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Super Rugby champion Hurricanes show winning beats style in New Zealand

Winning ugly is beautiful: The Hurricanes celebrate after winning the 2016 Super Rugby final. Photo: Simon Watts1. Hurricanes show winning beats style in New Zealand. It was fascinating to watch the Super Rugby final in the context of the age-old discussion in Australia about the style in which to play the game. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has previously indicated that the Wallabies would not shy away from a ball-in-hand approach, although Stephen Moore’s recent comments about tweaking the plan seem to allow for some more – or more accurate – tactical kicking.
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It was a tough night in Wellington weather-wise, but the Hurricanes kicked, and kicked, and kicked. No.10 Beauden Barrett’s tactical approach was really akin to a game of force-back and it paid dividends, with nearly all of the Hurricanes’ best work done without the ball. When Elton Jantjies tried to spread the ball instead of kicking it, the Lions got punished. Of course, the Hurricanes have the ability to play the nice-looking stuff too, but New Zealand’s recent success across the board is linked to their willingness to also play a style that Australians are loathed to embrace in a sporting market where “entertainment” has become a factor.

2.Hurricanes No.6 Brad Shields was the man of the match. The award givers took the easy option, as they nearly always do, and gave it to Beauden Barrett. The No.10 had a decent game, and sniffed out an opportunistic try, but some of his kicking (especially in the second half) wasn’t particularly effective and his performance was probably made to look better by Elton Jantjies’ obvious struggles. In fact, my 1-2-3 would probably be Shields, then Ardie Savea and then No.13 Matt Proctor.

They all got through a ton of work and when Barrett made that break late and kicked deep into Lions territory, it was Shields and Proctor applying the defensive pressure to make sure the Lions were unable to stage a breakout. Shields was dominated in last year’s final by the Highlanders No.6 Elliot Dixon, so there are probably not many more satisfied than he was after a really tough and unyielding defensive effort.

3. All Blacks No.10 decision already made. The All Blacks have without doubt made their mind up about who is going to start against the Wallabies – they won’t have been waiting for the Super Rugby final to change their minds. As mentioned above, Barrett’s performance was decent without being outstanding, and Aaron Cruden is probably the man who is better at manipulating defenders when the space is tighter, as it is in Test rugby.

The unknown factor is whether the Chiefs stripper story will go any further, but despite Barrett’s outstanding last month I don’t think the Wallabies can feel confident about who they might be facing. They might even roll out the “we don’t care, it’s all about us”, but really there will be intense interest about who they are facing.

4. Lions get due recognition. Lions hooker Malcolm Marx is a good player. Tough, mobile, strong at set piece – he thoroughly deserved his call-up to a Springboks squad that is hard to get a read on. It’s difficult to remember a South Africa squad that looks less intimidating, but then again that muscular approach has got them nowhere in recent years.

I know there have been recent declarations that the quota system will remove the Springboks as a serious force, but when you look at that Springboks squad, there is a lot of mobility in the forward pack with the likes of Jaco Kriel and Sikhumbuzo Notshe, which could create a new set of problems for the Wallabies.

5. None of the above really matters. When the news of Christian Lealiifano’s leukaemia diagnosis broke, anyone who had ever had anything to do with the Brumbies playmaker would have felt a mixture of sadness, shock and injustice. He has always carried himself with great dignity and represented his family and his club superbly. Even amid the pressure-cooker environment of the Lions tour in 2013, I was profoundly struck by how unaffected and grounded he was.

No wonder messages of support began flooding in across social media platforms. It was also a nice touch from Ardie Savea, the best player in Super Rugby this year, to mention Lealiifano in his post-match remarks.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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