Super Rugby 2019 Finals Series to be confirmed within 48 hours

Super Rugby 2019 Finals Series to be confirmed within 48 hours
TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 23: The Super Rugby trophy is displayed prior to the Super Rugby match between Sunwolves and Waratahs at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on February 23, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Within the next 48 hours, all the qualifiers for the Super Rugby 2019 Finals Series will be decided. Eight sides have chances to join the top-seeded teams, for the quarterfinals matches beginning on June 21.

A real weekend of ‘tie-breaker’ fixtures, due to both the close nature of this year’s contest but, as much to do with the gap that the top, pace setting sides hold. The Crusaders ended their campaign on 58 points – they now enjoy a final round Bye.

The Jaguares and ACT Brumbies earned their place, as conference winners. And the Hurricanes are the fourth-placed team, holding that all-important Wildcard position, and a home quarterfinal in Wellington.

With those places cemented, it is a bit of a fight for the last four spots. The fighting group of teams from positions 5-12 is now competing to be a side within the playoffs picture.

Gaining that place is a reward for a season that began back with the November preseason training schedule. That will all culminate now in this last, regular season weekend of matches.

And it could be the most challenging of match-ups so far, in all these teams season 2019 schedules.

Super Rugby 2019 Finals Series to be confirmed within 48 hours

Not discounting the Jaguares v Sunwolves and Brumbies v Reds matches, but they honestly have little to do with the overture of the season. If Last Word on Rugby were entirely neutral, then the Hurricanes v Blues game is inconsequential….that is not true to say it is pointless. But that local derby game still has some fire left in the barrel, if only for the entertainment factor alone.

With several players rested by the ‘Canes it will necessarily be an opportunity for the Blues. Could they upset the Hurricanes? Could they win a derby game away from home [after breaking their 20+ game streak back in Round Six.

But focusing on the other four clashes, the outcome here is now pivotal to the Super Rugby 2019 finals series placings.

FRIDAY #1 – Highlanders v Waratahs

Some might assume that the ‘Tahs do not travel well. Mostly true [as a rule]. And with the upset that has prevailed within the camp after Israel Folau’s contract was ended by Rugby Australia, the NSW Waratahs have become real Aussie battlers.

But Highlanders fans must remember, the ‘Tahs defeated the Melbourne Rebels and the ACT Brumbies in the last fortnight. It means they are conditioned to winning – something the Highlanders have only done infrequently. In fact, the disappointing last month placed the ‘Landers in this position. Needing a win; needing a bonus point win in all honesty, to stay in the Super Rugby 2019 Finals Series fight.

FRIDAY #2 – Rebels v Chiefs

In Melbourne, it might be the one place where the Australian Conference side feel safe. Because while loses both at home and away diminished the side’s hopes of a conference win, they are more comfortable on their home patch.

Upset by recent results, will it be the motivation needed? Possibly. Most rugby sides upset by poor performance, usually return with a good one. And if the side were up to full strength, then it might have been true. Sadly though, apparent Wallaby-management enforced ‘rest weeks’ means that the Melbourne team could be at risk of a Chiefs revival.

The visiting Waikato side might actually come in as favourites (for any reason, if not that they are battlers). In stats at least, they appear stronger and with a better chance of playing next week.

SATURDAY #3 – Stormers v Sharks

The hosts up-and-down season will continue in all likelihood. Not at 100%, it is the real litmus test of the Stormers potential. Without Siya Kolosi, is this side strong enough to go unbeaten from here on in?

That might be an accomplishment that the Cape Town team would be worthy of, but the visiting Sharks would love no better than to end any hopes of their cross-country rivals. Something that the local derby value is what makes not only the Super Rugby 2019 Finals Series an exciting prospect but, it is also one where the final round clash will give you the big boost of a (so far) up-and-down year.

Both teams have to be ready. Fully fit or not, adapting and adjusting to the pressure means this clash is also an indicator of how some players react under pressure – a [sort of] bonus for Rassie Erasmus and the Springboks.

SUNDAY #4 – Bulls v Lions

This match is between a side who have been Super Rugby champions, and a side [Lions] who have never achieved that dream, is one of contrasts. Contrasting motivation, yet for these battling sides, it will be much more important in this last weekend of regular season competition.

In round three, the Bulls won this opening clash. Winning away from home [then] was a handsome reward. But this current side might be far removed from that one. Now playing at home, and under enormous pressure, how will it invigorate the home side is anyone’s guess. It might be the boost they require but, for the Lions it could mean they bounce back and steal the home sides chance.

Just like every one of these vital Round 18 matches, the outcome is very hard to predict.

What Last Word on Rugby, and what most rugby pundits might presume is that traditional rivalries and opportunity may create even more intrigue. Sides must take their chances, and that they must all be at their peak – a very important factor here; if you think about the Rugby World Cup factor.

For some of these qualifying teams, being ready to peak ‘now’ is what might make the difference between a quarterfinal appearance, or……what might have been.

All Super Rugby 2019 finals series places are up for grabs

Yes, you must peak at the right time. The next 48 hours will tell for any of the eight teams recognized here. Although, the best teams are always encouraging their fanbase on how to ‘learn from these experiences’.

Maybe now, getting the job done is what many will be hoping for most. Learning from the experience is often the statement of sides who ‘tried but couldn’t quite get the job done’. Whoever gets the job done this week though, will live for one more round.

One more chance to taste success in Super Rugby 2019 finals series glory.

 

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