Waratahs, Brumbies seal finals spots
The Waratahs trounced the Cheetahs 58-33 in Bloemfontein, with Israel Folau bagging a brilliant hat-trick, while David Pocock’s second treble of the season powered the Brumbies to a 33-20 defeat of the Force in Perth. The victories sealed the Australian heavyweights’ place in the top six with one round remaining, but the battle for the conference title is wide open.
The fierce rivals are locked on 47 competition points, but the Waratahs have won 10 games to the Brumbies’ nine to currently sit atop the conference. The Brumbies either need the Waratahs to lose at home to the Reds next week, or clinch a bonus-point win over the Crusaders and hope the Waratahs are unable to score four tries in beating the Reds. The outcome crucial, as the Australian conference winner is likely to get the first week of the finals off before a home semi-final. The team that finishes second in the conference will potentially be heading to South Africa to face the Stormers.
Hurricanes score emotional victory
The Hurricanes confirmed a runaway first-place finish with a 56-20 drubbing of an under-strength Highlanders outfit – just hours after being told of the tragic death of former franchise great Jerry Collins and his wife. The ‘Canes ran in eight tries, including doubles to Ma’a Nonu and TJ Perenara, while fullback James Marshall tallied 21 points. The tries scored by Nonu, a long-time teammate of Collins, were particularly poignant as the rugby world battled to come to terms with the loss of one of its most popular characters.
Big win not enough for Crusaders
The Crusaders did their part in staying alive in the top-six race by grabbing a comprehensive 34-11 bonus-point win over the Blues, but their fate was sealed only hours later as the Chiefs and Waratahs notched victories to close the door on the perennial powerhouse’s late finals bid. It is the first time since 2001 since the Crusaders have missed the Super Rugby finals.
Stormers clinch South African conference with dramatic draw
A nail-biting 19-all draw at Newlands saw the Stormers confirm their status as South African conference champions, edging out the seventh-placed Lions, who have the bye next week. The Stormers face the Sharks in Durban in the final round and could jump up to second on the table and earn a week off if the Waratahs and Brumbies both lose. But the most likely outcome for the Stormers is third place and a home clash in the first week of the finals – against either the Brumbies, Chiefs, Highlanders or Waratahs.
SUPER XV ROUND 17 RESULTS
Hurricanes 56 d. Highlanders 20 @ McLean Park, Napier
Brumbies 33 d. Force 20 @ nib Stadium
Rebels 21 d. Bulls 20 @ AAMI Park
Crusaders 34 d. Blues 11 @ Eden Park
Chiefs 24 d. Reds 3 @ Suncorp Stadium
Waratahs 58 d. Cheetahs 33 @ Free State Stadium
Stormers 19 drew with Lions 19 @ Newlands Stadium