Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

The Armchair Coach: Round 18

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Dane Coles typified the Hurricanes' spirit in a spirited game by hurtling into everything. Photo / Getty Images
Dane Coles typified the Hurricanes' spirit in a spirited game by hurtling into everything. Photo / Getty Images

Which teams and players stood out in the final round of Super 15's regular season?

THE FAB FOUR

Each week the Armchair Coach looks at the four most impressive teams in the Super 15, with a view to their title chances.

1 - CHIEFS
Lost 25 - 28 v Hurricanes, 1st NZC, 2nd overall
Consecutive losses are not a great way to enter the playoffs. But a hard fought finish to the regular season, allied to a good seeding, has them in good stead. The Chiefs lacked belief in their defensive systems at the end in Wellington - the best of teams know how to close out games like that. Set piece questions remain but the Aaron Cruden-Sonny Bill Williams combo is a trump card and livewire halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow is a rising influence.

2 - CRUSADERS
Won 38 - 24 v Force, 2nd NZC, 4th overall

Started energetically against the boring Force but couldn't go on with the job after ringing the changes.

Will have too many aces for the travelling Bulls. The Crusaders' form book is patchy but at full strength, and with Kieran Read back, they are still the competition's yardstick despite a lack of recent titles.

3 - REDS
Won 32 - 16 v Waratahs, 1st AC, 3rd overall

Climbed to third on the weird conference points table system despite finishing sixth. Go figure that. Still, it's good to see last season's shock champions get a chance to defend their title. They will have a much better chance of snaring the title for Australia than the Brumbies, who would only have made up the numbers.

4 - SHARKS
Won 34 - 15 v Cheetahs, 3rd SAC, 6th overall

Started awkwardly against the Cheetahs but powered home and the route to the final is not a scary one from the sixth seeding. The Sharks have the forward power to rumble the Reds in Brisbane despite the significant Suncorp Stadium factor. A local derby against the Stormers would be very winnable.

FORWARD OF THE WEEK
Dane Coles - Hurricanes

The little hooker typified the Hurricanes' spirit in a spirited game by hurtling into everything, even when moved to the loose forwards. Coles has a zappy style for a frontrower which enabled him to make the unusual positional switch and it was no surprise when he came up with the winning, controversial, try.

BACK OF THE WEEK
Tawera Kerr-Barlow - Chiefs

Piri Weepu had a promising showing in Canberra with his ability to draw runners into the game but Kerr-Barlow is breathing down his neck for the second All Blacks halfback spot. The Chiefs No. 9 was electric on defence and attack in the opening stanza against the Hurricanes. It was an exceptional showing although he didn't quite maintain the pace.

THE COACH KILLER
The video ref

For a second week running, a tryline scramble brought the contentious ruling of a try to the Chiefs' opponents. On this occasion, the Hurricanes' try at the death cost the Chiefs the top seeding. The process left most of us confused or bemused and the outcome was highly debatable. Dave Rennie might be excused for screaming at the big screen but the level-headed Chiefs coach made it clear his team had not done all it could to ensure victory. Champion sides tend to nail close games and the Chiefs were also undone by a poor attacking option on fulltime in the previous loss to the Crusaders.

FORM XV
Israel Dagg - Crusaders
Sherwin Stowers - Blues
Conrad Smith - Hurricanes
Ma'a Nonu - Blues
Julian Savea - Hurricanes
Beauden Barrett - Hurricanes
Tawera Kerr-Barlow - Chiefs
Richie McCaw - Crusaders
Tanerau Latimer - Chiefs
Victor Vito - Hurricanes
Luke Romano - Crusaders
Craig Clarke - Chiefs
Ben May - Hurricanes
Dane Coles - Hurricanes
Tony Woodcock - Blues

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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