Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after the Super Rugby final between the Hurricanes and Lions in Wellington:
1. Jantjies horror-show
When Elton Jantjies started the game by kicking off too long to hand the Hurricanes a scrum on halfway, I had an uneasy feeling that it was not going to be his day.
And so it proved.
The Lions pivot left his worst performance of the season for his most important match of the season.
The tough penalty kick he missed early in the game would not have done much for a player who thrives on confidence. He also missed a sitter in the second half to deny the Lions any hope of a comeback, but it was his general play that was the most worrisome.
He dropped several balls, and as Naas Botha said afterwards, played the wrong tactical game in wet conditions.
In conditions like that you simply cannot run the ball from inside your own 22m area.
Jantjies succumbed under pressure and while he did so against a rush defence, his positioning should have been better.
This was not Ellis Park at altitude where Jantjies mostly plays on the front foot.
His inability to adapt in a big game should be of concern for Bok coach Allister Coetzee
2. Barrett masterclass
Jantjies was completely overshadowed by opposite number Beauden Barrett, who contributed 15 points in his side’s 20-3 victory.
Barrett played the right tactical game, knowing when to run and when to kick.
His awareness was also top-notch, as proved when he pounced on a loose lineout ball to score while Lions defenders were to slow to react.
He was unlucky not to get a try assist in the seventh minute after a superb cross-kick for Cory Jane. Play was called back for an earlier knock on, but it showed just how confident Barrett is, even in treacherous conditions.
Unlike his opposite number, Barrett positioned himself deeper in the pocket to have more time on the ball, while his footwork was at times simply sublime.
He should start for the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship.
3. Take your kicks at goal in finals!
Trailing 10-3 late in the first half, the Lions were camping inside the Hurricanes 22 when they were awarded a very kickable penalty.
Instead, skipper Warren Whiteley opted for a scrum.
The Lions seemingly had the upper hand in the scrums up to that point, but the home side responded with their most powerful effort of the game - pushing the Lions backwards before winning a penalty.
It was a decisive point in the match and in hindsight Whiteley will wonder whether going for goal was perhaps not the best option.
The Lions had the wind behind their backs in the second half, and going into the break only four points down would have given them more confidence.
History has shown that in knockout matches it’s wise to take all points on offer.
4. B-team gamble comes back to bite Lions
I’ve written - and criticised - the Lions about this for the last few weeks and in the end it came back bite them.
Coach Johan Ackermann will rue not sending a stronger team to Argentina to face the Jaguares in the final round of regular season action.
The Lions only needed 1 point to top the standings - which would have seen them host the final against the Hurricanes.
Only once before - when the Crusaders beat the Brumbies in Canberra in 2000 - has a team crossed the ocean to win a Super Rugby final.
In my opinion, Ackermann should have rested his frontline players the previous week when they played the Kings at home.
A final at Ellis Park would have been a completely different scenario... and the decision also cost the union a significant amount of revenue it would have generated by hosting the final.
5. Phenomenal ‘Canes defence
After all the talk about how enterprising the Hurricanes were on attack, their impressive defence also deserves plaudits.
Remarkably, they did not concede a try in their three playoff games and only conceded 12 points in 240 minutes of knockout action.
Defence coach John Plumtree should take a bow.