Opinion: Super Rugby round 17 - Five things we learned

The Highlanders pack were dominant against the woeful Reds.
The Highlanders pack were dominant against the woeful Reds. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: The dominoes have fallen into place and after 17 long weeks, we've got our Super Rugby finalists.

With a number of dead rubbers over the weekend, what did we actually learn ahead of the finals series?

1. Hurricanes have put themselves in pole position for the Super Rugby title

By beating the previously undefeated Crusaders, the Canes swapped a trip to Cape Town for a trip to Canberra, and gave them every chance of qualifying for the final.

If they get past the Brumbies, they'll have the gruelling trip to Johannesburg to face the Lions, but they've beaten them in a final before.

Ngani Laumape
Ngani Laumape continued his billing as one of the hottest properties in NZ rugby at the moment. Photo credit: Getty

And with a fresh Dane Coles likely back on board, they'll fancy themselves against a team which hasn't faced a New Zealand franchise all season.

2. The system is broken

Whether it's the finals format, the conference system or the general competition structure, the Super Rugby tournament is broken.

While it's supposed to be improved next season, trusting Sanzaar to fix it is like entrusting a five-year-old with a vital keyhole surgery operation.

They need to consult external stakeholders, coaches, players and most importantly fans as to how the competition structure should look, because they're obviously not competent enough to fix it themselves.

3. It's easy to kick the Blues when they're down

I know, I know. Any team that loses to the Sunwolves, at this stage of their development, must be put on a boat, sent to an outcrop in the middle of the Pacific, and left to dwell on their next career path.

However, if you think about it rationally, playing in 42degC heat, after a five-week break, in a dead rubber that has no bearing on the competition, a team can be forgiven for finding it hard to get up.

The Blues found the Sunwolves too hot to handle under the Tokyo heat.
The Blues found the Sunwolves too hot to handle under the Tokyo heat. Photo credit: Getty

There's no excuse for the Blues' poor ball skills and their apparent lack of absence in the game.

But let's remember, they gave us the first great moment of the Lions tour, so let them go into the offseason and hope nothing like what unfolded on Saturday happens ever again.

4. Don't rule out the Highlanders

The Highlanders were staring down the barrel of a trip to Jo'burg to take on the Lions but instead, got a little trip up the road to Christchurch to play a team they led in the final five minutes of both matches this season. And they'll more than fancy themselves to cause an upset.

There will be player match-ups across the park and likely All Black spots up for grabs, so you can expect one of the best southern derbies to date.

5. If the Chiefs keep it simple, they win

If the Chiefs can manage to hold the ball and string the phases together, they should easily account for the Stormers next week.

They showed some real flair with the ball against the Brumbies on Saturday but their final pass and their lack of composure at key times cost them.

Damian McKenzie
Damian McKenzie ran the show against the Brumbies. Photo credit: Getty

At a fever-pitch Newlands, they won't get it their own way, but if they put trust in their raw skills, their ability to play with pace and get over the gain line, then they should have nothing to worry about.

Matt Tewhatu is a digital producer for Newshub.