Jamie Wall takes a look back at some classic Super Rugby semifinals ahead of this weekend’s showdowns between the Hurricanes and Chiefs, and the Lions and Highlanders.
You’d be hard-pressed to wipe the smirk off the faces of SANZAAR bosses after last weekend’s set of results. Despite the convoluted conference system, we are now left with the four best teams in the competition.
The consensus is that both games this weekend will be great to watch, which hasn’t always been the case for previous Super Rugby semifinals.
Here are a few of the most entertaining semifinal matches of the past few years – the benchmark for this weekend’s games.
2009: Bulls 36 Crusaders 23
The Bulls were the dominant force in the competition back at the turn of the last decade, and this was pretty much summed up by the last play before halftime: after turning around a 13-point deficit to draw level at 20-all, Pierre Spies carved off an insane 70-metre run to rip the heart out of the Crusaders. Morne Steyn then trampled it into oblivion with four drop goals.
What happened the weekend after: This was the warm up for the biggest ever finals beat down in Super Rugby history, with the Bulls destroying the Chiefs 61-17.
2011: Reds 30 Blues 13
Half an hour into this one Quade Cooper pulled out a flat-out filthy move that more or less started Lachie Munro thinking about a French rugby contract before he’d even hit the ground. The eventual Ben Tapuai try, plus a hat trick to ‘Rocket’ Rod Davies, propelled the Reds to a commanding win in their high water mark season of Super Rugby.
What happened the weekend after: Despite conceding an early Dan Carter try, the Reds held their nerve to mount a comeback in a tense match. Will Genia’s 67th minute miracle try meant the they prevailed 18-13.
2012: Chiefs 20 Crusaders 17
Someone must’ve slipped the angry pills into both sets of water bottles, because a number of scuffles broke out in the first half. More notable was the performance of Sonny Bill Williams in this one, playing a leading hand in the Chiefs’ crucial second try. Dan Carter fell victim to the dastardly cow bells of Waikato Stadium – his late penalty attempt to tie the game up falling just short.
What happened the weekend after: The Sharks have made a habit of not showing up to important finals matches over the years, and this one was no exception. It was all Chiefs from start to finish as they cruised home 37-6.
2013: Brumbies 26 Bulls 23
The heavily fancied Bulls had to go punch-for-punch with the plucky Brumbies, who got the first try through an outrageous Henry Speight offload. A Bulls bench player got himself involved in the game for all the wrong reasons by interfering with a kick to touch – maybe it was the karma from his bad sportsmanship that saw Tevita Kuridrani score the winning try three minutes from full time.
What happened the weekend after: The Brumbies kept up their good form and were leading the Chiefs 22-12 an hour into the final. However, their defence cracked allowing Robbie Robinson (of all people) to score the go ahead try and eventually lose 27-22.
2015: Highlanders 35 Waratahs 17
Easily the most controversial game on our list, it seemed that the Highlanders had every call go their way en route to a famous upset. First a very offside Aaron Smith scored to draw level with the Tahs, than an incredibly debatable penalty try put them into a lead they never gave up. To say it took the wind out of the Tahs’ sails is an understatement – they were never in it after the biggest call in Super Rugby semi final history.
What happened the weekend after: If the semi final was a bit of an upset, the final was very much the complete version. Much to the dismay of Hurricanes fans, the Highlanders got another questionable try allowed to help them go on and win 21-14.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now