It’s Mad Monday for 10 teams in Super Rugby. They’ll all be commiserating their lack of participation in the playoffs, so let’s have a look at the highs and lows of their 2017 seasons.
Well, someone had to finish bottom of the NZ Conference and it was probably always going to be the Blues – given the incredible strength of the other four teams. The pressure is now officially on coach Tana Umaga for next year, another early finish and the few Aucklanders that still care will likely turn on him for good.
Highlight: The massive, but ultimately unrealised potential shown in their hiding of the Rebels in round one.
Lowlight: Tempting to say the weekend’s loss to the Sunwolves, but their heavy defeat to the Chiefs in week two is when the wheels started to fall off.
Another disappointing return for the Argentine national side in different jerseys. This team should be making the playoffs, given their strength of squad and massive home ground advantage.
Highlight: Even though Australian rugby is particularly weak right now, the Jags still did well to pick up two wins from two games on their tour leg against the Waratahs and Rebels.
Lowlight: Getting thrashed by the Brumbies at home.
The one success story of the also-rans, the perpetual cellar-dwellers pulled off their best season ever in Super Rugby with six wins. Their reward? Getting booted from the comp and having to go play in the Pro 12. Go figure.
Highlight: Their impressive four game win streak.
Lowlight: Having their fate sealed by having to play in an almost empty Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium earlier in the season.
Another team that probably did better than most thought, the Force picked up six wins and maintained rugby union’s presence in the outpost of Western Australia. Once again though, they merely existed rather than doing anything amazing.
Highlight: Massacring the Waratahs in their last game.
Lowlight: Which might actually be their last game, fullstop. The axe has been hanging over the Force all year, which can’t have been great for morale.
Another goodbye, but this one is particularly hard for Super Rugby purists. From their inception the Cheetahs have been committed to high scoring games and weak defence – they will be missed.
Highlight: A statement 34-28 win over local rivals the Bulls.
Lowlight: A statement 53-10 loss to local rivals the Stormers.
At first glance the Reds have been horrible, but a closer look shows that they haven’t actually suffered that many hidings. But given the amount of talent on their books, that probably makes them still horrible.
Highlight: Actually a loss, but they played pretty well to go down 20-22 to the Crusaders.
Lowlight: Getting hammered 43-10 by the Brumbies.
This team pretty much lives and dies on the fitness of Handre Pollard, so when he was ruled out for three months, so too were the Bulls’ playoff hopes. Their away jerseys looked pretty sharp, though.
Highlight: An unexpected 30-17 win over the Sharks.
Lowlight: Everyone is jumping on the Blues for losing to the Sunwolves, but the Bulls pulled off that ignominious feat too in 2017.
All that money, all that talent. The Horrortahs encapsulated everything wrong with Australian rugby right now with maybe their worst season ever. They didn’t get the wooden spoon, but they deserved it.
Highlight: They at least managed to summon enough energy to beat their old rivals the Reds.
Lowlight: They had clearly none of that energy left when they were destroyed by the Force.
— Brett McKay (@BMcSport) July 16, 2017
Everyone’s other favourite team managed to chime in with a couple of notable wins, but also drew in big enough home crowds to justify their existence. Plus, they staged the greatest turnaround ever by beating the Blues after losing to the Lions by almost 100.
Highlight: Wins over the Blues and Bulls that made everyone outside of Auckland and Pretoria smile.
Lowlight: Haemorrhaging 671 points – over 100 more than the next worse defence in the comp – including almost 150 in two consecutive games.
The less said the better. The murmurings of an Australian team getting cut clearly didn’t inspire the Rebels, who made the best case for it to be them that’s missing next year.
Highlight: Their one win, over the Brumbies.
Lowlight: Getting torched by the Kings.