After screaming for your country, it can take a number of days or weeks, to get back into the swing of things. So fans, who might have traveled far; and partied hard, will still be coming back to earth. But as ‘quick as a Barrett’ we are soon back on the Bandwagon of Super Rugby 2018.
(In order of current standings) pic.twitter.com/svXctOkYI6
— #RugbyNewZealand (@RugbyNZ_) June 25, 2018
Not only due to the International rugby calendar interrupting the schedule, it is a championship that takes much attention downunder. But you would not be alone, if from the Northern hemisphere, friends, colleagues and team mates are beginning conversations around the Super Rugby 2018 final weeks of competition.
Those are the loyal followers. But in sport, others have a more fluctuating interest. They keep their ears open yes, and when the season begins to peak – this is when their interested is aroused. Focus is made on the teams, players and who is playing well.
Though not necessarily ‘picking a team’ but many are re-joining their favourite sides progress. So Last Word on Rugby will pick-up where the championship ended; Week 16 standings.
South African Conference:
- Lions 40 (conference leader claims home quarter-final)
- Jaguares 34
- Sharks 28
- Stormers 25
- Bulls 24
- NSW Waratahs 35 (QF)
- Melbourne Rebels 34
- ACT Brumbies 25
- Queensland Reds 19
- Sunwolves 10
New Zealand Conference
- Crusaders 54 (QF)
- Hurricanes 45 (4th highest placed team earns home QF)
- Highlanders 40
- Chiefs 37
- Blues 17
At this point, organizers like to fashion scenarios and to assume finishing places. For all the teams still in contention though, it has to be ‘one game at a time’.
And don’t count your chickens yet, until you can possibly collect the available 15 remaining competition points* on offer [3 rounds].
Super Rugby 2018 – Back in action!
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) June 24, 2018
Now, as teams head back to the training field, a focus can return to the head-to-head battle. Only a handful of bye rounds are left [Crusaders this weekend] so all 15 teams must look to ‘maximize their chances’.
This weekend, some commentators expect a points-fest. Where every side will be out to pocket bonus points. These are for scoring four tries, but importantly – by the final whistle, you must have three more tries than the opposition. It means you must push for the win….and to win big!
In recent seasons, some of the razzle-dazzle has been lost across the competition. A team like the Lions has all the talent, and over the previous two seasons rejuvenated the attacking play of South African teams. Men like Ruan Combrinck have shown they can be as lethal as Ben Smith or Israel Folau. Yet, their defence often leaked as many tries as they scored. That is no good.
Whereas teams like the Hurricanes, whom beat teams by 20 or more points (often), claim the important BP and move ahead on the table.
That was then. If anything, the last few years have seen less points claimed by sides from New Zealand. The reason…..fierce local derby matches.
Caution: beware (and enjoy) the Local Derby match
In 2016, the Hurricanes made a huge leap in the final round. Entering the weekend, they needed a bonus point win over the Crusaders. It seemed inconceivable, as the local derby match is consistently a ‘tight tussle’. Fortune favoured the Hurricanes that night, and they won 10-35 in Christchurch. They were boosted from fourth place, into first … and the rest is history.
Although, that winning margin rarely ever occurs. The tight fixtures often are battlegrounds. The Chiefs head to Fiji, to meet the Highlanders in an ‘home fixture’ for the Otago side. A novel approach, yet the result for either side will boost their chance of a wildcard place.
Likewise, in Australia the top-of-the-table clash in Melbourne could well settle which team there, can lay claim to the conference title. Closely matched on the standings, the star-studded Waratahs will be missing Michael Hooper and will be hoping they can hammer home their status. But with a game breaker like Taqele Naiyaravoro, a big result will see more fans jump onto their bandwagon.
All the while though, the Melbourne Rebels could be the outside bet to secure their first ever quarter-finals place.
Meanwhile, two tasty local derbies in South Africa will be an example of why Super Rugby 2018 is that much better than previous years. Closely matched, the Jaguares invite the Stormers to Buenos Aires. The winner here could gain an advance on a possible wildcard place – and like in any competition, the rewards are great.
Not only on the field, but also in the admiration of fans. Around the world, supporters of rugby are taking sides. Picking their favourites to meet in the Finals Series. And these might become lifelong fans of the franchise, and of the sport. So all-in-all, it is a win-win situation.
Fans enjoy more rugby (after the June Internationals). And teams gain in new fans who delight in joining the bandwagon. More jerseys are sold and the Super Rugby brand expands.
So, plenty of winners are still to come, over the next six weeks.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images