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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Finals highlight quirks in new Super format

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One of the quirks thrown up by the uneven Super 15 shows the top-seeded Stormers and Chiefs did not meet in pool play. Photo / Getty Images
One of the quirks thrown up by the uneven Super 15 shows the top-seeded Stormers and Chiefs did not meet in pool play. Photo / Getty Images

One of the quirks thrown up by the uneven Super 15 shows the top-seeded Stormers and Chiefs did not meet in pool play. Unless they both win their semifinals next weekend, the teams who collected the most points in pool matches will not duel in this year's competition.

That possibility is one of the anomalies in a series which breaks for a month as it nears the end of pool play, and then rewards the Reds with a home quarter-final even though they gained the least points of the qualifiers.

That decision was justified in part by Sanzar boss Greg Peters because each country needed to host a playoff game for its television audiences. So sixth is the new third for the Reds.

Next they'll be asking teams to play Rippa Rugby in case some of them get hurt.

"We have seen strong conferences in New Zealand and South Africa," Peters said, defending the system,"but last year the Reds and Waratahs both qualified."

This year's semifinal hosts, the Reds and Crusaders, lost to their Sharks and Bulls opponents during round-robin games although both encounters took place in South Africa.

The Sharks prevailed 27-22 in Durban and the Crusaders fell 30-32 against the Bulls in Pretoria when Morne Steyn kicked eight from 10 attempts as he outduelled Daniel Carter.

Of the six finalists, the Reds and Bulls were the only teams who played all the qualifiers.

The Stormers and Chiefs had contrasting ways of getting to the head of the points queue.

Statistics show the table-topping Stormers scored the least number of tries, 28, in the competition and, mostly through the exploits of Peter Grant, kicked 21 conversions and 55 penalties. They also conceded the fewest tries, 21, and yielded 19 conversions and 36 penalties.

By comparison, the Chiefs scored 47 tries, kicked 37 conversions and 45 penalties while they coughed up 30 tries, 23 conversions and 51 penalties.

Interest in the Super 15 has mushroomed this season, with 58 million viewers watching televised games across New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, while 2.4 million spectators have attended matches across the three countries.

"Viewership is up 28 per cent as at last week in New Zealand, 17 per cent in South Africa and marginally down in Australia," Peters said.

"Crowds have been up 35 per cent in New Zealand, which I'm sure is a great build on the World Cup."

The income model for the playoffs means that host unions- the Reds and Crusaders this week-keep the gate money but pay the visiting side A$75,000 ($96,000) for the quarters, A$100,000 for the semis and A$125,000 for the final. Sanzar pays the travel and accommodation costs for the visiting teams.

Jaco Peyper will referee the opening quarter-final when the Crusaders play the Bulls. His assistants will be Keith Brown and Glenn Jackson while Garratt Williamson will be the television match official.

Jonathan Kaplan will control the second game between the Reds and Sharks. Craig Joubert and James Leckie will run touch with Matt Goddard as the television monitor.

An announcement on the Blues coach is expected in the next few days after interviews were completed with Kieran Crowley, John Kirwan and Pat Lam.

Reports that Vern Cotter was also in the mix were denied by the franchise yesterday after he was seen with Blues chief executive Andy Dalton.

- NZ Herald

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