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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019

Richie McCaw makes return, on the blindside, as Crusaders finally wake up

The All Blacks captain is back in action after a thumb injury while the Sharks have stretched their lead.

Return of the breakdown king: Richie McCaw started at blindside for Crusaders.
Return of the breakdown king: Richie McCaw started at blindside for Crusaders.

ALL IS ROSY in Jake White’s abrasive world again. The Sharks have a five-point breathing space at the top of Super Rugby after an opening win on their crucial Australasian tour.

The Durban-based outfit became the first South African team to win on tour this season with a 22-16 victory over the Melbourne Rebels to lead the southern hemisphere provincial series after 12 rounds. White’s men got full value for their Melbourne win with title rivals the Brumbies and Hurricanes losing.

The Sharks were made to work for their win over the Rebels and scored their only try off a counter-attack through Springbok winger JP Pietersen midway through the second half to hang on for victory. They were indebted to another flawless goalkicking performance from Springbok back Frans Steyn, with five penalties and a conversion from six attempts.

It was a crucial win for the league leaders, who face a tough Australasian tour schedule against the Brumbies, Crusaders and Blues over the next three weeks. This is the Pitersen try that proved the difference-maker:


Brumbies, last year’s finalists and the Sharks closest challengers, were thumped by the rejuvenated Crusaders 40-20 in Christchurch for their third defeat of the season.

A dominant forward pack allowed the Crusaders to stretch their winning run to four games with their comprehensive win over the Brumbies. The Crusaders’ physicality humbled the leading Australian side allowing fly-half Colin Slade to land seven penalties in a match where tries were scarce.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw returned to the Crusaders starting line-up but was given a blindside role as Matt Todd retained the No.7 jersey. The seven-time champions are without a title since 2008 and, with McCaw and Dan Carter absent, struggled at the start of the season. Coach Todd Blackadder will hope their emphatic win will spark a drive for top spot.

The Hurricanes slipped from first to third in the New Zealand conference when they went down 39-30 to the NSW Waratahs in Sydney. The ‘Canes had been the competition’s form team, winning their previous four games, and looked set to continue on their winning way when they exploded to a 24-7 lead after 27 minutes. But the home side fought back to go in at half-time level at 24-all and upped the ante in the second half, scoring two more tries.

Defending champions Waikato Chiefs are back on top of their national conference after defeating South Africa’s Golden Lions 38-8 in Hamilton to move to third overall. Coach Dave Rennie made 14 changes to his matchday squad and although they scored six tries it was not a complete performance from the Chiefs who at times struggled to breach the Lions’ defence. The Chiefs also got in the selfie spirit after their thumping win:

Otago Highlanders joined the Crusaders and Hurricanes on 26 points after picking up two bonus points in their 29-28 loss to the Western Stormers in Cape Town.

The Auckland Blues demolished the fading Queensland Reds 44-14 to secure a bonus-point win and keep their play-off hopes alive at Eden Park. There were a number of fine scores from the Blues as they found their attacking groove. They are the league’s second highest points scorers [on 278, behind Hurricanes' 297] but have shipped 264.

Source: Aotearoa SportsVideos/YouTube

the Northern Bulls edged out the Central Cheetahs 26-21 in their South African derby in Pretoria.

Super Rugby results (Week 12)

  • Blues 44-14 Reds
  • Rebels 16-22 Sharks
  • Crusaders 40-20 Brumbies
  • Chiefs 38-8 Lions
  • Waratahs 39-30 Hurricanes
  • Stormers 29-28 Highlanders
  • Bulls 29-21 Cheetahs

– Additional reporting © AFP, 2014

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Patrick McCarry

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