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, is 13-14 with a 3.69 ERA in 39 starts with the Twi

  • December 18, 2017 12:22 PM GMT

    After 17 regular season rounds and two weeks of playoffs, Super Rugby has arrived at its finale. Fortunately SANZAAR powerbrokers can breathe easy, as the two best teams have won through to the decider despite a horribly inequitable draw. The Hurricanes and Lions have played some outstanding rugby this season and, crucially, looked to have peaked at exactly the right moment.The Hurricanes season began with an embarrassing 52-10 defeat by the Brumbies, a loss that immediately raised doubts over their potential to challenge for the title without Maa Nonu and Conrad Smith. A narrow loss to the Highlanders followed a week later before Chris Boyds side finally hit their straps, winning 11 or their last 13 - including a 50-17 thumping of the Lions in Johannesburg - to claim top spot at the end of the regular season.While the Hurricanes finished with a flourish, it was clear the Lions would be South Africas only genuine title contenders from the outset. The Joburg side began their campaign in Tokyo before a win over the Chiefs, in Hamilton, really got their season rolling. There were slip-ups against both the Hurricanes and Crusaders at home, but victories over the Blues and Highlanders (semifinal) showed theyve got the game that belongs at the tail end of the season.SquadsHurricanes: James Marshall, Cory Jane, Matt Proctor, Willis Halaholo, Jason Woodward, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara (captain), Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Ben May,Dane Coles (captain )/Ricky Riccitelli, Loni Uhila Replacements: Ricky Riccitelli/Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Reggie Goodes/Mike Kainga, Mark Abbott, Tony Lamborn, Jamison Gibson Park, Vince Aso, Julian Savea.Hurricanes captain Dane Coles has been bracketed for the Super Rugby final at a sold-out Westpac Stadium. If he is fit to play, he will be the only change to the team that started the semifinal win over the Chiefs last weekend. Ricky Riccitelli, who started at hooker against the Chiefs, has once again been bracketed with his skipper for the final, while there are also two late calls to be made in the reserves. Openside Callum Gibbins, who missed the semifinal with an Achilles injury, has once again been bracketed with Tony Lamborn, while prop Reggie Goodes has also been bracketed with Mike Kainga as he continues to work through concussion protocols. Colesy has made good progress each day and clearly hes very keen to play in the final, Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said. He will do everything he can to be fit for kick-off and if he doesnt make it then we have every confidence Ricky and Leni step up and do a good job if required. Its a similar situation on the bench where were very fortunate to have some quality depth should Callum or Reggie not be able to prove their fitness in time. We will give them all as much time as they need before making the final call.Lions: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Courtnal Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Faf De Klerk; Warren Whiteley (c), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Julian Redelinghuys, Malcolm Marx, Dylon Smith. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Lourens Erasmus, Ruan Ackermann, Ross Cronje, Howard Mnisi, Jaco van der Walt.After missing the Lions semifinal triumph over the Highlanders, Lions skipper Warren Whiteley is back to lead his franchise in its maiden Super Rugby decider. The side is otherwise unchanged from last week, giving the South Africans great familiarity across the paddock.?Weve learnt a lot in the last couple of years and were fortunate enough to have a lot of continuity in the squad, Whiteley said. Weve learnt how to make the best of hard tours and have fun.Key matchup: Beauden Barrett vs. Elton JantjiesThe battle at No.10 is central to every rugby contest, but it takes on greater significance this week given the sensational recent form of both Beauden Barrett and Elton Jantjies.Barrett has long been regarded as a classy pivot, but the Taranaki native has taken his game to new levels this season by a coming up with a series of brilliant individual plays that highlight the gulf in skill between New Zealands playmakers and those in other parts of the world. But he has also developed a greater control of the finer points of fly-half play, and the ability to guide his team around paddock - something he did superbly in cyclonic conditions in Wellington two weeks ago. He may just be the best player on the planet right now, though that may not even be enough to see him don the All Blacks No.10 jersey in Bledisloe I.Much of the same can be said for Jantjies. A player of immense ability, the Lions pivot has taken a little longer to fulfil his potential; but buoyed by a Test return against Ireland last month, the 26-year-old fly-half really has the Lions humming. Blessed with a big left boot and a slick passing game, Jantjies has been at the heart of the Lions entertaining and free-running approach - evidenced by the two try-assists he laid on against the Highlanders last week.Key stats (Opta Stats)- The Hurricanes have won nine of their 10 encounters with the Lions in Super Rugby, including each of their last seven. In those last seven wins they have beaten the South African side by an average of 15.3 points per game.- Not since 2012 has a Super Rugby final been decided by more than the value of a converted try (Chiefs 37-6 Sharks).- This final pitches the best attack against the best defence, the Lions have averaged a competition high 36.4 points and 4.8 tries per game whilst the Hurricanes have conceded a league low 19 points per game.