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No.10 battle likely to decide champions

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/08/2016

They both produced man-of-the-match performances in their side's respective Super Rugby semi-finals and just who comes out on top in the battle of the first five-eighths at Westpac Stadium on Saturday could decide the 2016 title.

Beauden Barrett is the red-hot favourite to wear the All Blacks' No.10 jersey in the Bledisloe Cup series against the Wallabies later this month with a string of stellar performances for the Hurricanes.

His composure, speed and ability to play what's in front of him saw him race away for an intercept try and set up another for midfielder Willis Halaholo with an audacious chip kick and gather in last weekend's semifinal against the Chiefs as he comprehensively outshone All Blacks rival Aaron Cruden.

"Since coming back from the All Blacks [in June] he's really taken his play up another level," said veteran Hurricanes winger Cory Jane of Barrett.

"He was already at a high level before then but his understanding of the game - he backs himself and scores some freakish tries. He's quick as well. He's definitely a talent. Where we are offensively is a lot because of him."

Likewise, Lions playmaker Elton Jantjies is in career-best form as his side embark upon their first appearance in a Super Rugby final just three years after being relegated from the competition in favour of the Southern Kings.

Jantjies, who is also the Lions' goal-kicker, masterminded his team's impressive win against the Highlanders scoring a try and setting up others with nifty footwork and pinpoint attacking kicks as he scored 22 of his side's 42 points.

Jane says cutting down the 25-year-old Springbok's time and space will be crucial for the Hurricanes.

"He's a talented footballer. When you give him a little bit of space like when the Highlanders let him run, he can tear you apart," Jane said.

"Someone has got to shut him down."

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