23 Jul 2017

Super Rugby playoffs: Expected results, just not much fun to watch

3:31 pm on 23 July 2017

Opinion - Pity whoever is in charge of organising the flights for the Hurricanes over the weekend. Depending on the result of the Lions v Sharks match in Johannesburg last night, the 30-odd strong squad of players and coaches were either going to South Africa or back to Wellington.

Clockwise from top left: The Hurricanes, the Lions, the Chiefs and the Crusaders

Clockwise from top left: The Hurricanes, the Lions, the Chiefs and the Crusaders Photo: Photosport

The game ended in a 23-21 triumph to the Lions, but the result wasn't settled until the 78th minute by a monster 53 metre penalty kick.

The Sharks were on the brink of doing the Canes a massive favour and saving them a trip all the way to South Africa and back, but unfortunately they couldn't quite pull it off. That game was easily the most entertaining of the four playoffs played over the weekend, however the one match played in New Zealand can have an asterisk next to it given the conditions it was played in.

On Friday night the Hurricanes comfortably accounted for the Brumbies, the one playoff team whose participation reminded us all of what it was like to have to invite the one kid to your birthday party simply because you felt sorry for them. The Canes somewhat cruelly allowed the Brumbies to take the lead going into half-time, before shifting up a gear and blowing them away for a 38-16 win.

Was it convincing? No, but it certainly looked like a performance of a team that was thinking about what they need to do to defend their title when they play a better team next week.

The next evening in Christchurch, the Crusaders and Highlanders got very wet in a game that could only barely be described as a game of rugby. The ball spent about 99 percent of its time either being kicked up in the air, knocked on or under the feet of the forwards in a scrum.

This was, of course, due to the fact that the area had been subjected to torrential rain for the best part of a week. It meant that the Highlanders only arrived in Christchurch hours before kick-off, and that the stands exposed to the heavens were mostly empty.

Those that were there saw the Crusaders grind out a 17-0 win, which included a turgid, scoreless second half that got more and more frustrating to watch as every agonising minute ticked over.

Contrast that to the sunshine of a Johannesburg afternoon, where the Lions almost blew their chances at cashing in on a draw that seemingly guaranteed them at least a home semi-final.

The Sharks took the lead late in the game, through a try scored by a guy who looked like Damian McKenzie if he turned into the Incredible Hulk. However Ruan Combrink's aforementioned penalty saved the Lions from an early exit, and meant that the Canes will now jet over to Johannesburg next weekend.

The last match between the Stormers and Chiefs certainly ended up being close in the finish, but like the Hurricanes win, it'll go down as a game the Chiefs will be happy to get out of the way more than anything else.

The visitors had to make up for a highly entertaining loss to the Stormers at the same venue earlier in the season, but this game was mostly a bumbling affair with both teams trying to do too much, too often.

The Stormers probably should've gone back to their boring, old ways of seasons past and let the Chiefs make all the mistakes while kicking as much as they could - but instead they gave them just enough breathing room to squeeze out a 17-11 win.

So we've ended up with the semis that most predicted, although they go delivered in a slightly less entertaining package than we thought. Let's just hope the Hurricanes aren't too jet lagged to put on a show against the Lions, and that it stops raining in Christchurch - not just for the sake of a rugby game, either.

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