SEVEN-TIME CHAMPIONS the Crusaders will travel to Sydney to take on Michael Cheika’s Waratahs in the 2014 Super Rugby final.
The Kiwi franchise clinically swept past the Sharks on a 38-6 scoreline in their semi-final in Christchurch, condemning Jake White’s men to a miserable end to what had been a strong season up until this point.
Cheika’s ‘Tahs were forced to work extremely hard against the Brumbies in the second semi-final, but had enough quality to secure a 26-8 victory. The Waratahs have been free-flowing in attack during this campaign, but it was their superb defence that told in Allianz Stadium.
The Crusaders will back themselves to win an eighth title next weekend in Sydney, particularly given the fact that they have gradually built towards their peak as the season has progressed.
Tries from Kieran Read, the prolific Nemani Nadolo, Willi Heinz, Johnny McNicholl and Matt Todd did the major damage against the Sharks this morning, while inside centre Dan Carter kicked 13 points off the tee.
The Sharks managed just two penalties through the boot of out-half Pat Lambie as they were well beaten at AMI Stadium.
Surprisingly, it was the ‘Tahs hard-working defensive effort that proved the difference against a competitive Brumbies side in the second encounter of the morning, as Ben Mowen’s reign as captain of the Canberra outfit ended in defeat.
Chieka’s charges scored a second-minute intercept try through La Rochelle-bound wing Alofa Alofa, while Kurtley Beale stripped the ball from Jesse Mogg to score their second, and out-half Bernard Foley strode home on the counter-attack courtesy of a Will Skelton assist for their final five-pointer.
Foley added 11 points through three penalties and a conversion, while the Brumbies only scoring involved a try from Henry Speight – who had to retire early in the second half with a hamstring injury – and Christian Lealiifano’s penalty.
Skipper Mowen departs for Montpellier and Director of Rugby will join David Humphreys at Gloucester, but former Leinster coach Cheika will be busy preparing his ‘Tahs for the visit of the experienced Crusaders.
The 47-year-old has sparked major improvements in the Sydney franchise since joining in 2013 and has his side playing a wonderfully effective brand of rugby. In-form players and a home draw give them a strong chance of a first-ever Super Rugby title.
Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read and the rest of Todd Blackadder’s Crusaders will arrive with different ideas and a smart game plan focused on breaking down their Australian opponents.
What could easily be argued as the two best sides in this year’s competition meet in the final in Sydney next Saturday; the occasion should be explosive.