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Super Rugby – Conclusions from week nine – Part two

Sharks making it tough for themseves.

Part two of my weekly conclusions feature will cover the bottom eight of this year’s Super Rugby competition, what their chances are and how they’ll influence the fate of those placed on top of them in the standings.

Many people, myself included, have written off the  Hurricanes this season. Many expected them to be the bottom feeders of the NZ conference and that they’ll be keeping the Rebels, Lions and Cheetahs company in the overall log.

But they’ve managed to surprise everyone and they are still very much in the hunt for playoff spot. Their favorable position is mostly due to the bad form shown by the Aussie teams as well as the Blues propping up the log at P15. They are just three and five points behind the Crusaders and Highlanders respectively, both these teams are currently in the playoff mix and, if the ‘Canes can replace one of them, they’ll be in with a shot at the title. (Albeit a very long one)

Their task wont be easy though. With an away match against the high flying Chiefs this weekend they’ll have their work cut out for them. Their recent thrashing at the hands of the Crusaders also doesn’t bode well for their confidence ahead of their clash against the log leaders.

The Sharks’  championship prospects were also dealt a huge blow when they succumbed to the Chiefs on Saturday afternoon. A win against the New Zealanders would have put them in seventh, just three points behind the sixth placed Crusaders. They still have tough home matches against the Bulls and Stormers to look forward to, but other than that they have a relatively easy route to the end of the league stage and they should be able to finish fourth if the Bulls have a disastrous tour and they beat the Bulls and Stormers in Durban.

Defending champions, the Reds have probably been the biggest disappointment this year. Currently lying a lowly tenth place they are in the not so popular company of the Cheetahs and the Force. So far they have lost to the Bulls in Pretoria, the Sharks in Durban and the Stormers at home. They have at least won their away derby against the Waraths, but were beaten convincingly by the Force in Perth. They can still cause a stir at the top with remaining fixtures against the Crusaders and the Chiefs and they are missing a lot of players due to injury at the moment. But, other than putting a spanner in the works for some of the title contenders, I cant see the return of their injured players helping them to a playoff spot.

Winning over neutral supporters all over is the Cheetahs. The Free Staters are currently eleventh behind the defending champions, but it is their never say die attitude rather their results that has won over the hearts of many neutral supporters. They just finished their best tour ever, winning two out of four and nearly beating the ‘Saders in Christchurch and they ran the Chiefs close last week. Next weekend they’ll have the opportunity to do their countrymen and some Kiwi’s a favor if they manage to beat the Highlanders in Bloem, but they can also upset proceedings in their remaining matches against the Bulls, Stormers and their two matches against the Sharks. If SARU decide to put in the ax, I’m sure the Cheetahs will be safe.

There’s not much to say about the Force, Rebels and Lions. All of them are currently finding themselves in familiar territory, but it’s the Lions who are hurt the most. The 2011 Currie Cup champions had high hopes of at least finishing ahead of the Cheetahs when the season started with some of their supporters eyeing the Bulls as potential victims as well. But the reality is that there is a huge gap between the Currie Cup and Super Rugby and the constant disruptions suffered due to injuries didn’t help John Mitchel’s men. It is still uncertain how the Kings will be accommodated next year, but the popular assumption is that the lowest placed SA team will be dropped in favor of the Eastern Cape franchise. This isn’t good news if you are a Lions supporter.

Finally, the aptly named Blues. How can a team so laden with talent reach the halfway stage with their only victory thus far coming from a freak defeat of the Bulls at Loftus? Even after losing their first match against the Crusaders there were always expectations placed on the Aucklanders to at least finish second in the New Zealand conference and make the playoffs. The way things stand, they’ll probably finish the season as bottom dwellers as well.

There’s still a lot that can happen in this tournament and none of the teams currently sitting pretty can rest on their laurels for the remainder of the tournament. This championship will go down to the wire again, the broadcasters will make loads of cash and all will seemingly be well in the Southern Hemisphere.




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2 Responses

  1. bloues says:

    I cant see them not finishing at the bottom of the SA conference, but I hope that they finish strong enough for them to have a case against their relegation.

    I don’t think any union should just roll over because of SARU’s backroom dealings. This is going to get ugly, but if this turns into a court battle, I’m backing the Lions rather than the Cheetahs to take on SARU.

  2. Roly says:

    After the bye this week for the Lions I hope they improve and it’s not goodbye in a few weeks time.

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