JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Super roller-coaster about to become whole new ball game


Ewen McKenzie

Defending their title ... Rob Simmons and the Reds face the Sharks this weekend.

Defending their title ... Rob Simmons and the Reds face the Sharks this weekend. Photo: Getty Images

The round-robin stage of the Super Rugby competition has ended and, as happens each season, the competition standings were not determined until the very end.

Each team has battled through 16 matches to reach this point and the final ladder lines up with teams who have earned the most wins to least. After a week where bonus points were the hot topic, it has again been proven that winning is most important.

There will always be discussion about the merits of each finals contender and the ladder's order but it's a subject not worth emphasising too much as each team and their fans know the competition structure before the season starts.

Fans wanting equality in the competition will never find it. Each country has its own rules around squad sizes, salary caps and foreign players.

This means it must be a joint effort to come up with a finals system that allows each country to maximise its circumstances and ensure a level of fairness across the regular season. The process can be debated, but those are the rules and everyone must make the most of it.

What cannot be denied is that the theatre of the last round across each of the countries was magnificent. In France, the final round of the Top 14 is played at the same time so each team is unaware of the others' plight. To some extent, this robs supporters of the pain, anguish, elation and joy of the situation.

Pressure in sport is reflected in many ways but isn't always about skill execution. It is also heavily evident in a mental form. Pressure can manifest itself in many ways and we saw that last week.

The Brumbies had the easiest qualification task as they only needed one competition point. Another four teams needed a four-try bonus point victory to stay alive, while the Crusaders only needed a win.

Every team has its moment and some of the lower-positioned clubs refused to let their 2012 campaigns end with a whimper. It all started when the Hurricanes beat the then first-placed Chiefs - but without a bonus point - before the second bottom-placed team, the Blues, played nearer to their abilities and kept the Brumbies without a competition point.

This left the door open for three teams to overtake their respective conference leaders with a bonus-point win. These were the Bulls, the Sharks and, of course, the Queensland Reds. It was a massive 12 hours for each team's fans who were riding the events as they happened. In the end, it was the Brumbies consigned to the heartbreaking seventh spot.

For the Reds, our fans let out a collective cheer at Suncorp Stadium when the Brumbies score hit the big screen. The result did not change our mindset on how we wanted to approach the game, but it did give us more clarity - with a bonus-point win securing us the conference.

It was a great opportunity and what made the difference was our ability to deal with the pressure.

And so, we're into the finals and the ball game changes for everyone. Last week, teams were scrambling to score four tries. This week, the task is solely winning. The pressure also intensifies as the sudden-death nature of the finals impacts on each of the remaining teams. This isn't to say the method of winning won't be pursuing tries, but building the scoreboard will be the main task.

This year's final series is full of experienced teams. You have the seven-time champions Crusaders; the second-most successful team, the Bulls; last year's champions, the Reds; and the team with the highest number of wins during the past few years, the Stormers. Then there are the emerging Chiefs and the resurgent Sharks.

There is a lot of experience within each of those squads. They know how to get the job done in big matches and finals.

The situation is we need to win three games to hold up the trophy. If you had said that at the beginning of the season to any team, they would fancy their chances. The Stormers and Chiefs are only two games away from that possibility.

There may be a bit of travel involved, but the task is quite easy to focus on. Finding new ways to win will be the key as you are up against the best teams in the competition, statistically, in both attack and defence. Irrespective of statistics, however, these teams know how to win.

That leaves the pressure and emotion to manage - and, of course, refereeing will be important. Experience will count, as knowing you can win the competition is a powerful motivator that we will have in our back pocket.

You thought the emotion of last week can't be topped? I assure you, the rollercoaster is still going - hang onto your hats.

20 comments so far

  • In Link we trust.

    That's all that is to be said.

