Super Rugby Pacific has just come to the end of its regular season as the top eight push on to challenge for glory in the play-off phase.
With the quarter-finals locked in and waiting in the wings, Planet Rugby compares how the picture has changed compared to last season.
Interestingly the top four includes the same teams across both seasons, but the sides are shuffled and do not occupy the same positions.
The Chiefs had a great campaign inspired by the return of Damian McKenzie who is surely the player of the regular season. The Waikato men ran out 10 consecutive wins – a new club record – in a fantastic season. They have strength all over the park with an ever-improving forward pack and a venomous backline. This team is firmly amongst the favourites for the title.
The same position as last year for the defending champion Crusaders, who started slower than they would have liked but powered their way to second on the table. The Christchurch men are defending champions and proved they can go anywhere required and grab a win. Play-off rugby is their bread and butter so expect a charge deep into the knockouts.
Meanwhile, the Blues have not reached the height they did during last season but have still managed to maintain aspects of their performance. From first on the table last season to third and still in the title race. They still have the firepower to push for the title but it will be a big task to challenge the top two.
The Brumbies remain above and beyond the most consistent Australian side again this season. There were flashes of brilliance from some of their counterparts but the Canberra men have the most complete package. It is a brilliant effort to finish fourth again and they will be looking to make it beyond the semi-final this season.
At times this season, it felt as though the Hurricanes would seriously kick on and earn a top-four spot but it did not materialise for the Wellington men. Despite finishing in the same position as last year their game could be argued to be in a better place. The pieces are there but those need to align for the team to rattle the top four in the play-offs.
The Waratahs also managed the same position as last season with inconsistency one of their chief concerns as it was last season. The side has shown tremendous resilience and at times played some brilliant attacking rugby. Unfortunately, their injury list has grown, making the play-off picture a little harder for them.
Probably the success story of the campaign is the Fijian Drua as they qualified for the play-offs for the first time. It has been a brilliant season with more games at home in Fiji which has been outstanding for the side. They continue to grow and have become a difficult side to face.
The Reds drop down one place in a mixed season that saw them beat the Chiefs in a stunning effort whilst not showing their best on other occasions. The club is entering a period of transition with Brad Thorn set to be departing his role soon. They were lucky to sneak through and will be looking to make the most of it in the play-offs.
READ MORE: ‘Massively satisfying’ growth of Fijian Drua warrants a playoff spot
The article How the Super Rugby Pacific playoff picture changed in one year appeared first on Planetrugby.com.