SUPER RUGBY 2017 SEMI FINALS - Green and Gold Rugby



Semi Final week sees the Hurricanes and Chiefs traversing the Indian Ocean in opposite directions to take on the Lions and Crusaders, respectively.

Oddly enough, under the semi final model used until this year the match-ups would have been reversed. In addressing the logistical issue of quarter final winners having up to four possible semi final destinations, therefore, SANZAAR have inadvertently handed them an even greater travel burden.

In the 21 years of Super Rugby 14 teams have crossed the Indian Ocean following a playoff win, with only three also winning the following week. In each of those cases the second win was in South Africa, and was followed by a loss upon returning to Australasia.

Read more about this phenomenon here:


The Crusaders have named a 23 unchanged from that which saw off the Highlanders last week, Seta Tamanivalu and Matt Todd recovering from minor injuries to take their places on the wing and side of the scrum, respectively.

The Chiefs have made two changes, Charlie Ngatai replacing Stephen Donald in the centres and wing Tim Nanai-Williams being promoted from the bench. Both have had injury-affected seasons but having not played in Cape Town last week will at least be fresh.

This will be the third Semi Final between the two, the Chiefs having won 20-17 in 2012 and 20-19 in 2013, albeit both were in Hamilton. Most recently the two met in Round 13, the Crusaders winning 31-24.

Christchurch is due for another wet and cold Saturday night, not so wet as last week but somewhat colder. That obviously makes their formidable forward pack once again pivotal to their prospects. Often overlooked, though, is their superb defence both close to the ruck and in the midfield where Ryan Crotty has established himself as the best defensive organiser in the New Zealand conference.

The Chiefs have a definite edge in the backs, with Damian McKenzie arguably New Zealand’s Super Rugby player of the year and James Lowe not far behind. The forwards generally play above their vital statistics – none more so than lock Mitchell Brown – with lock Brodie Retallick and hooker Nathan Harris being key to ensuring the backs receive enough ball to cut loose.

History tells us that no team has managed to win a playoff match in South Africa one week and another in Australasia the next. That looks unlikely to change.

Crusaders by six.

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody. Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown , 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mitchell Brown, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames. Substitutes: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Shaun Stevenson

Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner, Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Glenn Newman



The Lions will field the same 23 that scraped home against the Sharks last week. There was talk of fit-again Springbok centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg being promoted from the bench to combat the ‘Canes big midfield, but coach Ackermann has opted to reward Harold Vorster for his fine recent form.

The Hurricanes have made two changes. Hooker and captain Dane Coles will make his first run-on in nearly four months and in doing so bring up 100 appearances. Centre Vince Aso is back after two weeks out, pushing Jordie Barrett back to fullback, Nehe Milner-Skudder to the wing, and Julian Savea to the bench.

The teams haven’t previously met this season, but the Hurricanes won both matches played last year, 50-17 in Johannesburg during the regular season and 20-3 at home in the Final. Overall they’ve met on 18 occasions with the Hurricanes winning 15, including five from eight in Johannesburg.

It’s hard to gauge just how good the Lions actually are with them not having played any of the New Zealand sides this year. Even Joel Stransky thinks that will count against them, as it did the Stormers last year. The counter-argument, of course, is that the Lions will be something of an unknown quantity and may present the ‘Canes with some unexpected challenges.

The Hurricanes like to score tries and have the backs to do it plus the forwards to provide sufficient ball for the Barrett brothers in particular to weave some magic. What sometimes gets overlooked is that they’re also a well-organised, aggressive defensive unit, too, with Brad Shields, Ardie Savea and Vaea Fifita just three of the heavy hitters in and around the ruck, and Ngani Laumape fast earning comparisons to Ma’a Nonu a little further out.

Australasian sides are four from eleven in playoffs in South Africa and the Hurricanes have the all round game to extend that record.

