Of course, that'd been tougher for me to choose between the Crusaders and the Sharks (and yet?) -so thank you to the Waratahs!
Richie Pic sent by Izzy
Oz pic sent by French Sydney Sider
Thank you, Girls!
Super 14 final a coaching battle of wits
May 25, 2008 - 4:16PM
May 25, 2008 - 4:16PM
It's the ultimate Super 14 final: NSW's departing coach Ewen McKenzie trying to outwit the Crusaders' incoming Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to win world rugby's toughest provincial tournament.
The cagey Deans is leaving the Crusaders on his terms, hoping to lead his champion team to a seventh Super title before starting in the Wallabies coaching position two days after Saturday's dream final in Christchurch.
The meticulous McKenzie, the most successful NSW coach in Super history, is being forced out of the Waratahs after a controversial board decision, yet remains doggedly determined to steer his side to a first-ever tournament triumph.
Even Sharks coach Dick Muir agreed after watching his team succumb 28-13 to the power and will of the Waratahs in Saturday night's semi-final that "it's probably true to say that the best two sides in the competition are in the final. The team that takes their opportunities will win that one," Muir said.
And, as much as he insists the final "is not about individuals but about the sum of the parts", this is one opportunity McKenzie is relishing - the chance for the Australian Super 14 coach of the year to outsmart the man who beat him for the Wallabies job.
"He has obviously been the best coach in the competition," McKenzie said."I can't say what the win-loss record is. The ledger is well and truly in his favour. I look at it as a challenge from a coaching point of view ...if part of that strategy is to try and come up with a win, then that is my contribution to the game.(But) you have to have the players, the belief, the tactics. I think we have done that pretty well. But the Crusaders is the ultimate challenge. To get credibility, you have to be able to beat teams like that."
While the Crusaders dipped in form in the month heading into the playoffs, they shifted gears in a big way to overpower and outclass the Hurricanes 33-22 in Saturday night's first semi-final at Jade Stadium. The end scoreline flattered the Hurricanes, who trailed 33-8 before running in two late consolation tries.
"The Crusaders are the masters of doing what you have to do," McKenzie said."That is a tough game for them. They were coming off a loss. It is a tough local derby. I thought they were very methodical. It was trademark Crusaders. I don't get any confidence out of it. They just have this ability to play ... they find ways to win. That is why they are such a good team."
Deans, in the unusual position of having to coach one team on Saturday and then most likely pick the bulk of the opposition in his first Wallabies squad two days later, was playing down the irony.
"It's going to be another week, which is what we wanted. It's going to be a new week," was all the Crusaders mentor of nine seasons would offer about the emotional content of the coming days."It's just great to have this opportunity, but it's just another week essentially. I'm not sure why you say it's a huge week."
While the Crusaders have lost form hooker Corey Flynn with a broken arm, McKenzie is hoping to have a full contingent of Waratahs available after a receiving a promising medical report.
Key forwards Tatafu Polota-Nau (hand) and David Lyons (hamstring), who both missed the semi-final, and skipper Phil Waugh (cork) and hooker Adam Freier (sternum) have all pulled up better than expected.
The Waratahs, who finished 13th last season following a wretched run with injury, will leave for Christchurch on Wednesday aiming to complete the greatest revival in Super rugby history.
"I feel this is where we are supposed to be. I don't give a stuff about what people say about 2007 - 2007 wasn't us," McKenzie said."The last 12 months has been about us getting us back to where I thought we are good enough to be - in the finals, and we are. I don't feel lucky or whatever, that this is some magical or mystery fairytale. I just feel we should be here (like) we were there in '05, '06."