Coming into the Super Rugby qualifiers this weekend we look at some of the talking points ahead of the knockout rounds:
Can anyone stop the Crusaders?
The short answer – no.
The King of Breakdancing himself Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson has done a superb job since taking over a mis-firing outfit from now Bath coach Todd Blackadder. What Blackadder failed to do in eight seasons, Robertson did in his first and looks set to do again in his second.
The extraordinary thing about the Saders is they don’t seem to have any stars. Kieran Read has been out for most of the season and the only other regular All Blacks in the team that mauled the Blue 54-17 in the last round of the regular season were Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty.
But Robertson just has his team so well drilled, so precise, so slick in every facet of play that it is hard to see anyone remotely troubling them in the play-offs.
The only teams who could possibly mount a challenge are the in-form Chiefs and the resurgent Lions but hard to see the red and blacks letting this one slip.
What is wrong with the Canes?
This is a very perplexing question but with a team with so many stars its hard to fathom why they are playing so badly.
Humbled by the Brumbies in the first week back after the international break they then bounced back against the Blues only to crash back down again against a Chiefs B team last weekend.
Clearly Beauden Barrett is not at the top of his game and maybe with the twin departures of captain Brad Shields and coach Chris Boyd (both to England) pending, the Canes have put the cue back in the rack for 2018.
It’s staggering to see a team with so much backline talent – the Barrett brothers, Ngani Laumape, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben Lam play so limply – and the formerly fearsome forward pack don’t look much better.
They need to find form and fast before they take on the Chiefs in the first qualifier in Wellington on Friday. (11:35 UAE time).
There are a lot of people unhappy with the appointment of Jaco Peyper to referee Saturday's Lions vs Jaguares Quarter Final.— Paul Tait (@Argentina_2027) July 17, 2018
Not a criticism of his abilities but his nationality. Given Belgium vs Spain a greater effort is mandatory to ensure neutrality.
Will the Jaguares roar?
It has been one of the feel good stories of the season with the Argentine side putting together a stunning run of seven victories (including back-to-back against the Blues and Chiefs in New Zealand no less) to reach their first ever play-offs.
But since completing that magical run they surrendered fairly meekly to the Bulls in Pretoria a fortnight ago then rested a heap of stars in the loss to the Sharks on the weekend.
Now they must bounce back in the Lions’ den on Saturday. Hooker Agustin Creevy, fly half Nicolas Sanchez and centre Emiliano Boffelli have been their stars all season and they will need to be at their best if the Jaguares are to keep their season alive another week.
Know more about Sport360 Application