Super Rugby finals have, over the years, delivered scintillating spectacles. But one man uses the fixture for a place on the legend’s table and wins the trophy for his team.
The Sharks could do with a match-winner when they face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday morning. Below is what you might call, the memo:
1. Bryan Habana – Bulls 20 Sharks 19, 2007
This encounter will always be remembered by the Sharks fans as the day Habana stole the Super 14 title for the Bulls. Substitute lock Albert van den Berg scored a try for the hosts with two minutes left of the game, ‘the fat lady’ has cleared her throat. However a young François Steyn missed an easy conversion, which would’ve put the Sharks eight points clear. After the restart, and across the final hooter, the Bulls mounted an attack that seemed to go on forever, until, to the delight of the away fans, Habana weaved his way through the Sharks defence to dive over for the score that took them to within a point. Derrick Hougaard slotted the conversion for the historic win.
2. Mark Gerrard – Brumbies 47 Crusaders 38, 2004
The Brumbies were explosive in this final and the fourth minute try by Mark Gerrard signalled their intent. 19 minutes into the encounter and the hosts were 33-0 up with Gerrard scoring his second of the match after winning a chase from a George Smith chip-kick. Two minutes into the second half Gerrard out-ran Crusaders Ben Blair from a Stephen Larkham kick though. “Big games are about taking your chances. We took everything,” Brumbies coach David Nucifora said after the game.
3. Daniel Carter – Crusaders 20 Waratahs 12, 2008
It was Robbie Deans’ last game in charge of the Crusaders as he was bound for the Wallabies top job. The Crusaders were out-scored two Lachie Turner tries to one and were 12-11 behind at halftime. But the boot of Daniel Carter shone through in a game that was a defence spectacle. Carter painstakingly slotted four penalties and a drop goal that took the game away from the Waratahs, who failed to trouble the scoreboard in the second half.
4. Carlos Spencer – Blues 21 Crusaders 17, 2003
He dropped a pass in the Blues’ in-goal area that resulted in a try by Crusaders hooker Mark Hammett. Other than that unfortunate moment he was sublime. This was his breakthrough season where he top scored 143 points throughout the whole Super 12 competition. It was his flair however that earned him hero status in this final. He matched Andrew Mehrtens for tactical kicking and distributed like a machine. He contributed four penalties and a conversion to the score line but was majestic in open play.
5. Andrew Mehrtens – Crusaders 20 Brumbies 19, 2000
The Brumbies were in front by two points with three minutes remaining on the clock. Then referee Andre Watson awarded the Crusaders a penalty from 40 metres out. A composed Mehrtens duly slotted the penalty, handing the Crusaders their third Super 12 title in the process.
6. Will Genia – Reds 18 Crusaders 13, 2011
At 13-13 with just over ten minutes of the final remaining, you’re thinking a penalty will break the deadlock. But Will Genia produces a bit of magic. Crusaders spill their own ball, inches inside the Reds half. Genia, the opportunist extrodinaire, recieves a pass at first receiver, darts past a few Cursaders defenders and runs and runs and runs for 50 metres for the decisive touch-down. Cooper was there, obviously, to be the first one to embrace him.
7. Who can do it for the Sharks?
a. JP Pietersen – He’s turned on the style in recent weeks with damn good performances
b. Freddie Michalak – Destroyed the Stormers last weekend and it’s his last game for the Sharks, you can bet he wants to steal the show
c. Bismarck du Plessis – He’s Bismarck du Plessis
d. Willem Alberts – If the Chiefs can stop him, they’ll get close to winning, if not, someone if going to get hurt