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    Blues applaud 'smart' Super Rugby restructure

    2017-05-18 12:57

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - As it stands, the Super Rugby log does little to suggest that the best teams in the competition are being rewarded. 

    If the knockouts were to start right now, the Brumbies - who are on 19 points and top of the Australian Conference - would host a quarter-final. 

    The Blues, who are on 31 points, but bottom of the New Zealand Conference, would miss out on the playoffs altogether. 

    It certainly doesn't seem fair, and that has been the major reason that the current tournament format has come in for such heavy criticism over the past two seasons. 

    It has forced SANZAAR into a re-think, and the decision has been taken to reduce the tournament from 18 to 15 teams in 2018 with Australia losing a side and South Africa losing two. 

    From next year, Super Rugby will go back to three Conferences - South Africa, Australia and New Zealand - with the Jaguares joining the South African Conference and the Sunwolves joining the Australian Conference. 

    All three Conference winners will host quarter-finals, while there will be five wild card quarter-finalists for the next best placed teams on the overall log. 

    It means that, potentially, all five New Zealand sides could qualify for the playoffs - something that is simply not possible in the current format. 

    It is a change that Blues assistant coach Steve Jackson is pleased to see taking place.

    "I think it will benefit any New Zealand team," he said from Cape Town this week ahead of his side's clash with the Stormers at Newlands on Friday night. 

    "I'm pretty sure they'll sit back and have a good look at the competition and the way the points structure is ... seeing a team getting a home quarter-final that is a few points behind teams that should be there, there'll be some question marks.

    "I'm pretty sure they'll be smart enough and I'm sure we'll see a few changes."

    But Jackson was not making any excuses and he knows that the Blues are still very much in the hunt for a playoff slot this season. They currently sit just five points behind the Highlanders in the Kiwi conference. 

    "We understood that's how it goes and that's the draw ... we've just got to deal with it," he said.

    "Our season is not gone. We're only a few points behind the other New Zealand teams in our Conference so we've got to keep winning."

    It makes Friday's clash against the Stormers a must-win.

    Kick-off is at 19:00.

    Teams:

    Stormers

    15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble

    Substitutes: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Damian de Allende

    Blues

    15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi

    Substitutes: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Michael Collins

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