Super Rugby finalists found

By James Perry

The Super Rugby regular season has come to an end this weekend, and the quarter-finalists have been found. The Blues are the only NZ team not to qualify for the quarter-finals.

The Blues were finally put out of their misery last night, the Crusaders putting them to the sword 54-17 in Christchurch. Captain Sam Whitelock says while it was great to end the regular season with a big win, "there's definitely that middle part there that we're going to have a good look at it, good review and we're going to have to do that going forward." 

The Crusaders sit on top of the Super Rugby table, a position they have held for many weeks now. As a result they will have home advantage all through the finals series, beginning with the Sharks from Durban, South Africa next weekend.

All Black captain, and Crusaders No 8 Keiran Read and fellow All Black Ryan Crotty left the field with wrist and thumb injuries respectively, and coach Scott Robertson will be hoping they will come right for that match, but is confident he has the depth in his squad to cover. He says they've given themselves an opportunity, "and that's what finals are, and that's what Crusaders love doing."

The  match in Christchurch marked an end of an era for New Zealand rugby, with Blues veteran Jerome Kaino bidding farewell to New Zealand, before he sets off to France to end his career with Toulouse in France. He told Sky Sports after the match he has really enjoyed his time in New Zealand, but "I haven't had time to sit back and reflect on it but maybe in a few weeks, I'll be able to sit back and get emotional because it's all happened so quick."

In quarter final No. 2, the Hurricanes will host the Chiefs in an all New Zealand clash. The two sides went toe-to-toe in Hamilton on Friday, with the Chiefs holding on to win 28-24 after racing out to a 21-0 lead at half time.
Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick says that is something they have to fix if they want to continue in the competition, "with the last three weeks we've started really well and had a great first half and let them come back in the second."

Hurricanes skipper, Beauden Barrett is hoping their fans fill the Cake Tin next weekend, "I encourage everyone to come out and that help certainly is noticeable,"

Barring an upset of epic proportions by the Sharks over the Crusaders. the winner in Wellington will be rewarded with a trip to Christchurch and a semi-final against the defending champions. 

The other NZ team making a finals appearance this is the Highlanders. Before this round began they were facing the prospect of a quarter-final in Johannesburg against the Lions. But the Brumbies beating 2nd placed Waratahs, and the Lions beating the Jaguares means the Lions finished in 2nd, and the 6th place Highlanders have a much shorter trip to Sydney this weekend to play the Waratahs. However, a trip to the Republic is not out of the question. Should the Lions beat the Jaguares, they will host either the Waratahs or the Highlanders. A Jaguares win on the other hand will see them travel to either Sydney or Dunedin.