Despite the Crusaders’ relative dominance over the competition, there’s no doubt that Super Rugby Aotearoa has been a raging success.
An Australian scribe suggested last week that Super Rugby AU had one massive advantage over the tournament across the ditch, however – a finals series involving the top three teams.
As it currently stands, the Crusaders would have to lose to both the Highlanders and the Blues in the coming weeks for the latter team to have any chance at pipping the Cantabrians to the trophy. Given how well the Crusaders have performed this season, that’s an exceptionally unlikely scenario.
The final four games of Super Rugby Aotearoa will still be excellent to watch but the gloss is removed a little bit simply due to the seeming inevitability that the Crusaders will be crowned champions.
If the New Zealand competition were to follow a similar structure to the schedule in Australia, the Blues, Hurricanes and Highlanders would all still be in with a serious chance at emerging victorious come season’s end while the Chiefs would potentially have focussed less on development in the last few weeks and more on winning matches (though apart from Kaleb Trask’s elevation to starting first five, there haven’t really been any other significant changes).
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 5, 2020
In Australia, the admitted lack of consistency that the four teams below the Brumbies have shown means that even in the final weekend of round-robin action, there will likely be matches that will have a huge bearing on who takes home the trophy.
This fact wasn’t lost on the New Zealand franchises and Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee pushed for New Zealand Rugby to add a final to the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition was told that it simply wasn’t possible to fit it into the calendar.
“I asked NZR about that [a final] before the competition and thought it was something that should be considered,” Lee told Stuff.
“Obviously there was a lot of rugby that needed to be squeezed into a season and the North v South game [on August 29] made sense to NZR in terms of starting to prepare All Blacks for their series.
“A final would have been great, but in saying that the attrition rate of injuries in this competition has been extremely high so, in hindsight, maybe not having a final was a good idea.
“I do think fans love a final so it’s just balancing those different factors to get the right decision. We accepted that and moved on.”
Even if a final were on the cards, the Hurricanes would need to score wins over the Chiefs and Highlanders in the final two rounds of action in order to pip the Blues to second on the ledger (providing that the Blues don’t beat the Crusaders in the last game of the regular season).
If the Hurricanes do trump the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday night, the home side will have gone through the season winless.
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