How apt it is, that teams across all the competing conferences will be represented, in the 2018 Super Rugby semi-finals.
New Zealand will have two teams, Australia will have one, as will South Africa. The four highest performing sides have ultimately succeeded in reaching their objectives – and the dreams of their fanbase too.
These four sides each overcame the challenges before them – see below video highlights. So with that accomplished, the four Super Rugby semi-finals bound sides can plan their assault on the grandest prize of them all, a place in the Grand final.
All conferences represented in 2018 Super Rugby semi-finals
Not that other sides did not try to, but it turns out that the ‘big four’ have ended up where the majority had imagined. All home quarter-finalists won their playoff matches yesterday. It seems to be going to plan, for the best teams from each conference.
The Crusaders, the incomparable Kiwi side. The Waratahs, the shining hope for Rugby Australia. The Lions, continuing to exceed the standards. And the Hurricanes, energy and enthusiasm personified.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 21, 2018
That will please the championship stakeholders…although, even some commentators this week still pleaded for the teams whom score the highest competition points, to be afforded the home quarter-final advantage. That argument will continue, as the Hurricanes and Chiefs were the second and third placed teams across all conferences.
Their reward was a fierce local derby. By virtue of the graded conference system, the NSW Waratahs advanced to a home setting rather than having to travel. And as it turned out, the crowd support in Sydney was just the boost that they needed (after falling behind to the Highlanders).
Arguments over the structure and format aside, it was a valuable asset for each of the victorious semi-finals bound teams. Now, only two will hold that favourable position next Saturday, as the 2017 finalists demonstrate that they have lost little over the last 12 months. The Crusaders and Lions can enjoy another nights sleep in their own beds, as the visitors endure hotel food and the ‘away team’ changing rooms.
Meet the Super Rugby semi-finals teams
SF1: Crusaders v Hurricanes – AMI Stadium, Christchurch
SF2: Lions v Waratahs – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
The Hurricanes will enjoy a sense of home town support; needing only to travel 30 minutes by air, down to the South Island. Whereas the NSW Waratahs take a longhaul flight [literally today] across to South Africa.
What the ‘Tahs can take with them, is the knowledge that a win away from home – while difficult – is not impossible. From the experience of the Crusaders primarily, but also in their drawn match against the Sharks in Week 3 (24-24). If they can use their own experiences to create a positive motivation, then it would provide the Australian Super Rugby conference with a huge boost in credibility.
2018 Quarter-finals highlights
After a 19 week long regular season, it came down to the ‘top 8’.
Hurricanes 32 Chiefs 31
Crusaders 40 Sharks 10
Waratahs 30 Highlanders 23
Lions 40 Jaguares 23
After this weekend, the results show that the most precise, the most determined sides will all be represented in the 2018 Super Rugby semi-finals. Gladly, there were no controversial moments. Although there were some yellow cards, those actions might well have influenced the outcome.
As seen above, the highlights of Super Rugby are predominately, attacking rugby. Mostly action-based, with players prepared to risk everything. From Damian McKenzie throwing intercept passes, to Lima Sopoaga looking for territory, some tactics were attacking to ‘get a result’. No team will end this weekend, not knowing they tried their very best.
If every team can say that after this season, that they did everything in their power – and played a good game – then it will be a success. No matter the finishing place, or conference format.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images