- The Lions (25) and Hurricanes (23) have scored the second and third most tries from possessions originating in their own half respectively this season, only the Crusaders (26) have scored more.WeatherKnown for its wind and rain, Wellington is expecting some slippery conditions throughout most of Saturday. The New Zealand capital will only hit a top of nine degrees during the day, but expect that to drop a few notches by the time kick-off rolls around.UBET verdict: Hurricanes $1.33, Lions $3.40 [correct as at 2/8]The Canes lost the home final last year, and UBET customers think they will atone in 2016 as they have been sensationally backed to beat the Lions. This will be the first time since Round 3 in March that any of the Lions first XV have ventured outside of South Africa - given their second-string team went to Argentina - so that is a plus for them. These two played in Joburg back in April, and on that occasion the Lions were slight underdogs and were thumped 50-17 -- the Canes scoring seven tries to three. The Canes have won all eight matches against the Lions on NZ soil, and realistically should be holding the trophy aloft on Saturday night.PredictionDriven by the final defeat of 2015 and the knowledge they remain the only New Zealand franchise still to win a Super Rugby final, this looks like the Hurricanes final to lose. Furthermore, only one team has won a Super Rugby decider in another country - the seven-time champion Crusaders. But it extends beyond sentiment and statistics, the Hurricanes have been nothing short of exemplary since the June Test break - their key men in career-best form. The Lions are loaded with rising talent, but their fairytale story could use another year of development.Hurricanes by seven. Falcons Jerseys Store . -- Yogi Ferrell orchestrates pretty much everything in Indianas offence. Falcons Official Jerseys . Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., team took control of the game early. http://www.authenticfalconsshopnfl.com/ . The formidable trio of Canadian receivers -- individually known as Chris Getzlaf, Rob Bagg and Andy Fantuz -- will share the field at Mosaic Stadium one more time on Sunday. Wholesale Falcons Jerseys . Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday that allowed the veteran right-hander to retire as a member of team with which he broke into the majors and spent the bulk of his distinguished 16-year career. Falcons Youth Jerseys .ca! Hi Kerry, Its another day and here we are looking at another dubious hit to the head. In this case Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky elbowed Saku Koivu in the head about a second after he dished off the puck to a teammate, knocking him unconscious. KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ian Kennedy has been getting scant support, 11 runs in his previous nine starts, the lowest in the majors in that span.Alex Gordon and the Kansas City hitters quickly made up for that drought.Gordon homered twice and doubled, Kennedy pitched eight sharp innings and the Royals extended their winning streak to seven games, beating the Minnesota Twins 10-0 Saturday night.Tonight the offense was just rolling, Gordon said. Like we talked about last year, just keep the line moving. Thats kind of what we had tonight.Its a little contagious, everyone was feeling good at the plate and you just roll with it, he said.The Royals string is their best since they won seven straight in April 2015. The World Series champions have won 12 of 14 to move back into the AL wild-card race.We scored four, which helped, and then attack the zone a little bit more, Kennedy said. And then we scored more later on and we just kept tacking on. It allows us to go out there and throw strikes and try to get ahead of guys and be efficient.Gordon has homered five times in five games. He connected in the fourth inning and again in the fifth for his fourth career multihomer game and his first since May 18, 2014.Kennedy (8-9) gave up four hits, walked none and struck out six. He allowed only one runner past second base and has an 0.79 ERA in his past five starts.Kennedy has allowed no more than one run while pitching at least six innings in that five-start span, tying a team record. Larry Gura had a parallel streak in 1981.(Danny) Duffy hasnt done that yet? Kennedy said. It seems like every time hes out there, hes doing that same thing.Salvador Perez and Gordon hit back-to-back home runs in a four-run fifth, chasing Hector Santiago (10-8).Kennedys got a sneaky fastball, Twins star Brian Dozier said. And he lives away. He was getting the call all night about three or four inches off. He kept peppering us. Its what veteran pitchers ddo.dddddddddddd He kept getting it and we tried to make adjustments.Obviously with a good pitcher like that, and you give up run after run after run from the third inning on, its tough to play catch up, he said.Santiago was tagged for eight runs and 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings. The lefty is 0-4 with a 10.89 ERA since the Twins acquired him in an Aug. 1 trade with the Los Angeles Angels.Too many pitches in the middle of the zone, too many mistakes, Santiago said.Lorenzo Cain doubled twice, singled and drove in three runs.NO DOZIER HOMERDozier had homered in seven straight games hed started against the Royals before going 0 for 4.TWINS RECALL MEJIALHP Adalberto Mejia, acquired by the Twins from the Giants in a July 28 trade for Eduardo Nunez, was recalled from Triple-A Rochester, where he was 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA in three starts. Mejia was scheduled to start Saturday for the Red Wings, but instead went to the Minnesota bullpen. Mejia made his big league debut, giving up two runs on five hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly in 2 1/3 innings. The Twins announced after the game he was being sent back to Rochester. ... 1B-DH Kenny Vargas, who hit .259 in 25 games, was optioned to Rochester.TRAINERS ROOMRoyals: Closer RHP Wade Davis, who went on the disabled list July 31 with a flexor strain, is going to Surprise, Arizona, to throw batting practice. Well see how he does there, Royals manager Ned Yost said. Yost said Davis has thrown three or four bullpen sessions.UP NEXTTwins: RHP Ervin Santana, who has won his past three starts, is 13-14 with a 3.69 ERA in 39 starts with the Twins. Hes in the second year of a four-year contract with the club.Royals: Duffy, who will be making his first start this season against the Twins, will be seeking his 10th straight victory since a June 6 loss at Baltimore. 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