The 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby season came to an abrupt halt for the Cell C Sharks on Saturday morning when they were beaten by 38-6 by the Crusaders in the first semi-final.
The Durbanites would be the first to admit that they were not at their best and unfortunately their opponents, the most successful team in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby, played some of their finest rugby of the season.
The Crusaders will now travel to Sydney to face the Waratahs in the final after the table-toppers from New South Wales were too strong for the Brumbies and won the second semi-final, winning by 26-8.
From a South African perspective, the top points’ scorer for 2014 was the Lions’ Marnitz Boshoff, who finished his debut season with 189 points. He was followed by Frans Steyn of the Cell C Sharks (164), Jacques-Louis Potgieter (Vodacom Bulls, 144) and Johan Goosen (Toyota Cheetahs, 143).
Three players shared the top spot for most tries during 2014 by a South African – Cobus Reinach (Cell C Sharks), Cornal Hendricks (Toyota Cheetahs) and Lionel Mapoe (Lions), all of whom crossed for six five-pointers.
2014 Vodacom Super Rugby Final
Waratah v Crusaders
Date: Saturday 2 August 2014
SA time: 11h40
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Crusaders 38 (16) Cell C Sharks 6 (6)
Experience of playoff matches, last weekends’ bye and the travel factor all played a part in the Cell C Sharks’ defeat at the hand of the Crusaders in the first Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final in Christchurch on Saturday morning.
The New Zealanders were in a rampant mood as they ran in four second-half tries to trump the Cell C Sharks by 38-6. The Crusaders also scored on try before the break.
And although all the factors mentioned earlier played a role, the Cell C Sharks would still have been very disappointed with their execution on the day.
Despite the Cell C Sharks’ struggles early in the match, they were not out of it by the break, with the Crusaders leading by 16-6 with their captain, Kieran Read, scoring the only try of the first half. And it could’ve been 16-9 had Pat Lambie not missed his third penalty attempt.
The visitors’ normally sound kicking game was out of sync and that allowed the Crusaders to control the territorial game.
Apart from not executing their own kicks well enough, the KwaZulu-Natalians also struggled to with the home team’s kicking game, which often resulted in having to scramble back on defence after not being able to control the ball in their own half of the field.
Their set piece play wasn’t much better. The Cell C Sharks’ lineout was also put under immense pressure by the Crusaders and although they scrummed well, the visitors could not get the same kind of ascendancy as they did last weekend against the Highlanders in this facet of play.
As a result, they were under constant pressure. Their discipline held firm, but being on the back foot for most of the match saw the Cell C Sharks commit a slew of unnecessary errors with ball in hand and on defence, which simply meant the pressure never ceased.
Three of the Crusaders’ tries, by Willi Heinz, Johnny McNicholl and Matt Todd, were scored in the final 15 minutes, when the result was basically done and dusted.
Crusaders – Tries: Kieran Read, Nemani Nodolo, Willi Heinz, Johnny McNicholl, Matt Todd. Conversions: Dan Carter (2). Penalty goals: Carter (3).
Cell C Sharks – Penalty goals: Pat Lambie (2).
Other result – Semi-finals:
Waratahs 26 (11) Brumbies 8 (8) (Sydney)
Waratahs – Tries: Kurtley Beale, Alofa Alofa, Bernard Foley. Conversion: Foley. Penalty goals: Foley (3).
Brumbies – Try: Henry Speight. Penalty goal: Christian Lealiifano.