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.