The Super Rugby final next weekend will be held in Hamilton. The Herald on Sunday explains why:
The Chiefs will host the Super 15 final for the first time after the Sharks upset the Stormers in the second semifinal this morning.The Sharks held off a late fight by the Stormers to win 26-19 thanks to tries from JP Pietersen and Louis Ludik.Frederic Michalak finished with 16 points for the Sharks including two drop goals.The game looked over when Pietersen's try put the Sharks ahead by 14 points with 20 minutes remaining, but Gio Aplon's score for the Stormers seven minutes later set up a thrilling finish at Newlands.The home side pushed for the try that would have leveled the scores even after the final hooter had sounded, but the Sharks held on.
That's a fantastic result in terms of the match being played in New Zealand, and the Chiefs having home advantage. But spare a thought for their opponents next week.
In the last fortnight, and excepting connecting flights the Sharks' travel schedule has seen them go from Durban to Brisbane to Cape Town and now to Hamilton. At least the air points gathered will allow a holiday somewhere later on!
But seriously, it's a gruelling schedule. And having been to South Africa a few times, we know from personal experience that it was always the flight towards New Zealand that was the toughest to recover from, where you are flying against the time zones.
In contrast, the Chiefs haven't left Hamilton during the playoffs, and had a week off for finishing in the top two. They looked refreshed against the Crusaders, and we're sure that helped them defend like men possessed in the closing minutes where the Crusaders were unable to move the ball forward to set Daniel Carter up for a dropped goal. They'll have another full-on week this week on the training field, but will have the luxury of going home at the end of each day to their families and their own beds; that's a big advantage in the lead-up to the Grand Final.