No
wonder Wendell Sailor only sent his coach a text message before disappearing
north under a drug cloud – he might have realised how much he had blown for
everyone at the Waratahs.

NSW
Rugby isn’t saying Sailor’s sudden pre-match dumping cost them the game against
the Hurricanes – and the home ground advantage in Friday’s semi-final – but Ben
Kimber
pretty much does in The SMH and Greg Growden spells out the wider cost.

Staging
the semi would have been worth a couple of million dollars to NSW as well as
providing a significantly improved chance of making the final that will almost
certainly be against the Crusaders in Christchurch the following week.

It
will be hard enough to turn around after Saturday night’s loss to beat the
Hurricanes in Wellington, but the
odds of beating the two top Kiwi teams on their home grounds on consecutive
weekends are extremely long. Should the Tahs bring that off, I’ll wear a sky
blue jersey to next year’s Queensland v NSW match.

With
the exception of a couple of lapses of concentration against weak teams, the
efficiency, confidence and talent of the Crusaders throughout the season
already has one red-and-black paw on the Super 14 trophy. It’s a surprise and a
disappointment that South Africa’s Bulls
squeezed into the fourth spot – the Brumbies did win one more game than either the
Bulls or Sharks – and that’s just made the Crusaders’ path easier.

The
Brumbies at full strength – as they would have been next weekend – probably had
the best chance of any team of upsetting the Crusaders. The Brumbies on Friday
night though, without Gregan, Larkam and Gitteau, were brave defenders but
never looked like having any attacking rhythm or command.

So
after 14 weeks, the Super 14 finishes up with the same semi-finalists as last
year – and probably the same winner.

As
for Sailor, there will always be doubt about whether he ever should have been
picked for the Wallabies and he certainly wouldn’t have been the team this
year. He just leaves Australian rugby letting down the Waratahs.

Peter Fray

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