Super Rugby Finals, one and all
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: As we move towards the excitement of the Super Rugby Final of 2017, we thought it would be of interest to some to see what happened in finals past.
We are going back to 1993, which was still the "amateur" era. But we shall do them briefly but every day of the five days we shall do one in detail, as 10 became snappy 12, then 14, then 15 and now unwieldy 18. That gives us five divisions.
Unfortunately the crowds at matches have decreased as the number of teams has increased. Now there is going to be a decrease to 15. It's not last in, first out as Australia is supposed to be going to forfeit a side while South Africa forfeits two. The last arrivals, the Jaguares of Argentina and the Sunwolves of Japan keep their places.
The Crusaders who have won the competition seven times played against New Zealand teams - in other words local derbies - at home in the quarterfinal and the semifinal. For the two matches, a total of 23 000 spectators turned up.
The Lions had 28 000 for their semifinal in that huge stadium but on Monday announced that the final had been sold out. That suggests that there be more than 62 000 spectators at the final.
Like most new competitions in rugby, the Super 10 took a while to catch on. There had been a Super 6 far away in the South Pacific. Then, after South Africa started the process of shaking off the shackles of apartheid, the country came back in international rugby and the Super 10 was started and lasted just three years.
There were 10 teams divided into two sections. Each team played four matches and in the final the winner of the A Section - Auckland - played the winner of the B Section - Transvaal. Modern names would suggest that the Blues played the Lions in Johannesburg. Both finalists were unbeaten in league matches.
There were no quarterfinals and no semifinals. The first match was played on 3 April, the final on 22 May. Super Rugby did not dominate domestic seasons. There was far more interest in the Currie Cup, which Transvaal won, and even the Lion Cup, which Transvaal won.
Transvaal vs Northern Transvaal (now the Bulls), 43-22 in Pretoria
Transvaal vs North Harbour (now in the Blues), 39-13 at Ellis Park
Transvaal vs Waikato (now the Chiefs), 30-15 at Ellis Park
Transvaal vs New South Wales (now the Waratahs), 10-3 in Sydney
Auckland vs Otago (now Highlanders), 63-22 in Dunedin
Auckland vs Queensland (now the Reds), 22-21 in Brisbane
Auckland vs Western Samoa, 18-10 in Auckland
Auckland vs Natal (now the Sharks), 22-6 in Auckland
The teams were packed with current or future Springboks and All Blacks. The Springboks had 14 of those, the All Blacks 13. It was a match of Test standard.
The two captains met again and again. Francois Pienaar was captaining Transvaal and Sean Fitzpatrick Auckland. The next they would oppose each other in New Zealand as the captains of the Springboks and the All Blacks and the year after that they would be the captains again at Ellis Park, this time in the Rugby World Cup Final. Pienaar won in South Africa, Fitzpatrick in New Zealand.
The match was close and right at the end, with Transvaal three points ahead, Auckland came within an ace of scoring the winning try. At half-time, Transvaal led 10-7 and at the final whistle 20-17, just three points separating the teams.
Transvaal scored three tries to two and yet, thanks to Grant Fox's boot they could still have won but for that match-saving tackle.
When people choose a man of the match, it is most often a back, sometimes a loose forward, rarely a lock and almost never a front-row player. But in this match, in the winning of it, it was a hooker who was the star - mobile, skilful, combative Uli Schmidt who had the skill of a back, the strength of a forward and the naughty cheek of every hooker. In this match he scored two tries and at the end as Auckland attacked again and again he brought of a strong tackle on Inga the Winga, the big, strong Va'aiga Tuigamala who was about to score the winning try. Schmidt stopped him dead, got to his feet, picked up the ball and gave it to Hennie le Roux to find the safety of touch.
Tries: Schmidt 2, Pienaar
Con: Van Rensburg
Pen: Van Rensburg
Tries: Tuigamala, Stensness
Cons: Fox 2
Transvaal: Theo van Rensburg, Pieter Hendriks, Bernard Fourie, Japie Mulder, Chris Dirks, Hennie le Roux, Johan Roux, Deon Lötter, Ian Macdonald, Francois Pienaar, Hannes Strydom, Kobus Wiese, Johan le Roux, Uli Schmidt, Balie Swart
Auckland: Shane Howarth, Terry Wright, Eroni Clarke, Lee Stensness, Va'aiga Tuigamala, Grant Fox, Nu Nu'uali'itia, Michael Jones, Mark Carter, Brendan Jackson, who was replaced by Zinzan Brooke, Richard Fromont, Robin Brooke, Olo Brown, Sean Fitzpatrick, Craig Dowd
Referee: Freek Burger
Queensland won both of the other two Super 10 finals, the first in Durban when they beat unbeaten Natal.
