Sydney - In a weekend of memorable rugby moments, one of the best came in the final minute of an exceptional Crusaders win over the Stormers.
The television cameras panned to Springboks coach Peter de Villiers in the crowd, and he looked devastated. He was resting his head on his right hand and glumly staring into space. The reason for his discomfort was simple. He had just witnessed his best South African provincial team on their home turf clinically disposed of by the core of the All Blacks Test line-up.
According to Rugby Heaven
columnist Greg Growden
, his despair also would have something to do with what occurred in the first half. De Villiers is renowned for making baffling comments, and one of his most ridiculous occurred some weeks ago when he targeted Sonny Bill Williams. He described Williams's keenness to offload in the tackle as "nonsense
" and a bad example
for young players.
Cue ahead to the 34th minute, and Williams was tackled by the Stormers No 8 Nick Koster and centre Jaque Fourie. But before crashing into the turf Williams succeeded in offloading the pass to his centre partner, Robbie Fruean, who went on to score to give the Crusaders a 20-point lead. End of semi-final.
As Fruean grounded the ball, the South African TV commentator remarked: "Brilliant piece of rugby. You can say what you like about offloads - dangerous or not - that's the kind of rugby that stops kids from going to the movies."
You also knew this wouldn't be the last time in this Rugby World Cup season that Sonny Bill would make De Villiers look silly.
While De Villiers will probably try to turn this negative into something positive by saying it will give the South African contingent an extra week of rest before the Tri-Nations begins, Australia and New Zealand can prime themselves for a great Super Rugby final.
It doesn't get any better than this. In one corner are the Reds, who have revitalised Australian rugby through their willingness to be different, as well as having the courage to continually stretch the barriers.
They have shown the way and reminded all that speed is imperative, that you don't have to be dour to be victors and it is so much better if you take a risk.
In the other corner are the Crusaders, who continually astound. In particular, how they overcame all the nightmares of a quick trip to South Africa and got it together perfectly against the Stormers.
Both finalists are also united in having to overcome disaster in recent times. The physical and psychological effects of the Christchurch earthquake will take decades to overcome and it has forced the Crusaders to become rugby gypsies, playing here, there and everywhere. Their travel itinerary has been a nightmare, but they have never complained. The players say with pride they represent a community that has been under so much stress and, in such trying times, must remain stoic. In that traditional, hard, roll-your-sleeves-up New Zealand South Island manner, they have. They deserve endless praise.
The Reds have also overcome pain. It must be remembered that not that long ago Suncorp Stadium was under water, hit by the massive floods that swept through Brisbane.
During that time the Reds were sighted filling sandbags around town and helping out. The bond between the Reds and the Brisbane community became even stronger.
A Reds v Crusaders final involves the two best teams in the competition who play the most invigorating, compelling form of football. A classic final is in the offing.