Here we go – the deciders are here. Only two teams can contest the final…. which teams will those be?
Semi-final 1: Crusaders v Cell C Sharks (Saturday 09h35 SA time)
All of the smart money is on the home team here, as one would expect. They’ve had the benefit of a week off and, of course, haven’t had to travel anywhere during the week, unlike the Sharks who only arrived in Christchurch on Monday night and were forced to take all of Tuesday off too, just to recover. Funny things can happen in knock-out games, though, as we’ve seen and we all know our beloved Sharks perform best when their backs are to the wall. Both coaches have picked incredibly strong teams and on any neutral day and venue, you’d be hard pressed to pick a winner based on paper. We’re going to go with the heart over the head here and back our boys to squeak it, just because it’s too damn heartbreaking to contemplate a scenario ending in defeat. Sharks to take the spoils by 2 points.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
Cell C Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Sibusiso Sithole, 23 Tonderai Chavhanga.
Semi-final 2: Waratahs v Brumbies (Saturday 11h40 SA time)
Hard to get as excited about this game, given the awesome one before it. It’s probably safe to assume that the home side will prevail, though, such has been their dominance and form in recent weeks. Waratahs by a comfortable 5 points.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements (from): 16 Tola Latu, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Mitch Chapman, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbon, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 25 Cam Crawford.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Leon Power, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Ruaidhri Murphy, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Pat McCabe.