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Race to the Super finals is reaching fever pitch

Date

Spiro Zavos

NOW, where were we, before the June Test series stopped this year's Super Rugby tournament in its tracks …

Oh yes. The tournament is at the fascinating stage where nine teams are still in contention for places in the finals. And knowing the history of Super Rugby, you can put money on the likelihood that the six teams that do make the finals won't be resolved until the last matches of the pool round have been played.

Going into this weekend's matches we have the unheralded Chiefs leading the tournament and the New Zealand conference on 58 points. The Stormers on 54 points lead the South African conference, and the Brumbies lead the Australian conference on 49 points. Then we have a bunch of chasers: the Crusaders (51), the Bulls (49), the Hurricanes (45), the Sharks (45), the Highlanders (44), and the Reds (44).

There was some criticism before this season started about the new Super Rugby format being inhibited by a longish break for the June Tests. But the outstanding success of the afternoon Test against Wales at Allianz Stadium last weekend revealed the potential for the series concept. John O'Neill has (correctly, in my opinion) foreshadowed a continuation of an afternoon Test to be played on Sundays during the June series. The break, too, has allowed the Super Rugby teams to regroup, restore the fitness of their players and revise (where necessary) their game plans for the sprint to the finals. We should enjoy a sizzling series of matches this weekend from teams energised by the break.

Jake White suggested before the season started that having only a couple of Wallabies would help the Brumbies in the final rounds. This theory will be tested tonight when the Brumbies try to entrench their leading position when they play the Force in Perth. It will be interesting, for example, to see how the Brumbies have brought their latest No.10, Zack Holmes, up to the sort of speed of hand and thought of injured playmaker Christian Lealiifano.

SANZAR has cleverly scheduled all six matches in this round as derbies. Last night we had the Highlanders playing the Chiefs, and the Reds playing the Rebels in Melbourne. Tonight the derbies roll on with the Crusaders v Hurricanes, the Force v Brumbies, the Stormers v Lions and the Bulls v Cheetahs. The point about these derbies is that they arouse more local interest than matches against teams from the other conferences. They also impose a sort of cannibalisation effect for each conference. The Force, for instance, can puncture the hopes of the Brumbies winning the Australian conference if they defeat them tonight. The Crusaders can similarly cruel the finals hopes of the Hurricanes by beating them. And the Cheetahs can slow down the charge of the rampaging Bulls.

The Super Rugby format has the double strength of being played in the three strongest nations in world rugby (the international effect) while providing eight intensely tribal matches (the national effect) for each team. The Brumbies and the Reds have to face the Waratahs before the finals. These matches will provoke huge interest. This season there has been a 37 per cent rise in crowd numbers in New Zealand; they are slightly down in Australia (the Waratahs effect, unfortunately) but rising after a slow start, and about the same as last year in South Africa. About 24 million viewers in the SANZAR countries have watched the matches on television so far. Crowd numbers and viewing numbers should rise sharply each week as the race to the finals intensifies.

The strong Australian figures are buoyed by last season's Super Rugby championship success by the Reds, and by the Brumbies' revival. Imagine how strong the overall viewing numbers in Australia would be with a winning Waratahs side?

This week Roger Davis was appointed to the Waratahs board. A Rhodes scholar, a David Brockhoff protege, a Wallaby whose lineout prowess reminded followers of Rob Heming of blessed memory, Davis is a splendid appointment. But the new glory days of the Waratahs await a clean-out, on and off the field.

spiro@theroar.com.au

3 comments so far

  • Fear not!!, the New Zealand "B" side will win the whole thing outright without much sweat, it'll be a playoff between a South African side and the Crusaders, with the boys from Canterbury to win easily!!!

