Winners and Losers, Stayers and Movers
Well the fat lady is warming up for the end of the Super Rugby season. The final round is underway and some big matches are scheduled for today. In the games played so far in the final round the Blues defeated the the Highlanders and the Force reversed form and beat the Rebels, with a penalty in the dying minutes.
The Blues have secured their place in the finals, but it has been a very different season for the Force. They drew twice and lost numeous games by 3 points, or less, when it looked like they were on schedule for a win. If those games could have been closed out they would have made the finals too. The Force forwards have, on the whole, been very good, but the backs somewhat erratic.
The Force have now parted with the prodigous talent of James O’Connor, after protracted contract negotiations and unreasonable demands on the players behalf. He will be missed by the Force, as will David Smith, who has really been a star on the wing in recent weeks. There seems to be very little in the way of loyalty in this competition, with numeous players changing sides at the end of the season, or moving to Europe or Japan. One of the notable exceptions is the Force skipper Nathan Sharpe, who had a marvelous season and has signed up for another year, which could be his last before retirement. But in the form he is in, who knows?
The big games today feature the Reds, who have already qualified for the finals, facing the Chiefs at Waikato stadium. The Crusaders host the Hurricanes in an all New Zealand battle and the Waratahs face the Brumbies and need to win and have other results go their way to make the finals. So it looks like a long day in front of the TV. I hope I’ve put in the training for this.
Overnight in South Africa, the Bulls host the Sharks and the Cheetahs the Stormers, with only 4 points separating the top three sides in the South African conference. The Stormers look certain to qualify, but it is a toss up who else will.
Whichever team you are following, have a great day, it will be a long one in Super Rugby.
By Max Power