There’s not much in it, but Chiefs are favourites for the title, with the home-ground advantage

2013-08-03 00:00

WHILE it is fair to say that few predicted a Chiefs vs Brumbies Super Rugby final, both sides have displayed a consistent level of performance this season and they both top their respective conferences.

Although we should take nothing away from the above teams, the semi-final results showed just how narrow the margins in Super Rugby are.

By all accounts, the Bulls could and should have won the second semi-final, but the Brumbies once again displayed real patience and composure under pressure.

Owing to home-ground advantage and the emotional pull of sending off a number of stalwarts, the Chiefs are favourites for the final. However, you write off Jake White’s Brumbies at your peril.

As the Canberra-based side showcased against the Bulls, they possess a very solid set-piece, a strong tactical kicking game and game-breakers in their backline who can punish their opponents.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have developed into an extremely well-balanced side. Historically, while they have always embraced an attacking style of play, in the past two seasons in particular, their all-round game has improved markedly.

Dave Rennie’s men have allied discipline, an improved defence and a stronger set-piece with an already potent attacking game. While the Chiefs may no longer boast the mercurial Sonny Bill Williams in their back line, they still possess a real cutting edge on offence.

The Brumbies will be mindful of this significant threat and will need to produce a patient, accurate and disciplined performance if they hope to conquer the defending Super Rugby champions.

For White’s charges to prove successful, they will need to gain territorial ascendancy through an accurate, tactical kicking game. This season, the Brumbies have shown just how patient they are when executing this approach.

The 9-10 axis of Nic White and Matt Toomua has been highly impressive this season, with White in particular coming to the fore. He is a very intelligent rugby player and has the ability to spark the Brumbies.

To counter the Brumbies’ effective tactical kicking game, the Chiefs must follow their instincts and look to launch counterattacks when they have enough numbers at the back. They possess enough steppers in their side who are capable of exposing the Brumbies if their chase line is not sound.

While the Brumbies are, indeed, a street-smart side and have veteran George Smith in imperious form, I believe the Chiefs will be able to cope with the visitor’s threat at the breakdown. Yes, the hosts don’t possess an out-and-out fetcher, but they are an experienced and well-coached side.

However, I have no doubt that the Brumbies will attempt to milk as many penalties as possible at the breakdown. In fact, I foresee a number of penalties awarded early on for both sides. In the first 15 minutes, in particular, Craig Joubert will have to stamp his authority on the game.

Taking everything into account, I’m predicting the Chiefs to win by no more than 10 points, thus securing back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

MY TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT

15. Jesse Mogg (Brumbies), 14. Henry Speight (Brumbies), 13. J.J. Engelbrecht (Bulls), 12. Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 11. Julian Savea (Hurricanes), 10. Dan Carter (Crusaders), 9. Nic White (Brumbies), 8. Kieran Read (captain — Crusaders), 7. George Smith (Brumbies), 6. Liam Messam (Chiefs), 5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders), 2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders).

Substitutes: 16. Stephen Moore (Brumbies), 17. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs), 18. Luke Romano (Crusaders), 19. Ben Mowen (Brumbies), 20. Jano Vermaak (Bulls), 21. Morne Steyn (Bulls), 22. Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies).

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