Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after the Super Rugby semi-finals:
1. Beware of Barrett
Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett was simply sublime in their 25-9 annihilation of the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday.
His instinctive brilliance was evident on numerous occasions as he contributed 15 points, including a try, in his side’s victory.
It was also his eye-catching break that led to the Hurricanes’ first try, which Barrett started with a chip-kick and re-gather just outside his own 22m area. He then sprinted up-field and into the Chiefs’ 22 before off-loading to Willis Halaholo who dotted down.
Barrett also showed his opportunism when he intercepted Sam Cane's stray pass off a lineout to score under the posts.
He will be a handful for the Lions this weekend.
2. Jantjies proving worth on big stage
After Barrett’s heroics earlier in the day, Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies proved he is also a man for the big occasion when he turned in a man-of-the-match performance against the Highlanders.
Not only did the Springbok pivot contribute 22 points, but he was influential in almost all the moves executed by the Lions.
Jantjies ran the show with aplomb and it was also notable how his tactical kicking has improved in recent weeks.
Saturday’s duel with Barrett is sure to be mouth-watering.
3. Why is ‘Canes scrumhalf not banned?
Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara is lucky to not sit out the final after escaping sanction for foul play against the Chiefs.
In the 57th minute of the match in Wellington, Chiefs captain Sam Cane tackled Perenara without the ball in an attempted cleanout at a ruck.
Perenara, who was on the ground, lashed out with both boots and connected with Cane's head.
The All Black scrumhalf showed immediate concern for Cane's welfare, and match officials didn't revisit the incident.
SANZAAR confirmed that there were no citings from either of the weekend’s semi-finals, which means Perenara is free to play in the final against the Lions.
He is a lucky man.
Yes, he did show immediate concern for Cane, but fact is, he kicked an opponent in the face - which amounts to a red card and subsequent suspension!
4. Super Rugby will again have a first-time winner
The competition will have a first-time winner when the Hurricanes duel the Lions in the final.
It’s been a trend for the last number of years now and will again be the case this Saturday.
The Reds won for the first time in 2011, followed by the Chiefs in 2012, before the Waratahs (2014) and Highlanders (2015) also won the competition for the first time.
Lions rugby fans will be quick to remind that the old Transvaal won the Super 10 in 1993, but records from that competition are not calculated by governing body SANZAAR, which was only formed in 1996 when the first Super 12 kicked off.
5. B-team selection to haunt Lions coach?
He may not admit it, but Lions coach Johan Ackermann must be ruing 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.
In my opinion, Ackermann should have rested his frontline players the previous week when they played the Kings at home.
Finishing atop the standings would also have seen them have a somewhat easier quarter-final against the Sharks.
The Lions will go to Wellington as underdogs and it will take a brave man to bet against the high-flying ‘Canes.
History is also against the Lions.
Since the inaugural Super 12 in 1996, only once before has a team crossed the ocean to win a final - when the Crusaders beat the Brumbies in Canberra in 2000.
From a monetary perspective, not hosting the final has also cost the Lions a good few million...