Forget the bouts taking place in the Commonwealth Games boxing ring, the real heavyweight contest this weekend takes place at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. It’s the 2014 Super Rugby Final between the Waratahs and Crusaders…and it promises to be a cracker. This week, Red Rugby analyses the head-to-head contests (from 1 to 15) that will ultimately decide this year’s champion outfit.
1. Benn Robinson vs Wyatt Crockett
The first of many showdowns between international players. It’s an Australia prop vs an All Black prop. You’d have to go with the Kiwi wouldn’t you? Crockett. Just.
Verdict: Robinson 7 Crockett 8
2. Tatafu Polata-Nau vs Corey Flynn
Polata-Nau has been a mainstay in the Waratahs side, helping them to their successes in the latter part of the season. Flynn’s appearances for the Canterbury side have been more intermittent. On home soil, the Aussie gets the nod from us.
Verdict: Polata-Nau 7 Flynn 6
3. Sekope Kepu vs Owen Franks
Kepu is obviously a good player. You have to be to be an international prop nowadays. But, turning to the other side of the argument, only two words are needed. Owen. Franks. Might not pull in the full 80 minute shift, but incredibly effective.
Verdict: Kepu 7 Franks 9
4. Jacques Potgieter vs Dominic Bird
Those South African fans disappointed not to have one of their teams in the final will at least be able to cheer Potgieter. He’s against a giant though in the shape of Dominic Bird. That extra half a foot may be the difference in the line-out.
Verdict: Potgieter 7 Bird 8
5. Kane Douglas vs Sam Whitelock
Douglas is Leinster-bound following this final and will want to impress for the ‘Tahs. But Sam Whitelock is a formidable operator and we think the Kiwi has it here.
Verdict: Douglas 7 Whitelock 8
6. Stephen Hoiles vs Richie McCaw
McCaw is just coming back from an injury spell so may not be at his best. That’s probably as good as the news gets for Hoiles who can expect a torrid time at the breakdown.
Verdict: Hoiles 7 McCaw 9
7. Michael Hooper (c) vs Matt Todd
Michael Hooper has been very impressive over the last couple of seasons. He’s stepped out of David Pocock’s shadow on the international stage and taken the captain’s armband for his country. We predict he will have a stormer. Todd – not so much.
Verdict: Hooper 9 Todd 7
8. Wycliff Palu vs Kieran Read (c)
Palu is a talismanic figure for the Waratahs and will be looking to get some early hits in, to lift the home crowd. He’s playing against the IRB Player of the Year though. Close, but Read wins this one.
Verdict: Palu 8 Read 9
9. Nick Phipps vs Andrew Ellis
Phipps has enjoyed his first season in light blue, having left the frustrating Melbourne Rebels at the end of last season. He’s got a tough opponent though in Andrew Ellis who’s a Crusaders player through and through, having been there since 2006. Too close to call this one.
Verdict: Phipps 8 Ellis 8
10. Bernard Foley vs Colin Slade
Put simply, Slade is keeping Dan Carter out of the number 10 shirt. For that reason alone, he tales this battle.
Verdict: Foley 7 Slade 8
11. Rob Horne vs Nemani Nadolo
Nadolo is another flying Fijian winger and will always be dangerous. Horne has the experience though and we expect him to rise to the challenge of a final.
Verdict: Horne 8 Nadolo 7
12. Kurtley Beale vs Daniel Carter
What a showdown this is! It’s only tempered by the news that Beale had to pull out of Friday’s captain’s run with a suspected shoulder injury. If he does make it, he won’t be 100% which is a must against Mr. Carter.
Verdict: Beale 8 Carter 9
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper vs Ryan Crotty
Adam Ashley-Cooper rises to the big occasions. Given the rarity of a Waratahs appearance in a a Super Rugby Final, he will be pumped up to bring home the prize. Beware, Ryan Crotty.
Verdict: Ashley-Cooper 9 Crotty 7
14. Alofa Alofa vs Kieron Fonotia
So good they named him twice, Alofa Alofa will be up against a centre posing as a wing. We think the home side’s 14 shades it.
Verdict: Alofa 8 Fonotia 7
15. Israel Folau vs Israel Dagg
The battle of the Israels. More importantly, a battle between two of the best full-back in the world. Dagg is still phenomenal but he’s had a slight ‘blip’ this season by his own very high standards. Folau continues to impress whenever he runs on to the field of play.
Verdict: Folau 9 Dagg 8
TOTAL SCORES: Waratahs 116 Crusaders 118
Verdict: On paper it’s incredibly close. But, as mentioned last week, home advantage in the final may prove to be crucial. The Waratahs could easily make up that slight difference in class with a vociferous home crowd behind them. But that’s what makes it so interesting. It all kicks off tomorrow, 10.40am BST.