Getting to one-third of the way through the season, the one fact that is unquestionable is – there are no unbeaten Super Rugby teams left. Hardly a ‘season changer’ but, many of the leading teams would not have envisaged such parity; to start with.
There are always factors that can influence losses. Injuries, weather conditions, unforeseen tactics, yet the underdog win by the Blues over the Stormers – in Cape Town mind you – was clearly unplanned result for the host. It has altered the stakes after five rounds. And it has teams reevaluating all opposition strengths and weaknesses.
Not every side will have rated the Auckland team. Some would have seen the late arrival of Beauden Barrett as an ‘opportunity’ to confront an unpolished side. Ask the Waratahs and Bulls that question now, and each would answer “it was to our detriment”. Planning now for every side is critical.
Especially as no one team can hold a ‘five and zero’ over the heads of their rivals.
— Super Rugby/TRC (@SuperRugby) March 2, 2020
Planning and implementing an unbreakable attitude to defence is key. More so after a Bye round, so for the Chiefs and Crusaders, the time to shine is now. They want to return to the competition with conviction before the remaining side’s place on the table is made clearer [after every side has completed their Bye rounds].
Round 6 matches rescheduled, with no unbeaten Super Rugby teams
SANZAAR has had to make adjustments to the scheduling of a handful of matches; with the Global impact of COVID-19 seeing the hosting rights of the Japanese franchise, withdrawn. The risk is too high, so Super Rugby organizers have rescheduled the Sunwolves round 6 fixture.
Now planned to be staged in a neutral venue of Woolongong, New South Wales. These Super Rugby teams will fight out a good old Australian conference derby game, now in a double-header, with the Wallabies v Chiefs game to follow soon after. So in a way, ticket holders will benefit directly. The television audience can begin their Friday Night Footy a little earlier, with the match right in the middle of happy hour.
That is not to make fun of the situation. The planning put into the Sunwolves hosting a match in Osaka was a brilliant initiative. Feel sorry for those looking forward to the game, removed at no doing of their own.
And in their final season as a legitimate Super Rugby franchise, it was a brilliant way to repay fan support in Japan; and in Singapore too. Now, those local opportunities are gone. And that is unfortunate, to say the least. But the season goes on.
Kick-off times for the two relocated @sunwolves matches for RD 6 & 7 now locked in, as well as a change to @BluesRugbyTeam match in RD 7 to accommodate the change; means 'double-headers' at Wollongong on March 6 and Brisbane on March 14.
Details: https://t.co/unWa5HelQ0 pic.twitter.com/aMgjv5kDTb
— Super Rugby/TRC (@SuperRugby) March 2, 2020
What it does provide is familiar surroundings. So with all due respect to the Asian side, most pundits can foresee the ACT Brumbies holding strong on home ground. They should be able to do that mostly from self-confidence, as much as a renewed feel for running rugby.
Don’t expect pure set-piece gameplay. Even though the driving maul works, and will be the sides ‘go-to option’ they will need to be on song to counter the unpredictable Sunwolves.
Three matches on Friday, four games on Super Saturday
A full schedule hits Super Rugby teams again. Seven matches, three on Friday [in part due to the Coronavirus rescheduling], while it is that segment of the calendar that wants all teams to be matched. Inter-conference away teams traveling, as well as local derby games. It is a great mix, and one that will continue to adjust and to test the planning and preparation of every team.
No one side is unbeaten, Yes. Some other longer championships might jest at the fact Round 6 is a third of the way through a season. It is, yet every competition has a feature game each weekend. What game might that be in early March 2020?
Arguably, it is the Sharks v Jaguares this round.
Some will say that it might be that the Jags can ‘get one over their biggest SA conference rivals’. Though, the Stormers will argue that. But with several positive outcomes on tour [aleardy] the Sharks can now rely on a string on home and local derby games to create a positive period for the Sharks. Or, are they exhausted? Will the Jaguares pounce?
We can’t wait to see it.
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Crusaders vs. Reds 6 March 1:05 p.m.
Hurricanes vs. Blues 7 March 1:05 p.m.
Sharks vs. Jaguares 7 March 8:05 p.m.
Sunwolves vs. Brumbies 8 March 10.15am pic.twitter.com/puD7cUH6rU
— The Game Bangkok (@TheGame_BKK) March 4, 2020
Those games and others like the Melbourne Rebels v Lions or the Hurricanes v Blues games, will all set markers. Seven or six games, every week teams must set new markers. Meet them or they will be disappointed. But bouncing back, and sustaining success is a constant aim.
The Stormers have their Bye, so will be reeled in by the other South African conference teams. Yet both the Sharks and Jaguares need their Bye round, so the only measure is winning on the field.
No team is unbeaten although, any team could go on a string of wins now that sets up their year. Who that is, can be possibly be predicted by others…..this week, Last Word on Rugby won’t go so far as picking the winners. We just believe the most consistent teams – even with a few upsets by the Blues or Sunwolves aside – will go farthest in 2020.
The global impact and travel restrictions that Coronavirus may create is the real unknown. But hopefully, medical technology and good control measures can slow and inhibit the wider-spread of the illness.
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