Super Rugby Pacific is near its end now, the battle lines have been drawn and Hamilton is ready to host a final for the ages between 2 New Zealand titans. Bet Central explores the key battles in this epic game.
Samisoni Taukei’aho And Codie Taylor Seeking The Edge
The big men up front have engaged in some epic duels throughout this year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign and as the competition comes to its culmination, there is no bigger front-row battle than the one that ensues between Samisoni Taukei’aho and Codie Taylor.
For one it is the all-important battle for the All Blacks’ starting berth at hooker – the big and abrasive Taukei’aho pitted against Taylor’s athleticism and wits. But most importantly this week, both will be crucial parts of both sides.
The Chiefs’ hooker will look to use his big ball-carrying against a formidable Crusaders pack, his work rate off the ball will also be important. Taylor on the other hand is aging and his athleticism is no longer what it used to be, but his intelligence will be crucial. Needless to say, their lineout work needs to be flawless in order for either team to be crowned champions.
Barrett and Rettalick In Titanic Battle In 2nd Row
The ceremonial handing over of the baton so to speak, after the World Cup Brodie Rettalick will move from New Zealand rugby and Scott Barrett is expected to take over the no.4 jersey with the All Blacks from 2024.
Tomorrow it will be one final time for the heir to the throne to battle the master of their craft and prove he will be a worthy replacement, but as seen in the last few weeks where Brodie Rettalick has been a machine for the Chiefs, Barrett won’t have it easy at all in the grand finale.
Rettalick has been in the argument for the finest lock to play the game and undoubtedly stands at the pinnacle as far as New Zealand locks are concerned. For Barrett to outdo such a player will take a monumental effort, but he has just about enough nous to outdo the all-time great. It should be an intriguing final dance between the 2.
Damian McKenzie has had a season to remember at 10 for the Chiefs, whenever he has turned it on this season, the Chiefs have been near impossible to stop. Even in the last game between these 2 sides, it was a close affair in the 1st half before McKenzie took over in the 2nd half and took the game away from the Crusaders.
That is the kind of influence McKenzie has had, Richie Mo’unga has had a less stellar season behind an aging Crusaders pack which has not been as efficient as seasons gone by, it’s a natural course with time moving on for the likes of Taylor and Sam Whitelock.
The one thing that cannot be doubted about Richie Mo’unga is his ability to control and build the tempo of the game and in finals rugby, this method usually wins, but there has been nothing conventional about the Chiefs this season and they could win the final playing the exciting brand we have seen all season.
X-Factor At 15
In a battle with the men that have been exciting all season, if there are to be try-scoring opportunities, they are likely to come from those who will run out in the no.15 jerseys. Will Jordan was out for long periods due to injury, but there is no doubt his return has given the Crusaders an edge.
Jordan will have to outdo the desperately unlucky Shaun Stevenson at 15 – the Chiefs man was included in the All Blacks squad, but only as injury cover. Shaun Stevenson has been just behind McKenzie in terms of importance to the Chiefs attacking efficiency, so he is vital for the Chiefs.
The battle between these 2 players should be exciting and their versatility will give them flexibility around the park. The fullbacks are slippery customers and both sets of defenders will need to be alert as individual moments of brilliance are likely to come from these 2 magicians.