HAMILTION, NZ – Welcome to The Tron, for those in the know. With the Super 15 Final here at Waikato Stadium, there is not much else in Rugby to talk about. (For you Americans, this is arguably the Super Bowl of Rugby. The Super 15 Final. It kicks off at 7:35pm (New Zealand local time) Saturday, 4 August 2012. Here’s the rundown:
TEAMS: DURBAN SHARKS vs WAIKATO CHIEFS
Head Coach: John Plumtree
Captain: Keegan Daniel
15 Pat Lambie, 14 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Riaan Viljoen.
The Sharks made one change from the the starting line-up that upset the Stormers. With Tim Whitehead out, rookie sensation Paul Jordaan (who missed last week’s win due to injury) will move from his natural 13 position and play 12. JP Pieterson (normally a Wing for the Springboks) who had a man of the match performance at 13 in the semi-final will likely retain his role as the 13. They change in the starting line-up means Riann Viljoen goes to the bench and Odwa Ndungane loses his place in the team altogether.
Head Coach: Dave Rennie
Captain: Craig Clarke/Liam Messam
15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.
The line-up is unchanged from last week. There was a worry that Chief’s captain Craig Clarke was not going to be fit after straining the medial ligament in his knee in the semi-final win over the Crusaders. It would have had a domino affect on the locking combo and backrow. However that is not an issue anymore.
Now for the officials… The ref is important but the most important man this Super 15, with so many disputed tries over the course of the season. Here is the The Man in the Middle and his sidekicks – commonly referred to as the 3 blind mice:
Referee: Steve Walsh (AUS)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (NZ) & Craig Joubert (SA)
TMO: Garratt Williamson (NZ)
Analysis: I want to see the Sharks do the impossible but there is just too much against them. Yes, people they proved the naysayers wrong against the Reds and the Stormers, but this is the third straight road game in as many weeks. Will and effort can only take you so far. The Chiefs haven’t won the title in their history, they are in front of home fans, it’s Sonny Bill Williams‘ going away party and they have arguably been the best team all season. They play a fast-paced, high-octane game. It will wear the Sharks down by the 50th minute and they will pull away. Man of the Match will be SBW. It as an opportunity for him to shine and let union fans wonder how great he could have been. No better way to silence your critics. The Sharks can compete, but they are missing too many stars and first choice-players. Further, the travel and the level of their opponents over the last 3 weeks will make this a bridge too far. Chiefs to win 31-19. Heard. It. Here. First!