Tries: Lea, Scott-Young
Pens: Lynagh 2
Try: Van der Westhuizen
Natal: André Joubert, Cabous van der Westhuizen, Pieter Müller, replaced by Andy Marinos, Jeremy Thomson, replaced by Shaun Payne, James Small, Henry Honiball, Robert du Preez, Gary Teichmann, Andrew Blakeway, Wahl Bartmann (captain), Steve Atherton, John Slade, Adrian Garvey, John Allan, Guy Kebble
Queensland: Matthew Pini, Damian Smith, Jason Little, replaced by Paul Carozza, Tim Horan, replaced by Anthony Herbert, Barry Lea, Michael Lynagh, Peter Slattery (captain), Sam Scott-Young, Ilie Tabua, replaced by John Eales, David Wilson, Rod McCall, Garrick Morgan, Adrian Skeggs, Michael Foley, Cameron Lillicrap
Referee: Glen Wahlstrom
Even in a year when the World Cup was being played in South Africa, there was room for the unobtrusive Super 10.
In this year's Super 10, the star-studded Queensland team were by far the best team and showed in their big win in the final at Ellis Park.
Tries: Connors, Little, Johnstone, Smith
Cons: Eales 2
Con: De Beer
Drops: De Beer 3
Transvaal: Gavin Johnson, Jannie van der Walt, Christiaan Scholtz, replaced by Japie Mulder, Hennie le Roux, Pieter Hendriks, Jannie de Beer, Johan Roux, Rudolf Straeuli (captain), Charles Rossouw, Gerhard Combrinck, Hannes Strydom, Kobus Wiese, Ian Hattingh, Chris Rossouw, Balie Swart
Queensland: Matthew Pini, Damian Smith, Daniel Herbert, Jason Little, Paul Carozza, Paul Kahl, Peter Slattery (captain), replaced by Brett Johnstone, Troy Coker, replaced by Mark Connors, Ilie Tabua, David Wilson, John Eales, Rod McCall, Dan Crowley, replaced by Matt Ryan, Michael Foley, Andrew Blades
Referee: Paddy O'Brien
Then came money and television and the Super 12.
Super Rugby Final Results, 1993 to 2016
1993: Transvaal vs Auckland, 20-17 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1994: Queensland vs Natal, 21-10 at Kings Park, Durban
1995: Queensland vs Transvaal, 30-16 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1996: Auckland vs Natal, 45-21 at Eden Park, Auckland
1997: Auckland Blues vs ACT Brumbies, 23-7 at Eden Park, Auckland
1998: Canterbury Crusaders vs Auckland Blues, 20-13 at Eden Park, Auckland
1999: Canterbury Crusaders vs Otago Highlanders, 24-19 at Carisbrook, Dunedin
2000: Crusaders vs Brumbies, 20-19 at Bruce Stadium, Canberra
2001: Brumbies vs Sharks, 30-6 at Bruce Stadium, Canberra
2002: Crusaders vs Brumbies, 31-13 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
2003: Blues vs Crusaders, 21-17 at Eden Park, Auckland
2004: Brumbies vs Crusaders, 47-38 at Canberra Stadium
2005: Crusaders vs Waratahs, 35-25 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
2006: Crusaders vs Hurricanes, 19-12 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
2007: Bulls vs Sharks, 20-19 at Kings Park, Durban2008: Crusaders vs Waratahs, 20-12 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
2009: Bulls vs Chiefs, 61-17 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2010: Bulls vs Stormers, 24-17 at Orlando Stadium, Soweto
2011: Reds vs Crusaders, 18-13 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
2012: Chiefs vs Sharks, 37-6 at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
2013: Brumbies vs Chiefs, 27-22 at Waikato Stadium
2014: Waratahs vs Crusaders, 33-32 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney
2015: Highlanders vs Hurricanes, 21-14 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington
2016: Hurricanes vs Lions, 20-3 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington
2017: Lions vs Crusaders at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
By Paul Dobson