0Shares0000The Canterbury Crusaders are vying to retain their unbeaten Super Rugby record and ensure they finish top of the regular season ladder © AFP/File / MARTIN HUNTERSYDNEY, Australia, Jul 13 – Canterbury Crusaders and the Golden Lions are embroiled in a final-round battle this weekend to claim the top rankings spot and home advantage throughout the Super Rugby playoffs.The Crusaders, just two points ahead of the Johannesburg-based Lions, must beat defending champions Wellington Hurricanes to go into next week’s top-eight play-offs as top seed and in the box seat to host the final on August 5. Should the seven-time champions stumble in Wellington on Saturday then the Lions could leapfrog them to finish top of the final-season standings if they down the Coastal Sharks in Durban later that day.Eight teams have already qualified for the play-offs with the top four conference winners having home advantage in the first week of the finals against the fifth to eighth-placed wild card teams.Only the exact final places are to be decided this weekend.All Blacks TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea return for the Hurricanes against Crusaders, in the only changes to the team that started during last month’s 31-31 draw with the touring British and Irish Lions.The Crusaders are vying to retain their unbeaten Super Rugby record and ensure they finish top of the regular season ladder, giving them home advantage throughout the play-offs.A win for the Hurricanes would mean a trip to Canberra to play the Brumbies in the quarter-finals, while a loss would send the defending champions off to Cape Town to face the Western Stormers.– Vengeful Sharks –The Lions face a vengeful Sharks, still rankled by their dramatic 34-29 loss at Ellis Park earlier this season.“We have been looking forward to this game for some time, especially after what happened at Ellis Park where we felt we should have won, so we are definitely excited about this one,” Sharks scrum-half Cobus Reinach said.“In that Johannesburg game it did not work out. Hopefully we can put in a great performance and it will go our way this time.”The Sharks can avoid a long trip to play the Crusaders in the first week of the finals if they beat the Lions with a bonus point and the Otago Highlanders are upset at home by Australia’s Queensland Reds.Centre Juan de Jongh and loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe will be available for selection for the third-ranked Stormers against the Northern Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.Australian conference winners ACT Brumbies have made 12 changes to the team that was beaten by the Reds in Brisbane last week for their final game of the regular season against the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.Only winger Henry Speight, fly-half Wharenui Hawera and flanker Scott Fardy remain from the side that went down by a point at Suncorp Stadium, as head coach Stephen Larkham rests players ahead of their home quarter-final against either the Hurricanes or the Chiefs on July 21.In this weekend’s other games with no finals bearing, Western Force may play their final game in Super Rugby against the New South Wales Waratahs in Perth, the Rebels host Argentina’s Jaguares in Melbourne and Japan’s Sunwolves take on the Auckland Blues in Tokyo.The Southern Kings and Central Cheetahs, already officially dumped from the 2018 competition, play their final Super Rugby game in Port Elizabeth.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)
2 Save for a couple of chances that fell to Sofiane Fegouli, they were overpowered by the hosts for most of the game, and Rossi came close to giving Levante the lead in the first half, but hit the post.Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo was also fortunate not to pick up a second yellow card before the break, committing a late tackle while already cautioned.Levante’s best spell came towards the end of the first half, missing three chances in quick succession.Defender Zouhair Feddal had a header tipped away by Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves, who also saved from striker Deyverson, who then headed over the bar in the same move.Valencia offered little at the other end and then failed to track the run of Rossi, who met Juanfran’s throw in first time to break the deadlock and heap more pressure on Neville.There’s plenty of La Liga games coming on new station @talkSPORT2. Details on how to tune in are here. 2 Gary Neville’s miserable run in charge of Valencia continued as his side lost to bottom of the league Levante.A second half goal from the manager’s former Man United team-mate, Giuseppe Rossi, condemned his side to the 1-0 defeat.The Italy international pounced on slack defending by the visitors from a throw in to volley into the far corner to give Levante a deserved lead in front of their own fans.It wasn’t enough to lift them off the foot of La Liga, while Valencia’s third consecutive defeat in all competitions saw them miss out on the chance to move into the top half of the table.
talkSPORT’s Ian Cruise explains why Manchester United’s super Swede is proving his worth, and proving his doubters completely wrong.Diego Costa is the Premier League’s top scorer and Alexis Sanchez continues to prove why Arsenal simply have to break the bank to keep him. (Or why Arsenal have to convince Arsene Wenger he has to break the bank to keep him. Anyway, you know what I mean…).Elsewhere, Sadio Mane’s sparkling form at Liverpool marks him out as one of last summer’s best bits of transfer business, while the remarkable statistic that surfaced last week showing N’Golo Kante has amassed more points since his arrival in England, with Leicester and Chelsea, than any other TEAM bears out both his contribution and importance.But still, for me, the player of the first half of the Premier League season is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And, again for me, that has come as a surprise.I can’t have been the only one (although maybe I was?) who thought that, at the age of 35, after three years as the self-proclaimed ‘King of Paris’ bossing the less than competitive French Ligue Un, he would find the English top-flight a much tougher nut to crack and quite possibly a bridge too far.How wrong I was.Not only has he scored 13 Premier League goals so far, his all-round contribution to Manchester United has been little short of sensational.His work-rate is second to none, and the example he sets his younger team-mates surely can’t help but rub off on them. Already, despite his pre-eminence during his breakthrough season last year, you can see an improvement in Marcus Rashford, albeit in a predominantly cameo role, while Anthony Martial also seems to be rediscovering his mojo. I don’t think that’s a happy accident.Jose Mourinho clearly knew what he was getting when he signed the veteran Swede – the pair worked together at Inter Milan, of course – and his judgement in bringing him into the hurly-burly world of English football has been proven overwhelmingly correct. I don’t think any individual has been more influential on his side.His impact has been likened to that of Eric Cantona, and there’s no doubt he’s well on the way to achieving similar cult status as that attained by the mercurial but volatile Frenchman. (And if he can continue in that vein and usurp that frankly dreadful ’12 Days of Cantona’ festive terrace anthem, he will be doing us all a favour!)It’s not going to be enough for him to continue his remarkable record of winning the League title in his first season with every club he has played for, but it might just be enough to earn United a Champions League spot next season, a feat that looked highly unlikely not that many weeks ago.Mourinho has already stated publicly he intends to take up the option of keeping Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford for another year, and there’s every chance a genuine title tilt will follow next term.I certainly won’t be making the same mistake of writing him – or them – off. 1 Zlatan Ibrahimovic