Super 14 final prediction

This is the toughest call I have done.

Bulls 26 - Chiefs 23

Don't ask me, I just wish it will happen the other way around. I simply don't think it will. Our players are focused, the quality is there, they have been winning close matches, of late; but like someone said: Loftus is like the Everest... We miss sir Edmund Hillary.

Go Chiefs! Go Chiefs! Go Chiefs all the way.

About legacies

I never thought Victor Matfield was anything close to outspoken; on the contrary I thought he was a pretty decent guy, very realistic in terms of rugby, as he knows what it takes to climb on to the top.

Just the opposite of what the Watsons have always done.

That's why it's so thrilling to see him talking about legacies, or the Bulls building a Crusader-like legacy, with just less than a week to go before the final. Should you not be concentrating, talking your chances more down than up and focusing on what's surely going to be a massive game?

All odds may be in your favor, but in rugby it is tackles, not odds, what wins titles; And only after a number of titles has been won (and the key word is after) careless journos write on legacies. Duncan Johnston says Victor Matfield has gone one step or six too far... For once I agree.

There's only one legacy in Super Rugby. And it has not been a matter of winning one year or two. In Canterbury they have a culture of rugby, a culture of winning. Players have come and gone and still the culture has been mantained. The Andrew Mehrtens left room for the Daniel Carters, the Blackadders, for the McCaws, the Marshalls were substitued by the Ellises... and the important things, the things that have made of the Crusaders a successful team have been preserved.

Back to Earth, you have not won anything yet, Mr Matfield, and you would do well to stop thinking in legacies and start thinking about the Chiefs, or keep dreaming at your own risk.

Praise of the Chiefs

Astounding. Simply astounding.

How can a team start off a season by losing the first three games and then make the finals? The Chiefs have done so, by winning 10 out of the following 11 games. Their only other loss was a hard-fought game in Pretoria, which leaves the count at 10 victories and 4 losses for the Chiefs, and still counting.

What have they done today? They have used their weapons to full efect. Even without May, without Leonard and without Kahui, even suffering a bit in the set-piece. But Sivivatu was attacking from everywhere, Masaga, too. Muliaina being everywhere and Donald kicking and passing wisely. Just unlike Willie Ripia.

I said at the beginning of the season that the weak point of this Hurricanes was at 10. Well, today they lost the game there. Senseless kicking and an accurate Chiefs defense and counter-attack put the Chiefs on top.

Back to 2006 memories for the 'canes as in the final 5 minutes an old foe came back; the fog. Bad omens for a team that had everything to win the Super 14, but this year they came up short. Again.

Congratulations, Chiefs. Robbie Deans predicted a Hurricanes-Crusaders final. I hope he'll be right in at least one name of the two finalists.

Super 14 semifinals prediction

Chiefs 24 - Hurricanes 26
Bulls 17 - Crusaders 14

And that's all I have to say.

Praise of the Crusaders

Having started the season with just a win in the first five rounds, no one expected the Crusaders to be able to claim a spot in the top four. Having suffered cruel injuries to almost any senior player (Franks, McCaw, MacDonald, Thorn, Ellis, Laulala...) early in the season, what were the real chances of the Crusaders to make way through to the semis?

Todd Blackadder's team has been able to do so. Youngsters like Colin Slade or Ryan Crotty have been inmense. Veterans like Kieran Read have glued the team together. And wins over every major foe (and a sole loss to the Cheetahs) in the last 8 weeks have put them where we all wanted them to be.

Congratulations, Crusaders. Robbie Deans has spoken of the resilience of the Brumbies. Fighting against everything to keep their hopes alive. He has not spoken of you, guys, who have done as well as the Brumbies until round 13, and have bettered what the Brumbies achieved in the last round.

Now, how valuable was the last-second goal kick by Leon MacDonald against the Cheetahs? Or how much is worth the fourth try scored against the Hurricanes in Christchurch?

Wonderful job, boys. And remember you have already beaten the Bulls this season.

Praise of the Lions

Not for the first time this season the Lions surprise me. Despite having lost to the Waratahs, they have shown commitment and a will to win the match as if their own chances of classifying were at stake.

