Two Cents’ takeaways from the Super Rugby final from an All Blacks angle : PlanetRugby
With Super Rugby Pacific having ended and Test action on the horizon, Two Cents Rugby picks five takeaways from the Chiefs v Crusaders final from an All Blacks perspective.
It was some game between the New Zealand sides in Hamilton and with the Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup looming large, the YouTube star put on his international hat for us.
All Blacks takeaways from Super Rugby Pacific final
Scott Barrett is a lock
Crusaders lock Scott Barrett was at his dynamic best in the final, further highlighting how well he plays in the second-row.
Barrett was the Crusaders’ top tackler with a huge 18 from 18, beating even tackling machine Tom Christie. He also busied himself at lineout time, taking three on their own throw and crucially helping disrupt the Chiefs lineout ball. His carrying game is fine for a lock, nine runs for 18 metres, but that’s not really the kind of impact you’d want from one of your loose forwards.
The All Blacks have used him on the blindside at least once or twice every season since 2019, but it’s clearly not his best position. Let’s keep Barrett in the engine room.
Full-backs can be specialists
The All Blacks have played a variety of utilities at full-back over the last few years.
It’s not since the Ben Smith era that we really saw a specialist full-back selected in black. However, Will Jordan and Shaun Stevenson have been outstanding in 2023, and both have been specialists at 15 (Stevenson started one game on the wing).
The pair demonstrated in the final and throughout the season their ability to attack. The final only had five clean breaks, with both full-backs notching up two.
They also showed an ability to bring other players into the game as playmakers in their own right. Stevenson set up a try in the final while Jordan set up more tries than he finished this season.
Add to that both having able kicking games from the back, it’s time to see a full-back at full-back.
Even the best can lose their cool
With a Rugby World Cup on the horizon, the threat of one rash play leading to a costly yellow or red card remains a worry for fans and coaches alike.
The Chiefs ended up copping three yellows in the final, highlighting the importance of discipline, especially as the Crusaders scored directly after both Luke Jacobson and Sam Cane’s cards.
However, no yellow was worse than Anton Lienert-Brown’s clash with Dallas McLeod early in the first half. Having just gone down three points early on, the Chiefs midfielder clearly wanted to make an impact by pressuring the receiver, but got it all wrong. Coming in fast and far too upright, his head on head clash saw McLeod leave and fail and HIA. He was lucky not to be red carded.
For a guy with more than 100 Super Rugby and 50 Test caps to get this so wrong, there is clearly more to do for the coaches minimise the risk of this kind of error.
Richie Mo’unga and Damian McKenzie are the form 10s
It was fitting to see Richie Mo’unga and Damian McKenzie battle it out in a final, given both have played some incredible attacking rugby this year.
The third man in the mix from the All Blacks squad is Beauden Barrett and it’s hard to see him getting a start with the form the other two are in, especially when you consider McKenzie can cover full-back if he were to be deployed from the bench.
Barrett is a World Cup winner and former World Player of the Year, but it’ll be interesting to see how far his reputation carries him in terms of selection. More interesting still to see if, when given the chance which he’s sure to get, he can play himself into the kind of form to really push for a starting role. Foster may just push him to full-back either way.
A good maul can win games
The Chiefs scored one slick set-piece scrum try, and had another cracker denied from a fantastic lineout move. For the Crusaders, two of their tries came from mauls when their opponent was down to 14 men.
From an All Blacks perspective, last year New Zealand didn’t manage any maul tries against teams like Ireland or South Africa, but did manage a handful against teams like Australia, Argentina and Wales.
With some undoubtably tight Test matches on the cards, the All Blacks will need to take a leaf out of the Crusaders book and be able to convert, even if it’s not pretty, from five metres out.
READ MORE: Crusaders claim seventh straight Super Rugby title as Chiefs edged in Hamilton