In all forms of sport, the objective is to Win. Conversely, you have those who don’t meet their goals. In this Super Rugby snapshot, fans have seen the Chiefs rise; and the Blues fall. Results that brought delight and displeasure, but is just another week in this high-pressure competition.
Results wise, it was good news/bad news. Good for many of the leading sides – think Crusaders, Brumbies and the resurgent Highlanders – but more bad news for some. Hoping to establish a place at the table for the Top 8 qualifiers, the Blues fell away, like they have in so many previous seasons.
Bad news for fans of the Auckland franchise, who had high hopes after four successive wins. Falling flat once again in a highly-charged local derby, they were defeated by the Hurricanes at Eden Park, 12-20.
The outcome of certain matches now means that up to a dozen teams could literally still make the quarterfinals. Incredible really, as we are now past Round 13 of 18, fans might imagine that leading sides were close to being established. But in 2019, the field is still wide open!
SUPER RUGBY LADDER: @BrumbiesRugby jump from 9th to 2nd, while @MelbourneRebels stay in the finals positions. Next weekend's derby between the @Reds_Rugby and @NSWWaratahs will determine if either side can still have a say in the race to top the Australian Conference. pic.twitter.com/AvHaZnWuCb
— Behind the Ruck (@behindtheruckXV) May 13, 2019
Chiefs Rise; Blues Fall – Super Rugby Snapshot
The ups-and-downs are as confusing to the average fan, as much as they are for the rugby punter. While the Chiefs rise, the Blues fall. As the Sharks ‘tread water’ the Bulls could not take the heat of the visiting Crusaders.
In Australia, a bonus point was truly required by the ACT Brumbies, who surely dispatched the soon to be rejected Sunwolves. That win promotes them above the Melbourne Rebels by a single point – which is what playoffs qualification might very well come down to!
Small changes this round, some not advancing much, overs taking a stride forwards or backward. Others gave up their place, with the Blues and Jaguares too, finding it hard to maintain that winning edge. The South Americans still retain a place in the Top 8, but on tour in New Zealand, they require an upset next week against the ‘Canes if they are to maintain a presence on the leaderboard.
And it is that momentum that the best sides display.
No trouble for a side like the Crusaders though. The team everyone is trying to emulate, but failing to defeat. Scott Robertson took his men to the republic after a disappointing draw last week. Motivated, they thrashed the Bulls in Pretoria, and keep an offshore record that is only blighted by that loss to the Waratahs in March.
Only the Strongest will Survive in 2019
While it is easy to lay plaudits at the Crusaders feet [very, very easy], it is tough for many others. The Waratahs lack consistency, and for the second week in a row, they only clutch a losing bonus point, in another narrow loss.
Missing Israel Folau – whose disciplinary meeting with Rugby Australia is now into its second week – the ‘Tahs have never traveled well. Even if they grab the lead, it can be silly mistakes, poor discipline, or strange referee interpretations, that frustrate even the most ardent fan.
Only the strongest will survive in 2019. That means the Blues must turn around the worst local derby record out of all the NZ conference teams. They must beat the Chiefs on Saturday. The only way up is to win. Simple as that. Lose again though, and Leon McDonald and his coaching group may need the psychotherapist’s help, to restore any faith in the Blues fanbase.
Four wins in a row gave hope, only to now be lost in two successive defeats. 2019 will be another test for the three-time Champions [which they could very well improve on].
The Chiefs restored more faith last weekend for their fans. In stopping the Sharks strategy of slowing the ball down, they put on a respectable performance that showed real ChiefsMana. Even as the Durban team actually scored tries this week, the Chiefs were resolved in stopping the late Sharks pressure. And with that, the pressure comes off (slightly) on head coach Colin Cooper.
Coaches, as much as players, are feeling the heat in this professional rugby atmosphere.
Super Rugby Snapshot – Round 14 fixtures
With only five rounds left, this Super Rugby snapshot is considering the upcoming games…plus the upcoming team Byes.
Fri 17 May: Hurricanes v Jaguares @Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Fri 17 May: Rebels v Bulls @ AAMI Park, Melbourne
Sat 18 May: Blues v Chiefs @ Eden Park, Auckland
Sat 18 May: Reds v Waratahs @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Sat 18 May: Lions v Highlanders @ Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Sat 18 May: Stormers v Crusaders @ DHL Newlands, Cape Town
With more crucial matches to enjoy, fans should understand which games are likely to influence the Super Rugby playoffs. That is, pretty much all of them.
Quite literally, each game can boost or reduce sides chances. A win for the Jaguares [who are coming off a good recent record] will be a huge boost. A loss could take away the chance for the Jags to stay up with the leaders. The same for the Bulls clash, who after being pounded by the Crusaders, might feel the Melbourne stop of their tour is a targetable fixture to maintain their options.
. @kfcnz 🌪v🐆
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) May 13, 2019
At Eden Park, Last Word on Rugby will be on hand to witness if the ‘rise of the Chiefs’ is true? Or whether the Blues can retain a smart home ground record – not against local derby opponents that is – so that is crucial to each franchise.
Across the ditch, an Australian derby game sees the Waratahs confident; winning the last ten encounters, and seven of their last nine away derbies. So the Queensland Reds must be at their peak. As must the Lions. Only just defeating the ‘Tahs, this week the Highlanders are a very much more difficult prospect.
While the last game of the weekend is one game that only holds hope for the concept of the upset. Who would bet against the all-conquering Crusaders? Most would see the Stormers as a weaker South African team, but in Super Rugby, you make your own luck.
Byes will finalize sides Playoff hopes
Perform on the field, and you can guarantee a position in the playoffs. But a scheduling conflict might show that a weekend off, could take away four positions on the ladder. So the next list of teams are still to authenticate their place;
Round 14 Bye: Brumbies, Sharks, Sunwolves. This more relative to the Brumbies and Sharks, whom were each leading their conference. So with a single point lead over the Melbourne Rebels, the ACT Brumbies will now have to [likely] recover three or four points to their rivals.
The Sharks find themselves in the same position, although the likelihood of a Bulls win is not as guaranteed. It makes the REBvBUL game that much more vital.
The last four weeks is a New Zealand conference test. Rd 15: Hurricanes | Rd 16: Highlanders | Rd 17: Chiefs. That means for the Highlanders and the Chiefs, they could be just on the cusp of the top four, when a Bye can possibly remove that position. Gut wrenching for those two teams, with the Hurricanes more than likely to be the fourth-placed finisher.
Then, the ultimate reward for the probable regular season top finisher, the Crusaders. Why not enjoy a week off, prior to the knockout rounds. It is the ultimate compliment – maybe not planned like that – but ‘Saders fans will be sitting pretty, with their current 18 point margin over the next best conference leader.
Knowing this, we hope that the facts give you a better understanding of the current status of the competition. It is only a Super Rugby snapshot, with results that could or could not, ring true. No predictions here, except that every fan will surely be entertained.
“Main photo credit”
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