The final minutes have been a nail biter. After trailing 17-28 at half time, they were able to come back and take the lead, just to allow the decisive try to the Waratahs with 5 minutes left. A final penalty put the Lions within 5 meters of the aussie line and indeed they seemed they had scored a try when referee Marius Jonker called for a forward pass...

But it was not the end of the story. For three times the Lions put their hearts in the scrum and asked the ref to call for a free kick in their favour... After three resets the Lions loosehead prop (or was it the hooker?) lost his foot in the scrum and the ball was freed for the Waratahs backs to kick it out. The Waratahs won 38-33.

Sharks and Crusaders will have to fight if they want to match the 'tahs.

Super 14 round 14 predictions

Well, I kept myself out of any rugby for a few hours and now I feel I am ready to do the predictions.

At the time I am writing this, I don't know what my predictions will exactly be, but I am certain of various things: The Sharks are too tired. The Bulls are rampant. The Chiefs will win. The Waratahs will win as well. The Crusaders are a better team thant the Blues.

So, let's start:

Chiefs 24 - Brumbies 17 (Thus comes to an end the resilient Brumbies campaign)
Lions 18 - Waratahs 33 (bonus point, yes, for the Waratahs)
Blues 22 - Crusaders 26 (I cannot predict if the Crusaders will get a bonus point. I will say they won't)
Reds 20 - Hurricanes 35 (No mercy)
Force 13 - Highlanders 15 (Who cares?)
Cheetahs 17 - Stormers 14 (Any more injuries for the Lions tour?)
Sharks 17 - Bulls 23 (With this, the Bulls will claim top spot of the table, and will have a good shot to win the title)

If all this happens, the four graceful teams will be:

  1. Bulls 46
  2. Chiefs 45
  3. Hurricanes 44
  4. Waratahs 41
  5. Crusaders 41
  6. Brumbies 38
  7. Sharks 37
Now, beware. If only the 'tahs can't score 4 tries in Johannesburg or the Crusaders manage to score 4 tries against the demoralised, unable to defend Blues, the Crusaders shall classify:

  1. Bulls 46
  2. Chiefs 45
  3. Hurricanes 44
  4. Crusaders 42
  5. Waratahs 41
  6. Brumbies 38
  7. Sharks 37
I would also like to quote Spiro Zavos, when he reminds us all that this nail bitter is only due to the fact that teams qualify independently of the nation where they are from:

"SA Rugby killed off an excellent proposal to have six teams in the finals by insisting that each of the SANZAR partners have two teams in the finals. This nonsense was rejected by the ARU and the NZRU. If the two-team policy was in place all the drama that is coming up this weekend, with the last match between the Sharks and the Bulls probably deciding who is in or out, would be lost."

Aussies impressed me!!!!

Both Waratahs and Brumbies have been on the very razor's edge for the past three weeks. I did expect and in fact I did predict both teams to be out by now but the real truth is that they are still in the hunt for the playoffs.

With the semifinals cut-off at 41 points (or perhaps 42), both teams need a bonus point victory to have any chance to get through it, but they are capable of doing it.

Specially difficult is the task for the Brumbies, as no team has bonus-pointed a win in Hamilton this season, and the Chiefs are looking really powerful. But the Waratahs could very well get a win, and even a bonus point victory, after their unexpected feat of beating the Sharks at home.

I now think that Bulls, Chiefs, Hurricanes and Crusaders will get classified, but the aussies are still there, which is amazing... Amazing.

Super 14 round 13 Predictions

With the blues of knowing that Leon MacDonald will be gone by June still inside me, I will be a bit hard on the Reds Prediction today. So sorry, guys, I like you above any other side in Aus, but the Crusaders need the points and Leon's last game in Christchurch is well deserved a biased prediction.

Apart from that, Hurricanes and Chiefs could get both classified this week if both score 4 tries and the Chiefs win by seven points or less. The other two must-see are Brumbies-Blues and Sharks-Waratahs. Expect a win for the home side in both games, although with unpredictable Blues, who would dare?

