Being top of the table at this stage of the season almost makes them certainties for at least a semi spot. With only 4 games left before the playoffs, and the last 2 games being at home, even a 50% record in those games would give the Cantabs at least 36 points which history shows should be enough. Of course the team will be hoping for a home semi preferably at the top of the table which would ensure, if they win their semi, a home final. Unfortunately of course having a home semi doesn't necessarily make you favourites come semi-final time. Just ask the Reds and the Stormers last year!
Just a thought about South African rugby at the moment. When you look at their sides filling 4 of the bottom 5 spots you've gotta start thinking of the Tri-Nations.
Now there are enough good players in the 4 teams to make a strong South African 15, especially in the forwards. With guys like Terblanche & Paulse there is talent in the outside backs also. Where they are really really struggling is at 1st five & centre.
With the retirement of Honiball there is just no-one there. Think back to the World Cup. The Bok's almost had him playing in a wheelchair because they knew how important he was to their fortunes. I also can't think of any obvious centres? Even at halfback without Joost they look very thin. It must be a huge concern to the people in the republic. I note the message posted to our discussion board asking the same question.
The game itself is actually very hard to write about. It never rose to any great heights as both teams kept making so many mistakes. It got very frustrating watching them and it must have annoyed both Rob Deans & Steve Hansen. The Crusaders first try was an absolute gem however! Quick hands & deception from Mehrts catching a flying Caleb Ralph on the angle. Brilliant stuff!
One guy to impress me, even though he was replaced at half-time, was Dallas Seymour. I had huge doubts about him having the size to play at No.8 effectively. But the runs he had showed plenty of penetration and thrust. He has been a good openside for Canterbury in the past. I remember in the bad old days of Canterbury rugby both him and Phil Cropper vying for the No.7 spot. They both where good players in an otherwise ordinary team. Cropper has gained notoriety recently with him trying to bride Russell Crowe (kiwi celeb actor of LA Confidential fame) with a video shot from a Gold Coast bar that Cropper co-owns! Shouldn't laugh really! : - )
Looking at the Sharks forward pack there where some impressive guys in there...Ollie Le Roux, Mark Andrews, Wayne Fvyie, all Springboks. But once again the Canterbury forwards came out on top. For a bunch of players whom on paper sometimes don't seem to match up against opposition (remember Cribb didn't start, Feek & Norm Maxwell where out), their gutsy performances continues to impress and inspire.
With the Otago Highlanders limp wristed forward effort against the Blues we could see a Canterbury/Auckland emphasis on this years All Black forward pack. Despite all the hype and obvious promise, Meeuws, Oliver and Hoeft are struggling. These guys should have pasted an aging Dowd & inexperienced (at this level) Heaps. Paul Thomson is the cornerstone of the Blues pack and it may be him really challenging the Otago/All Black front row.
Toddy again showed his leadership skills. With the Cantabs down 17 - 15 the wheels could have fallen off. The fact they didn't is because of Captain-Fantastic! He inspires leadership qualities in others. Look at the way Hammett, Robertson etc stand up week to week. Another to have a top game was Justin Marshall! He was very impressive. When he plays like that his slow pass doesn't matter so much. The charging runs when he spots the gap really takes the pressure of being a playmaker off Mehrts. MacDonald again looked impressive at fullback and good old "Bubs" Mayerholfer a stalwart at 2nd five. Cribb again showed his All Black quality play when he came on.
In conclusion it wasn't a great game. But a win is a win. Especially away from home.