'It would be nice to have top six': Dane Coles on Super Rugby Pacific playoffs
Speaking ahead of his side’s quarter-final clash against the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday, Coles carefully delivered his verdict about the competition’s current playoff structure, which has come under criticism for its bloated nature.
As things stand, eight of Super Rugby Pacific’s 12 teams qualify for the post-season, with the Highlanders claiming eighth place this year despite winning just four of their 14 regular season matches.
That has led to questions about whether the southerners deserve their place in the post-season, and while the current playoff system has been defended by some in recent days, Coles said he would like to see a format change.
“It would be nice to have top six, but the Landers are going to go out there and try beat the Blues, aren’t they?” Coles said on Thursday.
“None of us can control how they do the top eight or top six, but, maybe looking forward, you want to look at it a bit differently.
“I know those Landers boys have thrown a bit on social media and they’re pretty keen to get stuck into the Blues. Fair credit to them, they’ll turn up and play, but that’s out of my packet to restructure the comp.”
Both teams head into that match on the back of losses, with the Hurricanes having fallen short against the Western Force in Perth last weekend.
The Brumbies, meanwhile, will be aiming to snap a three-match losing streak after suffering defeats to the Crusaders, Blues and Moana Pasifika.
However, the Brumbies have also enjoyed plenty of success against Kiwi opposition this season, having beaten the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Chiefs earlier in the year.
It’s for that reason that Coles said Australia’s top-ranked side cannot be taken lightly by the Hurricanes, who have been bolstered by the returns of Jordie Barrett and Julian Savea into their match day squad.
“I think obviously the weekend was disappointing, but I think the big thing for us is we’ve had to move on pretty quick,” Coles, who has been named to start at hooker against the Brumbies, said of the Force loss.
“Not dwell on it too much because we’re into the business end of the season, so we took a few little learnings out of it.
“I think the excitement of just playing the Brumbies in a quarter-final, obviously the record’s not great, but what a challenge for us of going out and putting a performance we can be proud of.
“They’re a quality team, but there’s massive belief in this group that we can give it a good crack.”
Hurricanes assistant coach Chris Gibbes echoed that sentiment, noting that while there was a sense of “complacency” from his side against the Force, there is a strong feeling within the squad that they can beat the Brumbies at GIO Stadium.
“All our energy’s gone into this. We’ve worked really hard during the regular season to get to this point. We’re in the playoffs and we get 80 minutes to prove how good we are, and that’s what we’re focused on,” Gibbes said.
“We’re excited as hell about it, there’s a lot of belief in the group that we can achieve this, so we put our energy into that and it’s exciting.”
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