Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson says his side’s win on Saturday night showed Australian teams aren’t just making up the numbers, as his Chiefs counterpart called for a fairer Super Rugby system.
NSW and their Friday night opponents led their respective conferences heading into the clash, a spot that guarantees a home final, though the Waratahs sat more than 10 competition points behind their closest Kiwi rivals.
Only conference winners are guaranteed a home quarter-final, with two Australasian wildcards likely to head to South Africa for their opener, despite a superior record.
In fact, four New Zealand teams sit ahead of the Waratahs on points, but one is likely to travel to face NSW in Sydney if they make the finals, an assignment made more intimidating after Friday night.
Gibson said his side’s 20-point win showed that if they can hold off the Brumbies in the final three games of the year, they would be more than just a lucky finalist.
“Australian teams have been criticised a lot about how we can’t play against New Zealand sides and I thought tonight put that into perspective,” he said.
“The Chiefs are the number one team in New Zealand and rightly so and we’ve come out and we’ve gone toe to toe with a champion team and we performed very well.
“It shows given the dry track and the right mindset Australian teams can compete.
“It’s the type of rugby we’ve been wanting to play all season. It’s just taken until round 14 to find that.”
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said while the number of teams made it difficult for an entirely even playing field, previous systems where teams played opponents from all countries was a fairer system.
Under the current system, one South African conference never has to play a New Zealand team, with that conference this year including the Stormers and the Bulls.
“There’s going to be four quarter-finals and two of them are going to be in Africa,” he said.
“Considering they’ve got six teams and half those games are going to be there...I guess they put a lot of money into it, so that’s the way it is.
“In the end we’ve known about the comp - it is what it is. It just means if you don’t win your conference you’re travelling.
“if we’d beaten the Waratahs tonight we probably would’ve done the Brumbies a bit of a favour.
“It’s an arm wrestle now for all of us.”
SANZAAR is set to conduct a review into the competition structure ahead and Rennie said he hoped teams would have an equal say.
“In the end it is what it is,” he said.
“It’d be good if everyone had a bit of a say in how the competition structure looks long-term but when you’re trying to please everyone it’s pretty difficult.
“We haven’t grizzled too much about the competition, we know what it is and you’ve got to try and finish top to get a good run home and if not, you’re travelling.”
The Chiefs play the HIghlanders and Crusaders in their final matches, which will ultimately decide the unlucky side.