Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.
With both semifinal tips proving bang on the money it has now been three weeks since the eerily prescient Paul made a wrong Super Rugby prediction. He may never be wrong again. His season record stands at 111/141 or 79% going into Saturday’s final. Here’s how he sees it going down.
Hurricanes vs Lions
This has the potential to be one of the best finals the competition has seen, pitting together two very good sides at the top of their game. Both have the necessary attacking mindset and both can defend really hard when required, so whatever happens on Saturday won’t come easy.
Of all recent finals, this one has the most even one-on-ones I can remember. The Lions have a slightly better scrum and probably a better lineout, though the Hurricanes are certainly no mugs. The loose trios are too close to call, but Ardie Savea is the standout individual among the six. The Lions scored more points and more tries this year, but some of that can be attributed to more favourable conditions at Johannesburg, and the Hurricanes aren’t far off the pace anyway.
On the other side, the Hurricanes can defend better – look at their last two Saturdays. The Lions have conceded more tries and more points, but they back themselves to simply outscore any opposition, and in the last couple of months that has been a sound bet.
Two factors sway my decision. The first is travel. Nobody has yet managed to cross the Indian Ocean at any stage of the playoffs and win the title, and there’s a reason for that: it’s a difficult, fatiguing trip. At least the Lions only have to come this way in good shape – it doesn’t really matter what state they’re in going home. Some good teams have tried to beat this hoodoo, but as yet none have managed it.
The other factor is a little more intangible – it was the way the Lions players reacted at the final whistle in Johannesburg on Saturday. I’m not altogether sure they didn’t play their final last week and that just getting to the big game meant they’ve fulfilled all hopes and dreams for the year. That’s not to say I disregard them as a threat, but the difference in demeanour between the two winners was quite noticeable.
So I’m going to stay with my tried and true at finals time, especially when long-distance travel is involved, and go with the Hurricanes to claim their first title after what should be a cracking match. It’s also one of those games where I suspect if the Canes are ahead with 20 to play, and the Lions are forcing the game, errors might lead to points and the final margin might be a bit bigger than the run of play would suggest.
Pick: Hurricanes (13 and over)
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