DURBAN - Darryn Pollock has looked at the top five most important take-aways from the semi-finals of Super Rugby, which saw the Lions and Crusaders advance to the final.
Malcolm Marx is world class
While many have been thinking it, and even some respected pundits have openly stated it, it has now become very apparent that Malcolm Marx is the best hooker in the world game. The burly Lions No 2 is a key player for the Johannesburg side and is the kingpin of their famed forward drive.
He is a bully at the breakdown, a ball carrying behemoth and an all round busy player. For all of these reasons, Marx has made his mark on the game at club and international level and is bound to be a key player in Christchurch, as well as across the Rugby Championship.
Slow burning Lions
The Lions have picked up a habit that may make for some dramatic and heart-stopping rugby, but they need to fix their slow starts with just one game left in the competition. A slow start, and a come-from-behind win, like was witnessed again against the Waratahs in the semifinal, shows that the Lions have the courage to fight back.
But in a final, that kind of unnecessary self-hindrance cannot be tolerated. The Lions will have a lot against them in what could be a wet night, so they cannot afford to help the defending champion Crusaders any more.
Richie Mo’unga shows his brilliance
Richie Mo’unga has always been lurking somewhere in and around the All Black setup. The 24 year old of course has had some stern opposition to come up against to nail down a spot in the national set up with the likes of Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett monopolising the No 10 jersey. However, the Crusaders man showed his class, directly going up against Barrett and walking away with more than just a ticket to the final. Mo’unga, sadly for South Africans, is just another brilliant cog in the All Black machine.
Assistants stepping up
All four of the coaches in the semifinals at the weekend have paid their dues to their respective clubs as assistant coaches. Taking over the reins of the Lions from head coach Johan Ackermann, swys de Bruin and has not let his mentor down, taking them to a third successive final. Daryl Gibson worked under Michael Cheika when the Waratahs won the Super Rugby competition in 2014. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has been in and around the Canterbury and Crusaders set up for some time now and Chris Boyd, a man familiar to Sharks fans, has also done his dues in an assistant role in Wellington for a good few years in the past. This can only be seen as a good thing as it proves there is still strong loyalty, and reward, for these achieving servants of their respective clubs.
Crusaders cannot be beaten
As sad as it is to admit, the battle for the final of Super Rugby will probably not be much of a contest. The Lions have been good this year, but far from their best. And, when they were at their best, and they faced the Crusaders at home in a final last year, they still lost. The Crusaders meanwhile have only gotten better and more polished and look to be almost unbeatable.