There is little left to say, with the Grand Final Super Saturday engrossing rugby fans in the Southern Hemisphere. With the game a mere few hours away, this is it. Two teams, 80 minutes and so much anticipation to hold the attention of fans on both continents.
The two teams are deep into preparations – the Crusaders more comfortable in their own beds – with the Jaguares (see main picture) now settled into Christchurch after their long haul flight from Argentina. Some may consider that a factor, yet with the professionalism and the recent positive history of the South American traveling side, it is not ‘as critical’ as it might have been four years ago.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 5, 2019
So with the confidence earned through the best season in the franchise’s short history, the team from Buenos Aires are a fighting chance. And that is so good for the sport. So good for Super Rugby, and a challenge for the title-holding champions, Crusaders.
Yet, there is more than just Super Rugby to hold fans attention.
The International Women’s Super Series in San Diego continues, with Round Three fixtures between France and New Zealand, and Canada v England.
Add to that plenty of club rugby, where a small handful of All Blacks have been afforded release to represent their grassroots clubs. That will add to the ‘Super Saturday’ feeling down under, and boost International and domestic women’s and men’s rugby interest.
Super Saturday – Grand Final time
Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett have been removed through injury for the home side. Big blows, with their replacements fitting – but inserts. How Scott Robertson can coerce the best out of Mitchell Dunshea and the newly named All Blacks training squad member Braydon Ennor will both be eager to share in the excitement of ‘grand final’ week. Season campaigner Matt Todd put it eloquently;
“It’s an exciting week, it’s a week you work all year for,” Matt Todd said.
THE FINAL – STAT ATTACK
Some of the world's best players will take the field on Saturday in Christchurch… debutants 🇦🇷 @JaguaresARG versus nine-time champions 🇳🇿 @crusadersrugby
KO: ARG 04:35; GMT 07:35; RSA 09:35; JAP 16:35; AUS 17:35; NZ 19:35 pic.twitter.com/P4LueWL0sK
— Super Rugby/TRC (@SuperRugby) July 5, 2019
For veterans on both sides, their experience will play a huge part. On the Jaguares part, they have ample International experience as well as domestic competition; Premiership/European Preofessional rugby clubs and Los Pumas. Their backline is an MVP lieup, and captain Jeronimo de la Fuente said his team were talking about how to play their best rugby, at the peak of the season.
“We are not going to change the way we play. We have based it on us, not the opposition. Our game will be the same as we have built on throughout the season,” he said.
The circumstance may be more comfortable for a side who have won the last two finals, have won every one of their home playoff games and currently enjoy a 30 game unbeaten streak at home [including drawn results]. Relaxed, and ready for a ‘Sold Out’ crowd to cheer them on.
Not insurmountable, but one heck of a challenge. The Jaguares would do well to better those odds – but you would be wise to fear the bite of this team. winning away is now an achievement they have replicated more often. There is nothing to stop them from doing that again at 7:35pm, Saturday night in Christchurch.
San Diego set to for Women’s Super Saturday fixtures
The women’s fixtures will be played in San Diego. This means while it will be a ‘Super Saturday’ in California, the time difference will see matches played live on Sunday morning – only a limitation in global positioning, but many New Zealand fans will enjoy watching some women’s International rugby with their breakfast.
The Best Teams On Earth.🌎
Don't miss a second. ⏰ pic.twitter.com/vQ7uzdUMTG
— FloRugby (@FloRugby) June 24, 2019
France v New Zealand; this game is an important step for the World Champion Black Ferns. Their third clash in a week, which is a test of stamina. How well the players respond, will show if they were conditioned; much like the French women will also be judged. Matches back-to-back-to-back are demanding, so the full 80 minutes will determine who triumphs.
If the French team can hold some parity with the NZ girls, then it might play into their hands late in the game. Yet with the experience of the Black Ferns, the expectation must be that New Zealand will add a third victory to their Super Series tally.
The other fixture pits Canada against arguably the next-best women’s team. Arguable because France, the USA and Canada have targeted this series. The North American women especially, with some much needed hometwon support, could be empowered like never before.
To combat that, the Six Nations champion English women must be structured, balanced in defence and attack, but also wishing to display the best elements of their side. Scrummaging and mauling aside, the Red Roses backline could be encouraged to really put on a Super Saturday display in San Diego.
Club Rugby benefit, with All Blacks released
The following All Blacks have been released to play for their clubs, if required: Karl Tu’inukuafe (Takapuna), Ofa Tuungafasi (Grammar TEC), Patrick Tuipulotu and Rieko Ioane (Ponsonby), Dalton Papalii (Pakuranga), Brodie Retallick (Central Hawke’s Bay) and Luke Jacobson (Hautapu).
Not only will this assist in the conditioning of players – many who did not make the Super Rugby playoffs are due for a hit-out – but it will be a boost for the Club rugby revenue stream.
As seen by past experiences; Dan Carter playing for Southbridge, Richie McCaw playing for Christchurch Football Club in 2009, and a handful of others, this ‘mass release’ is a positive for attendance forecasts at club level. Sonny Bill Williams played for Ponsonby last weekend, and over a 1000 fans and media descended on the Grammar Tech ground.
That means more attention, motivation for club mates and opposition players, as well as sales of hot dogs and drinks in the club’s bars. Positives for some like Central Hawke’s Bay, where Brodie Retallick will get his boots dirty for the first time in many years.
Then, once the Club games have ended, fans can return home for dinner and turn their attention directly onto the Super Rugby Grand Final. It is the height of the season, the pinnacle match and should be a fantastic fixture, with the visitors hoping to put up a challenge that South American rugby fans can be proud of.
But, if the game does go the way the pundits are picking, then Scott Robertson will be pulling out his breakdancing moves, as Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock hoists the trophy above his head for the third time in a row.
Crusaders v Jaguares – 7:35pm (NZT) Orange Theory Stadium
“Main photo credit”
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