Chiefs and Bulls fans can put their feet up this week and watch with glee as their four rivals for Super 15 glory batter and bruise each other in the dreaded playoffs.
Whilst it probably won’t be a week of topping up the tan, sipping cocktails and late-night partying, it will afford the Super 15’s pace setters an extra week to recuperate ahead of the semi-finals.
And judging from the Chiefs' Twitter page, they’re pretty happy that rivals Brumbies—who recently made history by beating the British and Irish Lions—lost against the Stormers to send them into a playoff:
The fixture computer kept the playoff sides apart in the initial league competition, making preparation even tougher for the four teams involved as they try to suss out each other’s games.
Playoff Fixtures and Start Times
July 20: Canterbury Crusaders vs. Queensland Reds
AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand
K/O Time: 3:35 a.m. ET (8:35 a.m. GMT)
July 21: ACT Brumbies vs. Central Cheetahs
Canberra Stadium, Canberra, Australia
K/O Time: 2:10 a.m ET (7:10 a.m. GMT)
*Chiefs and Bulls have a bye to the semi-finals.
Canterbury Crusaders vs. Queensland Reds. Sound familiar? Two years ago the Reds fought their way past the Crusaders to win the Super League final 18-13.
This time around, the Crusaders have home advantage and are ready to inflict revenge for their 2011 defeat. They enter the match full of confidence after four straight wins, including a 43-15 slaughter of table-topping Chiefs, and are in pole position to progress.
Quade Cooper’s return for the Reds at fly half gives them a real boost ahead of the match. The 2011 Super League’s leading points scorer couldn’t prevent his side’s 14-12 defeat to the Waratahs at the weekend, but his kicking could make the difference in what will be a tight and nervy contest.
The other playoff pits the Brumbies against the Cheetahs. All the Brumbies had to do was topple lowly Western Force to guarantee an automatic semi-final place, but their 21-15 failure now means they must host a game they didn’t think they’d have to play.
After the high of becoming the first provincial side since 1997 to beat the Lions, it seems inconceivable that their Super 15 campaign could end so soon. And yet they will face a fresh Cheetahs side who have excelled beyond expectation to reach their first ever playoff.
Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss puts their success down to belief, according to the official Super 15 website. “Our mindset is definitely the difference between this year and last year,” he said. “This year we really have the belief that we can make it.”
A Brumbies win lands them a ticket to South Africa and the formidable prospect of facing the Bulls, who threw away their chances of getting a more favourable semi-final draw by losing 30-13 to the Stormers in Round 20.