Hurricanes by eight.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen. Substitutes: 16 Akker vd Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza

Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Ben May. Substitutes: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Julian Savea

Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Marius Jonker

  • Tomthusiasm

    Good write up, I’m looking forward to the CRU vs CHI as an impartial observer. I’m hoping the Canes can tip up the Lions, neither team played their best last week but still managed to win. I think Jantjies looked a bit shell shocked last week so we’ll see how he responds this weekend. It would be massive for the Lions to send their coach out with a title so this should be a hard fought battle.

    • John Tynan

      Make sure you let Pearcewreck know up above

      • Pearcewreck

        Oh I can see his comment thanks John.
        I also noticed how few comments there are on this post, which that suggests even diehard GAGR’s don’t care.

        • John Tynan

          Just trying to help!

        • Pearcewreck

          Thanks mate.
          GAGR on and have a good weekend.

        • first time long time

          I’ll be watching mate but you are right… I don’t care.
          Hang in there Peacewreck, we Aussies will be back… It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.

        • Kiwi rugby lover


        • Rupert

          In regards to your comment about how few comments there are, the diehards on GAGR obviously don’t care about the following either:
          Schoolboy rugby (no more than 9 comments on any of the pieces on the front page)
          Women’s sevens (even fewer comments)
          The NRC draw (9 comments)
          Shute Shield (2 comments, 1 comment)
          etc etc.
          Maybe the authors of all these pieces should just not bother because, as you pointed out, people aren’t commenting so obviously don’t care.
          Personally I read a lot of the stories but don’t usually feel the need to comment on them. Doesn’t mean I don’t care.

        • Pearcewreck

          Fair enough Rupert, but Super Rugby is meant to be the flagship week in week out competition.
          Those others aren’t. They are largely amateur.
          To be a professional competition, you have to engage the masses.
          It seems to me these semi finals are definitely not engaging the masses in Aust.
          Happy to be proven wrong, but lets analyse the TV ratings on Monday to see how they rated in Aust as a guide.

          Also, my comment about lack of comments is not meant as criticism of the person posting the story.
          I am constantly impressed by the quality of stories posted on this site.
          My comments are, however, a criticism of Super Rugby.

        • Mica

          Ditto to your last point.
          If I have nothing to add, I won’t comment.
          Except in this comment of course. :)

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Well said mate. The finals of club rugby got 6000 odd people. Really good and meant to show how people care about that more than Super Rugby. Worst attendance ever at a Tahs match was almost twice as much

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Go the Canes!!

  • Pearcewreck

    One of the many problems with Super Rugby is that NZ teams always win it, so the country with the smallest population and the smallest room for growth always benefits from winning.
    Hopefully, for the good of the game the Lions can win the tittle, or at least host the final.
    Also, many fans are so bored with NZ tams winning it all the time, we really need something different.
    One of the major problems with Super Rugby is that no-one is Aust will even know or care about these finals.

    • John Tynan

      Speaking for yourself of course, old mate.
      I’m as much a rugby fan as a Reds fan, I’ll be watching.

      • Pearcewreck

        You are in a ever shrinking minority unfortunately John.
        Imagine if we had an all Aussie club competition playing finals now, it would get way more coverage than this will.
        And good luck to you, what time is the Lions v Hurricanes match on?

        • John Tynan

          I just need to look at how much swinging room I’ve got at Lang Park to know the first sentence is unfortunately true!

          As for your last sentence, Electronic Program Guide and a Foxtel box, all under control!

        • Miss Rugby

          I’ll be watching too. The 4 teams in the semis all play some great rugby, just because I’m Australian doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate good rugby, even when its being played by other countries.
          As for the time of the Lions hurricanes match – as it says in the heading of that particular preview above LIONS V HURRICANES IN JOHANNESBURG – 22:30 AEST SATURDAY
          10:30pm on a Saturday night is very watchable. Over and done with not long after midnight which is, to be honest, an early night for me.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Bit harsh mate. Another option is For Australian rugby to stop its in fighting and work to get her to produce teams to challenge NZ and SA teams.

  • Pearcewreck

    On second reading, the Lions v Hurricanes preview above reads more like a Hurricanes tribute piece.

  • formerflanker

    Chiefs to spring an upset over the Crusaders.


a.k.a. Waiopehu Oldboy.

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