    Commenter
    kirky
    Date and time
    June 30, 2012, 10:47AM
    • As a rugby fan, I am continually left bewildered by the ARU's blatantly unfair overseas player policy which is making the Force suffer. WA is a footy state, without any decent rugby players, yet the ARU make the Force try to survive using Sydney first grade drop-outs. Yet at the same time the Rebels are allowed 10 overseas players! What a disgrace. The ARU should be ashamed of themselves.

      Commenter
      Smithy2012
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 30, 2012, 5:09PM
      • The Brumbies started their success with "a bunch of Sydney first-grade dropouts"

        Commenter
        Filbee
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        July 01, 2012, 8:36PM

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        Super Rugby 2015

        Round 1
        Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
        CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
        BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
        Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
        LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
        BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
        Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
        SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
        BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
        WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
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        Round 2
        Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
        CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
        REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
        Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
        BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
        HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
        RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
        Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
        STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
        SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 3
        Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
        HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
        FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
        Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
        CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
        CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
        REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
        Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
        LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
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        Round 4
        Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
        BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
        Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
        RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
        Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
        STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 5
        Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
        HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
        FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
        Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
        HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
        RED vs BRU 29 Stats
        Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
        STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
        CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
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        Round 6
        Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
        HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
        REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
        Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
        Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
        SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
        WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
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        Round 7
        Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
        RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
        Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
        HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
        WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
        Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
        BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
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        Round 8
        Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
        HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
        REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
        Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
        CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
        BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
        Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
        SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
        LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
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        Round 9
        Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
        Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
        WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
        FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
        Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
        LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
        BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 10
        Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
        Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
        HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
        HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
        BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
        FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
        Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
        SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
        CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 11
        Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
        BRU 31 vs HIG 18 Report Stats
        Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
        WAR 18 vs REB 16 Report Stats
        Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
        LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
        STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
        RED vs HUR 16:05SS
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        Round 12
        Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        HIG vs SHA 17:35FBS
        BRU vs WAR 19:40GIO Stadium
        Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
        BLU vs FOR 15:30EP
        HUR vs CRU 17:35WS
        REB vs CHF 19:40AAMI
        Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
        CHT vs STO 01:05FSS
        BUL vs LIO 03:10Loftus Versfeld
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        Round 13
        Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        CRU vs RED 17:35AMI
        REB vs BLU 19:40AAMI
        Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
        HUR vs SHA 17:35WS
        FOR vs WAR 19:40nib Stadium
        LIO vs HIG 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
        Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
        STO vs BRU 01:05DHL Newlands
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        Round 14
        Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        BLU vs BUL 17:35EP
        RED vs REB 19:40SS
        Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        HUR vs CHF 17:35WS
        WAR vs SHA 19:40AS
        Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
        LIO vs BRU 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
        CHT vs HIG 03:10FSS
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        Round 15
        Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        CHF vs BUL 17:35Rotorua International Stadium
        RED vs SHA 19:40SS
        Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        BLU vs HUR 17:35Emirates Airlines Park
        WAR vs CRU 19:40ANZ
        FOR vs HIG 21:45nib Stadium
        Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
        CHT vs LIO 01:05FSS
        STO vs REB 03:10DHL Newlands
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        Round 16
        Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        CRU vs HUR 17:35Trafalgar Park
        BRU vs BUL 19:40GIO Stadium
        Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        SHA vs REB 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
        HIG vs CHF 17:35Rugby Park
        FOR vs RED 19:40nib Stadium
        Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
        STO vs CHT 01:05DHL Newlands
        LIO vs WAR 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
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        Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
        FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
        Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
        BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
        RED vs CHF 19:40SS
        CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
        Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
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        Round 18
        Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
        REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
        Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
        CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
        WAR vs RED 19:40AS
        Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
        BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
        SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
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        Round 19
        Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        7 vs 7 09:00
        Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        7 vs 7 09:00
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        Round 20
        Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        7 vs 7 09:00
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        7 vs 7 09:00
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        Round 21
        Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        7 vs 7 09:00
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        Brumbies 10 6 4 0 96 31
        Stormers 10 7 3 0 33 30
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