Meanwhile, the perpetually underperforming Blues kept their New Zealand conference title hopes alive with a commanding bonus point win over the Lions on Saturday but in the end it wasn’t enough, with the Crusaders notching a victory over Japan’s Sunwolves, who have now played their last ever game of Super Rugby.
Well, not quite.
SANZAAR have wisely put the 2020 Super Rugby season on hold after almost seven rounds of competition due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the planet.
Understandably, there’s no set time-frame on the suspension but given New Zealand’s current travel restrictions (anyone arriving in the country from outside NZ and some Pacific Island nations must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival) are set to last 30 days, it’s fair to assume that the competition will be on hold for at least the next month.
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While it would be overzealous to assume that the 2020 season is doomed, it’s impossible to say what the future holds; there is a possibility that Round 7’s clash between the Sharks and Stormers in Durban was the final match of this year’s competition.
How would the season finish, if the current standings were deemed an appropriate measure to gauge success this year?
As just one of two teams to have yet to sit out a round with a bye, the Sharks now stand atop the Super Rugby table, 1 point clear of last year’s champion Crusaders outfit.
That makes them the indisputable 2020 Super Rugby champions and SANZAAR should be quick to raid the Crusaders’ trophy cabinet and hand the cup over to the deserved new titleholders.
The Blues, the other side to have played an extra match, almost completed a resurrection of biblical proportions in 2020.
Last year, Super Rugby’s inaugural champions finished 13th on the overall table and last in the New Zealand conference. The other four Kiwi sides, meanwhile, all made appearances in the finals.
It was a different story this season with the Blues coming within a whisker of being crowned NZ conference champions, just a point adrift of the Crusaders.
Coach Leon MacDonald worked wonders for the Auckland franchise in 2020, with the side finishing with a mere two losses – 8 fewer than last year.
Regardless, nothing can be taken away from the champion Sharks who valiantly fought their way to the top of the table and shirked the challenges of the arduously long season that saw them play (and lose) just one match outside the Republic.
Overall champion: Sharks
Australian conference winner: Brumbies
New Zealand conference winner: Crusaders
South Africa conference winner: Sharks
Best offensive team: Reds, 219 points scored
Best defensive team: Stormers, 94 points conceded
WATCH: Leon MacDonald joins the Breakdown to give an inside look at the Blues camp in 2020. This and all the big rugby news on your latest episode of the Breakdown.
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