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‘Not rewarding them’: Wallabies great questions Super Rugby playoff set-up

By Finn Morton
The team captains pose for a photograph with the trophy at the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific Season Launch on February 14, 2024 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Wallabies legend Tim Horan has questioned whether Super Rugby Pacific should cut down from an eight to six-team playoff race in an effort to reward the sides that finish first and second.

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The Blues and Hurricanes are in the box seat to finish the regular season in one of the coveted top-two places, while the Brumbies and Chiefs have also secured a home quarter-final.

Moving down the ladder, the fifth-place Queensland Reds are finals-bound, while the Melbourne Rebels, Highlanders and Fijian Drua are on the brink of booking their ticket to the next stage.

In a 12-team competition, those who finish the regular season in the top eight qualify for the playoffs. But, with two games to go before that stage, Tim Horan has suggested an alternative.

While the 4-8 Western Force and 2-10 Crusaders are among the teams still have a mathematical chance of qualifying, the two-time World Cup winner believes the top sides aren’t rewarded enough.

“Well, you’d think the Western Force is the best chance, wouldn’t you think, after their performance against the Waratahs in Perth last weekend,” Horan said on Stan Sports’ Rugby Heaven.

“Of course, they play the Reds this weekend on Saturday night.

“I think the Force, they’ve shown – Benny Donaldson, one of his better games of the year as well with Kurtley Beale, what he’s brought to this team.

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“But then the conversation goes back to should you have a top eight? I actually think it should be top six. Top six, the quarter-final is three to six and the top two get the weekend off, the first weekend off.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
3
Draws
0
Wins
2
Average Points scored
25
21
First try wins
100%
Home team wins
40%

“At the moment, you’re not rewarding say the Blues and the Hurricanes. If they finish one and two, you’re not rewarding them for finishing in the top two.”

As Horan mentioned, the Western Force are the more likely of the bottom-four teams to rise up the ladder and into a playoff spot on the back of a late regular season resurgence.

The men from out west have won their last two matches, which have both been against other sides vying for eighth place, and they’ve only lost two of their last five dating back to April 20.

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Defending champions the Crusaders are four points behind the Force on the ladder and appear to be an outside chance of making the next stage.

Then there’s Moana Pasifika and the Waratahs. Former Wallaby Cameron Shepherd echoed Horan’s comments by saying those two teams “can’t really get back in” the top eight.

“I kind of agree in a 12-team competition that maybe six is the right thing,” Shepherd added.

“You look at it now, the Waratahs and Moana are probably the two teams that have definitely gone. The fall down from sixth to 10th are the moving positions.

“The Tahs and Moana can’t really get back in there but they can certainly disrupt what’s going to happen.

“I think bonus points are just going to become so vital in these next couple of weeks, and for the poor Force, could that Bayley Kuenzle try that was disallowed at the end of the game last Saturday night and losing that one (bonus) point come back to hurt them?

“Fingers crossed not but it’s going to be an exciting couple of weeks.”

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Mzilikazi 1 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 4 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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F
Flankly 6 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

The comments were reported weirdly. De Allende did say it would be war, but he said it amidst comments like “Ireland play such good footy”, and “they are so good at the breakdown”. He said that the Boks lost heavily to Ireland a few years back and that they felt the Irish press was dismissive of the Boks. I don’t recall that, but I suppose it is true, and that SA players would want to turn around that sentiment. The RWC loss to Ireland would naturally pour fuel on the fire. In short, it is a natural thing for passionate players like him to feel very strongly about the goal of registering a convincing series win against Ireland. There is really nothing to see here. As an aside, the SA team shouldn’t be too self-righteous about this kind of a situation. Recall that in 2004, after SA won the Ireland series in SA, Jake White noted that no more than two Irish players were good enough for selection in his Bok side. "Considering the facts, I think only two of their players would be included in the Bok team - O'Driscoll (centre) and maybe one of the locks. How could we have lost against the Irish?" O’Driscoll disagreed and said that it was close, and Ireland were just tired. My Irish friends were pretty incensed by the comments, quite rightly. And I am sure it was part of the energy that drove them to some famous wins against the Boks. The Etzebeth thing was a little different. I think he was just not hearing what was being said. It is not that unusual for someone to say “We will see you in the final”. Of course it is a statement of confidence, which every team should have, but it is also a compliment. I think there was a cultural fly-by, in which a “see you soon” comment was taken to mean “we will beat you again”. But it was a good story, and a convenient clickbaity headline. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to rile up anything. But if you interview a Bok player and prod them about their passion wrt the Ireland tour, you are likely to hear some pretty heartfelt words. And so you should.

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