It took until the final round of the Super Rugby competition but it appears the health of New Zealand rugby isn't too bad after all as the Chiefs and Highlanders joined the Crusaders and Hurricanes in qualifying for the finals series.

The same cannot be said of Australian rugby, however, after a weekend during which the Waratahs and Rebels were embarrassed by the Highlanders and Chiefs, respectively.

Both Aussie sides had it all to play for as far as the finals are concerned and yet turned out insipid performances in Invercargill and Melbourne. And all this after the Force were culled last year. Questions will now be asked whether four teams are too many for Australia.

The Brumbies are their nation's only representatives in the quarter-finals and the Sharks will travel to Canberra with little fear after their efforts in beating the Stormers in Cape Town despite their long-haul trip back to South Africa from Argentina.


The Highlanders' reward for their 49-12 demolition of the Waratahs in Southland is a trip to Christchurch to play the Crusaders. The Chiefs must travel to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares, with the Hurricanes hosting the Bulls in the other quarter-final.

The initial fears from some within New Zealand that only two Kiwi sides would make the finals appear were unfounded. The Crusaders have home advantage and the benefit of going into their match against their southern rivals with the benefit of a bye but will have their hands full against a team playing like they've been given a second chance.

They were devastating against the Sydney-siders and the same applied in the next game where the Chiefs dismantled the Rebels at AAMI Park 59-8, a defeat which could affect the home side for some time.

The Waratahs were always going to struggle in Invercargill at this time of year, but the Rebels shipping 125 points to two Kiwi teams in a fortnight after their previous 66-0 loss to the Crusaders is unacceptable.

Liam Squire is back for the Highlanders, along with Waisake Naholo, and it appears Ben Smith might get the send-off he was hoping for and deserves. Factor in, too, the way they played in the wet conditions at Rugby Park which will be similar to those in Addington on Friday night.

"If we get another crack next week I think we're going to be very dangerous," Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger told Stuff.

"We've got Waisake back in top form, Liam Squire back in the mix ... obviously Ben Smith is not too far away too and we haven't had those boys all on the field at the same time this year.

"We can go through and beat anybody."


Chiefs coach Colin Cooper would have preferred to have played the Crusaders rather than having to travel to Argentina but his team too are coming right at the right time after a shocking start to the season.

"Just having that really poor start, and the disruptions with the injuries we've had, with those disruptions we've managed to become battle hardened, because we've been fighting basically every week to try and stay in this competition," Cooper told Stuff from Melbourne.

"Beating the Reds, beating the Crusaders, Brodie [Retallick] coming back, there was a lot of self belief and confidence within the group, and we had a great week of training, and we were really prepared to perform.

"To come over here and win in that fashion was a very proud moment."

Playoffs match schedule

Quarter-final 1:

Fri June 21: Crusaders v Highlanders, Christchurch Stadium @ 7:35pm

Quarter-final 2:
Sat June 22: Hurricanes v Bulls, Westpac Stadium, Wellington @ 7:35pm

Quarter-final 3:
Sat June 22: Jaguares v Chiefs, Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires @ 10:05am

Quarter-final 4:
Sat June 22: Brumbies v Sharks, GIO Stadium, Canberra @ 10:05pm

Semifinal draw:
Pre-determined draw as follows (highest ranked team to host):

SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
SF2: Winner QF3 v Winner QF4

Final Draw:
(highest ranked team to host):

Final: Winner SF1 v Winner SF 2