Bribes, sympathy and tunnel ball: How the Super QFs stack up and what each team must do to win


After an incredibly long and gruelling home and away season, the cream has risen to the top and the best two-thirds of the Super Rugby competition will be fighting it out in the cutthroat quarterfinals this weekend.

They promise to be four cracking games, with opportunities aplenty for players to make heroes of themselves by defying the odds, and even more chances for teams to suffer appalling humiliations. Here is my analysis of each of the games, and what the various teams are going to need to do if they wish to progress.

Chiefs vs Reds

This is, on paper, seemingly the closest of the playoffs to call. The Chiefs have shown moments of high class throughout the season, but also displayed a tendency to inconsistency, and even at home, could be vulnerable.

The Reds, on the other hand, are generally considered to be the best team in the world, and have only ever lost through terrible luck and wicked referees. If the Queenslanders want to win, therefore, they will need to play an ultra-cautious game, taking few risks in order to minimise the role of Fate in the proceedings. They will also need to bribe the referee.

The Chiefs will be confident as they are playing at home and will enjoy the full-throated support of a passionate home crowd.

Finding some way to nobble Les Kiss will help the New Zealanders, as the Reds have benefited all year from their coach’s eerie powers. They will also have to find a way to stop Tim Ryan, the fastest man alive who is known affectionately as “Deputy Dawg”.

Tim Ryan. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Ryan is averaging six tries a game – if the Chiefs can keep him to four or fewer, they’ll go a long way to winning. But everyone knows that in all likelihood this game will come down to one factor: Suliasi Vunivalu. As all Super coaches have been saying, stop Suli and you stop the Reds. Easier said than done!

Hurricanes vs Rebels

After winning a whopping five of their 14 games, the Rebels are understandingly bursting with confidence. But they’re unlucky to run up against a very good Hurricanes side.

The problem for the Melbourne team is that the Hurricanes’ main strength (playing rugby) coincides exactly with the Rebels’ main weakness (playing rugby).

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But there is a definite chance of an upset on Saturday, if the Rebels are savvy enough to deploy their secret weapon: the sympathy card.

It is vital that the Rebels spend all day making the ‘Canes feel as sorry for them as possible. “This’ll be our last game, you know…if we lose,” they could call across to the other side at lineouts, shooting their opponents a significant look. “Wow, bro, you’re really going to push in this scrum, after what we’ve gone through?” they can say, in a wounded tone of voice.

(Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

If coach Kevin Foote is smart he’ll have had his players practicing their sad puppy-dog eyes all week, so as to unleash them on the Hurricanes every time they look like scoring.

“It’d just…be nice to have something to feel good about, you know?” they should be sighing whenever a linebreak threatens. If the Hurricanes have any heart at all, they will simply feel too guilty to win.

Blues vs Fijian Drua

This will be a very tough game for the Drua to win away from home against a Blues team that is, confusingly, red-hot. In fact, the only way I can see for the underdogs to get up is to go Full Fiji: it’s time to pull out the basketball passes, the tunnelball and the goose-steps and put on a real circus act to dazzle the eyes of the Blues.

The Fijians should remember: nobody can tackle if they’re applauding.

It’s up the Blues to not allow themselves to get carried away with admiration at the Drua’s devil-may-care audacity and play in the traditional, grinding, dull, tedious, painful way.

As long as the Blues are not seduced by the Fijian flair and stick to their own game plan, they should be fine. But obviously for the Auckland-based team, it’s not just about winning, it’s about convincing their fans that they’re a better proposition than the Warriors. If the Blues can practice a steady, five tackles and then a kick routine, they will show the city that Super Rugby has it all, including rugby league.

Brumbies vs Highlanders

The Brumbies find themselves in the strange and disconcerting position of being an Australian rugby team that is expected to defeat a New Zealand rugby team.

This makes no sense at all, and there will undoubtedly be an independent investigation at Super Rugby headquarters to find out how this was allowed to happen.

The Highlanders will travel to Canberra as underdogs, but will remain hopeful as the Brumbies have lots of potential weaknesses to exploit. For example, fullback Tom Wright is error-prone and erratic, flyhalf Noah Lolesio is slow, incapable of imposing himself on a game and suspect in defence, the scrum is pathetic, their maul has deteriorated, and halfback Ryan Lonergan is the worst scrumhalf in Australia.

Those weaknesses were on full display in the two (2) games the Brumbies have lost this year, and the Highlanders are in with a huge chance if they can pinpoint every part of the Brumbies’ shambles of a team.

It’s an away game for the NZ team of course, but home ground advantage shouldn’t mean much unless one of the Brumbies’ eight supporters brings a friend.

The bigger risk, as for any side visiting Canberra, is getting mired in red tape.

If the Highlanders can’t navigate the city’s notorious bureaucracy, they may not even make it to the ground.

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