precision, dart-like throws, plus the possible loss of the big ginger Tom, it’s redemption day for the Blues on Saturday.

TIP: BLUES by 5

FIRST TRY: Billy Harmon (who will then request a TMO review on himself and have it rubbed out)

SURE THING: The Eden Park crowd will be 8-10,000 below expectations due to fans staying at home, to ensure they don’t miss any of the cricket.

TT-FINAL Harry Brett Dan Digger Geoff The Crowd
BLU v HIG BLU HIG HIG HIG BLU ?
Margin 12 7 2 12 5 ?
First try A Ioane A Smith A Dixon K Himeno B Harmon ?
Last week 3 4 3 5 3 5
Overall 67 45 57 61 55 53

Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon AEST.

Source : The Roar More   

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How many Waratahs will be selected for the Wallabies?

After many new faces were named in the PONI squad earlier in the year, Dave Rennie’s Wallabies squad ahead of the French Tour was always going to raise some talking points. With the culmination of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman being defined as a resounding loss, player form versus experience came to the fore when selections were […]

How many Waratahs will be selected for the Wallabies?

After many new faces were named in the PONI squad earlier in the year, Dave Rennie’s Wallabies squad ahead of the French Tour was always going to raise some talking points.

With the culmination of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman being defined as a resounding loss, player form versus experience came to the fore when selections were made.

Of the teams that showed some starch in the face of the New Zealanders, the Brumbies had the squad that looked most likely to cause upsets though consistency proved elusive.

Unsurprisingly, the two teams best represented in Rennie’s squad were the two that battled it out for Australian supremacy in the Super Rugby AU.

The big names from the Reds and the Brumbies will make up the back bone of the Wallabies team the runs out on to the SCG in three weeks’ time.

James O’Connor. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

As the Test squad were announced, many punters were surprised and critical of the presence of so many Waratahs, given 2021 has been their worst ever season.

As with all Test squads that are named mid World Cup cycle, the Test bolters are the first to make headlines. Rennie has had the misfortune of having is hand forced in a few cases through injury and many pundits will be questioning whether our Test team is genuinely the best we have to offer.

Interestingly, both Jake Gordon and Izaia Perese were named in the Test squad even though Gordon took no part in the Waratahs’ final match and Perese dislocated his should in said game.

In what has been a dismal showing from the Waratahs, both Gordon and Perese have been their clubs best. The difference Gordon makes to his team’s attacking shape and general game awareness can not be overstated.

On the trajectory that he was on coming into the back end of Super Rugby, Gordon would have been putting pressure on Nic White for the starting jersey come July.

His service is looking sharper than ever, his in-game kicking has improved significantly and he’s got a big frame to challenge defensive lines. Jake Gordon is Australia’s TJ Perenara without the brain explosions.

Speaking of brain explosions Izaia Perese’s season could not have started worse when he was red carded for a spear tackle in the opening ten minutes of his first game for the Waratahs. After watching on from the stands for weeks due to suspension he was the shot in the arm the Waratahs needed.

His impact and ability was best on show in their heavy defeat against the crusaders where he was the best on ground on both sides of the ball for the men from Sydney. When give front foot ball in the right areas he showed genuine x-factor.

Prior to his shoulder injury, he had one hand on the Wallabies 13 jersey and the expected combination of Paisami and Perese in the midfield would have had the rugby world eager to see the output of two skilled power runners outside the likes of James O’Connor.

In Sunday’s squad announcement Rennie showed his hand by mentioning Ryan Lonergan had also been unofficially brought in for injury cover for Gordon. The coming weeks will dictate whether Gordon and Perese are replaced in the squad but here’s hoping their injuries aren’t as bad as first thought.

Another big omission due to injury is star recruit Suli Vunivalu. It took longer than most hoped for his training wheels to come off in the transition back to the 15 man game but once they did his form sky rocketed.

Before his hamstring injury, Vunivalu had gone back to holding width in defence and was effective in the breakdown when needed, his aerial skills and offload ability were up there with the best in his final games.

While it is disappointing he is currently unavailable, he will have a big impact on the Test series against the old foe from across the ditch later in the year.

Leading the charge for the Wallabies this year will be the evergreen Michael Hooper who has recently returned from his stint in Japan.

The level of distaste from the decision is surprising given the service from Hooper over much of Australian rugby’s most challenging period.

He was one of few players who could consistently challenge for a position in a World XV and though his leadership has come into question in the past, realistically, he is Dave Rennie’s sole candidate for the captaincy. James O’Connor’s name had been added to the list in some circles, but recent injuries ended that discussion.

Michael Hooper of the Wallabies waits for a TMO decision

(Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Hooper has enjoyed a different rugby environment where he played with and against some of the best players in the modern era. Expect him to be refreshed, invigorated and have a mammoth shift in the up coming series.

Nobody would have been surprised to see Angus Bell’s name on Sunday when the rugby community announce the final squad (Hats off to RA for the initiative, nice touch). He has been a regular high performer who has showed his worth in the Test arena and will no doubt play a core role in the run to the next World Cup.

Bell’s athleticism is unique for a front rower. His ability to get around the park and be an effective ball runner are impressive, particularly for is age. His scrummaging will only improve and his selection is a nod to the future while rewarding recent form.

The two remaining Waratah Wallabies could be considered the luckiest, for contrasting reasons. Lalakai Foketi presumably takes the place of Irae Simone. Up until 2021, Foketi has struggled to hold a starting spot in the Waratahs backline and seemed destined to be dubbed as “excellent Shute Shield player, mediocre Waratah”.

His selection comes as a genuine surprise to most. The selection committee no doubt has their justification but Irae Simone could rightfully feel hard done by given the Brumbies performance and the combination he has with Noah Lolesio and Len Ikitau.

Lachie Swinton is an enigma. The opinion is he brings an aggressive edge and has a genuine point of difference to his opposing blindside flankers.

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The cost of having him in your side was clear to see last weekend when he was red carded for a “shoulder to the face” cleanout against the Chiefs. There is no denying it was at the low end of the card range, as Rennie suggested, but you have to wonder if the Wallabies would be better place with Angus Scott-Young.

He is a smart footballer who has had one of his best seasons to date occupying the six jersey for the Reds. Scott-Young is an unsung hero for the Reds this year and deserves his recognition.

Though it shouldn’t entitle any player to a Test jersey, his decision to turn down overseas offers for 2022 should also be recognised as he is in form and has Test aspirations. (It also confirms Dave Rennie’s recent comments regarding Test eligibility).

Regardless of the make up of the squad, it is great to have Test rugby back again, especially with the cloud of doubt that initially surrounded the French series. While a 3–0 series win might be too much to ask, our young Wallabies have the potential to surprise viewers.

With the smarts of Scott Wisemantel, the recent addition of Dan Mckellar and the influence of Dave Rennie, there is no doubt our squad is in safe hands.

Vive La Renaissance!

Source : The Roar More   

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