The final standings were turned on their head in an enthralling last round of the 2016 Super Rugby regular season.
Blues 34 d. Waratahs 28 @ Eden Park
The Waratahs’ had a chance to make the finals but stumbled at the last hurdle. The Blues will regret not playing this good throughout the season. They played with confidence, chanced their arm and came away with two good wins on the trot to finish the year. The Blues will look to keep this form going into next season but need a top-shelf flyhalf to do so. The Waratah’ need to improve their scrum and they need more go forward ball so that the likes of Foley and Folau can get in space and score some tries.
Rebels 31 d. Rebels 28 @ Suncorp Stadium
A disappointing end to the year for the Reds; the game was in the balance and they couldn’t finish it off. The Rebels have had a decent season but finished third overall in the Australian conference and 12th in the overall standings. The Reds will be searching for a decent fly half next season to improve their chances and the Rebels will want to try and go injury free next year with a good preseason.
Sharks 40 d. Sunwolves 29 @ Kings Park
The Sharks made it hard for themselves against the lowly Sunwolves, only securing the win in the last 10 minutes with two tries. They will not take much confidence going into the finals against the Chiefs. The Sunwolves, in their debut season, had a few highs in beating the Jaguares and drawing with the Stormers. They need a few more foreign players, but they will get better next year.
Hurricanes 35 d. Crusaders 10 @ AMI Stadium
This was the biggest surprise of the weekend, not so much that the Hurricanes won but how much they won by. To be fair they got one charge-down try to TJ Perenara and one right at the end to Beaudan Barrett when the Crusaders were throwing the ball around and gave up an intercept. But the Hurricanes finish top of the table after going under the radar all season, and will get to stay at throughout the play-offs.
Highlanders 25 d. Chiefs 15 @ Forsyth Barr Stadium
All the Chiefs had to do was to win this game and they would’ve finished first. The Highlanders needed to win with a bonus point to finish first. There was good intensity in this game and a bit of push and shove, which was good to see. No one could really take control of the game but the Highlanders came away with a victory – with a Chiefs yellow card in the second half proving crucial – and now have an easier draw, heading to Canberra to play the Brumbies next week instead of the Lions in South Africa.
Brumbies 24 d. Force 10 @ GIO Stadium
The Brumbies started the game well against the Force, racking up a 24-10 halftime lead. Unfortunately for the spectators, that was the final score following an uneventful second stanza. They will struggle against the defending champions next week, although they do have home field advantage. Beating the Force by 14 points at home isn’t that big of a deal and they will be disappointed they couldn’t put them away in the second half. All they needed to do was win the game to secure their finals spot, however, and that may have added pressure.
Stormers 52 d. Kings 24 @ Newlands
As expected, the Stormers beat the Kings with a bonus-point win. Huw Jones scored four tries in an eight-try victory. The Kings will look to get several defensive coaches for the off-season, but their attack isn’t too bad, usually scoring at least 20 points in defeat. Still a disappointing season for the Port Elizabeth side though and the question remains: should we have so many teams in this competition?
Bulls 43 d. Cheetahs 17 @ Free State Stadium
A dead-rubber match between the Cheetahs and the Bulls. The Bulls dominated play but will be disappointed that they didn’t make the play-offs having such a strong team and several Springboks. The Cheetahs are missing quality players in several positions and will look to recruit strongly in the off-season.
Jaguares 34 d. Lions 22 @ Jose Amalfitani Stadium
Which brings us to the biggest blunder of the year. The Lions lost to the Jaguares in Argentina after leaving 15 top-line players at home, in turn surrendering top spot on the ladder.. All they needed was to lose within seven points and gain one bonus point to finish first. They looked good in the early stages but around the 60-minute mark they fell to bits and the Jaguares capitalised. The Lions still secured a home quarter-final and semi final (if they make it to week two) but will have to travel to New Zealand if the Hurricanes win their two games. And instead of a comparatively easy derby against the Sharks in week one, they host the Crusaders in the qualifier.