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If Super Rugby ended today: Sharks win first title while Blues show promise but are pipped by Crusaders for NZ conference champions

By Tom Vinicombe
(Photo by Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

The Sharks have done what just one previous South African Super Rugby side have managed in the competition’s history: topped the log and been awarded the Super Rugby title for 2020.

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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.

Continue reading below…

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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.

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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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9ujbweASYk/

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.

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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.

Elsewhere, the Brumbies have comfortably taken out the Australian conference, finishing 5 points clear of the Rebels and the Reds.

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.

Season wrap-up:

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

Top points scorer: Curwin Bosch (Sharks), 72 points
Top try scorer: Andrew Kellaway (Rebels), 7 tries

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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T
Turlough 1 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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