For three of this year’s Super Rugby play-off contenders – the Crusaders, Brumbies and Chiefs – it will be business as usual having been involved in the three weeks of “finals” rugby last year.
The three teams who were involved last year, but missed out this year are the Bulls, Reds and the Cheetahs, while the Sharks and the Waratahs are involved this year, but failed to qualify for last season’s business end.
Courtesy of finishing in the top two, the Waratahs and the Crusaders get a straight passage through to the semifinals next weekend and get a rest this weekend.
For the Chiefs, the qualifier is a new experience after going straight through to the semis for the past two seasons and will be the underdogs in Canberra against the Brumbies, despite being current title holders.
The Brumbies get the home advantage courtesy of finishing fourth, while the Chiefs ended fifth. The men from Canberra will be hoping it’s two in a row after edging the Cheetahs 15-13 at home last season.
In the other play-off in Durban, the Sharks, who ended third as SA conference winners, meet the sixth-placed Highlanders, who haven’t been in a play-off scenario for many a season.
In last year’s wild card play-offs, the Brumbies set up a semifinal with the Bulls at Loftus after downing the Free Staters, while in the other play-off the Crusaders crushed the Reds 38-9.
In the semifinals, the Chiefs edged the Crusaders 20-19 and the Brumbies shocked the Bulls at Loftus with a 26-23 win, courtesy of a late try.
In the final the Chiefs proved too strong with a 27-22 win over the Brumbies ensuring back-to-back titles.
A team outside the top two have failed to win the title since 1999, which all points to a Waratahs versus Crusaders final.