    Date and time
    July 19, 2012, 8:51AM
    • In Link we trust and in Link you fell. Where was his gameplan? Completely outthough by Plumtree who had the Sharks attack out wide when they were fresh and then use their big forwards to produce a black wall to blot out the Reds.

      Its not rocket science but it beats McKenzie who just seemed to have his team turn up with no idea of the warzone they were walking into and how to deal with it. Link must not be the next Wallaby coach Gregory.

      Date and time
      July 22, 2012, 1:13PM
  • The very best of luck for back-to-back Mr McKenzie!

    Harvey K-Tel
    Date and time
    July 19, 2012, 9:05AM
    • I predict a re-match of last year's final - Reds vs Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium, with the Reds to win. Go Reds!

      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 10:02AM
      • To all those Reds fans who were loud and confident last week, lets see where they have gone this Sunday. The Reds had used all their seasons luck getting to this game ( and don't forget how much luck they had last year ) but guess what, your luck ran out.

        Coach's Comment
        Sunshine Coast
        Date and time
        July 22, 2012, 7:01AM
      • Sorry Nick but the Reds were lucky last year.The Reds and Australian rugby in general are pathetic.

        johnno cody
        Date and time
        July 23, 2012, 8:02AM
    • "There will always be discussion about the merits of each finals contender and the ladder's order but it's a subject not worth emphasising too much as each team and their fans know the competition structure before the season starts."

      Definitely "not worth emphasising too much" if you are the beneficiary of a system that allows the team with the 6th best record to have be given an advantage over those who were 3rd, 4th and 5th.

      Ludicrous by any evaluation.

      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 10:35AM
      • And the Reds have been the non-beneficaries of a system which saw Digby get 4 weeks for an offence which attracted nothing of the like for anyone else in S15, and sees Cooper suspended for a week for a negligent tackle, while Elstadt and SBW get nothing for nearly taking people's heads off.

        Date and time
        July 19, 2012, 6:00PM
    • I agree that there’s in not much point in going on and on about the conference system and how it works now that we are into the finals series. However, I’m not surprised that Ewen wants to gloss over the advantages the Reds have got from being in weaker conference, and that they wouldn’t be third on the table with the points they have. Talking about how many wins they have is irrelevant.

      As to who goes through in the finals will be determined by home ground advantage and who is the most hungry to win on the day. I hope the referees are neutral? There’s nothing worse than when these games are determined by bad decisions or perceived referee bias etc!

      Redback Rebel
      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 10:40AM
      • Unfortunately the refs aren't neutral.

        Date and time
        July 19, 2012, 1:11PM

    More comments

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

    HuffPost Australia

    Rugby World Cup 2015

    Round 1
    Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
    ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
    TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
    IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
    Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
    SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
    FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
    SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
    WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
    Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
    NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
    Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
    SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
    Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
    AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
    FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
    Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
    NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
    Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
    ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
    ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
    Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
    SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
    ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
    AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
    SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
    Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
    IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
    Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
    TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
    Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
    WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
    FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
    Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
    NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
    SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
    Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
    SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
    ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
    Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
    ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
    IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
    Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
    CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
    FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
    Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
    SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
    NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
    Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
    NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
    Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
    SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
    AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
    ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
    ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
    Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
    ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
    FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
    USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 2
    Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
    SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
    NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
    IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
    Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
    AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
    Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
    SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
    Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
    ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
    Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
    SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
    Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
    NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Rugby World Cup 2015
    Team P W L D +/- Pts
    Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
    Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
    England 4 2 2 0 58 11
    Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
    Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
    View all
    Rugby World Cup 2015
    Team P W L D +/- Pts
    South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
    Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
    Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
    Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
    USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
    View all
    Rugby World Cup 2015
    Team P W L D +/- Pts
    New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
    Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
    Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
    Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
    Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
    View all
    Rugby World Cup 2015
    Team P W L D +/- Pts
    Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
    France 4 3 1 0 57 14
    Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
    Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
    Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
    View all

    Follow Us on Facebook

    Featured advertisers