Super Rugby is not an easy competition to follow at the best of times, thanks to it encompassing five countries and four conferences, so a month long break means a bit of a re-boot is needed.
In case you have forgotten, we have reached the final regular-season round. Here’s our Super Rugby catch-up.
1) The final round is played this weekend but the four conference winners are already known, meaning we already have some order out of a chaotic competition. The Crusaders, Lions, Stormers and Brumbies have secured home quarter-final games next weekend.
2) This reminder needs to go up high...no Australian team has beaten a New Zealand side this season. This leaves the Highlanders and Chiefs as the final guardians of all that is good and right in the national game. Australia’s last chance to record a regular-season win over a Kiwi team involves the Reds playing in Dunedin and the Brumbies playing in Hamilton. And the Brumbies are resting their stars, if that is the right word, and fielding a dud side instead. The smart money will be on New Zealand completing this extraordinary clean sweep. Then again, the All Blacks were supposed to crush the British and Irish Lions, and that didn’t go to plan.
3) The Blues are the only New Zealand team out of contention, a home truth that will be a bit of a comedown after their rare big-game win over the British and Irish Lions. They’ve got a duty free ending in Tokyo, against the mighty Sunwolves.
4) The Super Rugby quarter-finalists are already known... (in current seeding order) the Crusaders, Lions, Stormers, Brumbies, Hurricanes, Chiefs, Highlanders and Sharks. (The quarter-finals involve 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5). But there is still plenty resting on these games. The Chiefs, for instance, want the Crusaders to beat the Hurricanes in order to avoid a dash to Cape Town.
5) To further the theme of this being a situation where a New Zealand team can stuff it up for a New Zealand team...if the Hurricanes beat the unbeaten Crusaders in Wellington on Saturday night, and the Lions beat the Sharks, then a Crusaders v Lions final would be played in Johannesburg rather than Christchurch.
6) In a weird quirk of fate, the ill-fated Southern Kings play the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth. This will be their dual Super Rugby swan song, the two teams having been axed from the revamped competition along with one still-undetermined Australian side.
7) This round will bring the curtain down on the worst Super Rugby regular season for once-strong Australia - their five teams have “amassed” a total of just 20 wins so far. They are so bad that the leading Aussie team, the Brumbies, would be placed ninth on an overall table going into the final round.
8) The mystery and intrigue is everywhere. The Chiefs could play the Brumbies in the quarter-finals, and coach Dave Rennie says they won’t be revealing their full hand this weekend, ahead of a potential Canberra showdown.
9) There is still a bit of ducking and diving going on with team selections, with teams positioning themselves for the quarter-finals.
10) The final round, and a farewell to the 18-team comp.-
Thursday: Highlanders-Red, Rebels-Jaguares.
Friday: Kings-Cheetahs, Sunwolves-Blues, Chiefs-Brumbies, Hurricanes-Crusaders, Force-Waratahs.
Saturday: Sharks-Lions, Bulls-Stormers.
- NZ Herald