Crusaders 34 - Reds 16 (A try by Leon MacDonald included, of course)
Lions 23 - Highlanders 18 (This end of season tour is meaningless for the Highlanders)
Chiefs 32 - Hurricanes 28 (This is unrealistic, I know, but I want the Chiefs to get 5 points)
Brumbies 25 - Blues 23 (Do not be mistaken, 4 points are not enough for the Brumbies)
Sharks 18 - Waratahs 13 (With this, all hopes by any Australian franchise should be over)
Bulls 24 - Cheetahs 16 (And thus the Bulls would also get through)
Stormers 14 - 11 Force (Believe it or not, this is the hardest match to predict. Both are teams with more rugby than their position suggests but their internal problems have hindered them throughout the season. I don't know who shall look harder for a win)

And the table would look like this for the last round:

  1. Chiefs 42
  2. Hurricanes 41
  3. Bulls 41
  4. Sharks 39
  5. Crusaders 37
  6. Brumbies 36
  7. Waratahs 33
  8. Blues 32

Which would mean that Sharks and Crusaders would find themselves fighting in Durban against the Bulls and in Auckland against the Blues at the same time for a place in the top four. I think the Crusaders will grab it.


Leon MacDonald has signed with japanese club Kintetsu and will play there right after this season is over. He is reported to be in Japan by June, so I suppose that leaves no room for him playing any games for Canterbury.

This is the end of Leon MacDonald as an All Black, and this weekend's game in Christchurch will certainly be his last match in home soil for the Crusaders (even if the Crusaders achieve the feat to get to the semifinals, they would play any playoff games away).

I would like to say just once again how much I like Leon MacDonald. He's the fullback whose play I have enjoyed the most. I will certainly miss him.

Best of lucks, Leon.

Lions vs Boks, stop the nonsense talk

John McBride, former player for the Lions:

"I know the game's changed, I know the game's professional and I know that scrummaging has changed but, whether we like it or not, I still believe that the team that can scrummage is the team that wins the match."

Please, someone can stop this nonsense? Can someone explain this old legend that the team who shall govern the breakdown will have more quality possession and therefore, will have more chances to attack? Can someone tell him that line-out mastery is far more important than a slight advantage in the scrum?

In the Super 14, when a free kick is awarded and the ball is not immediately released so the attacking team can take the defending players receding and flat-footed, a scrum is preferred rather than a free kick. Why? because it's more useful than a free kick.

Now, what does make McBride think that with no ELVs sanctioning, the scrums will be so important? I know it is a matter of pride about the scrum more than anything else, but please, we're not back in the seventies, pride is not the key to win. Ability to understand what your team needs is. So, please, pick a pair of halfback, first-five who can rule the game against du Preez and Pienaar, if you want to have a chance to win anything.

Springboks who are injured at this very moment.

This is a list of Springbok players who are currently unavailable to play and, in some cases, won't play against the Lions.

  • Conrad Jantjes, fullback
  • Adi Jacobs, centre
  • Frans Steyn, second five eighths
  • Jean de Villiers, second five eighths
  • Butch James, first five eighths
  • Fourie du Preez, halfback
  • Schalck Burger, openside flanker
  • Andries Bekker, lock

Shall we review this list on a weekly basis?

Please, think a bit

At the beginning of the Super 14 season we were shocked to see so many New Zealand players, specially All Blacks players, hit by injuries every once and again. Form was generally poor by kiwi sides and in round two, the only win by a kiwi side was against another kiwi side. Meanwhile, the South African franchises were all happy to see both Bulls and Sharks in command.

Three months later, kiwi players have tended to recover from injuries and gained some form and little by little kiwi sides have popped up to the Super 14 table, and now it seems it is the South Africans who are getting numerous injuries. The Springboks coach, Peter de Villiers has just asked what the prospects of playing in the all-important Lions series are for a number of injuries.

And in the meantime, nonsense talk about the Super 15 has been going on. They all want more games and more money and there are two silly ways to get it: the South African way which would require to start even earlier, say, in January, and the Australasian way which would require to extend the Super 14 until July and even play international tests at the same time that the Super 14 is being played.

So, do you guys realise that will only increase the number of injuries? How many games per season you want your players to play? Please, think a bit.