For the fourth year running, four of New Zealand’s five Investec Super Rugby clubs will take part in the Finals Series this weekend, including two home quarterfinals in Christchurch and Wellington.
NZR Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum said it was worth pausing to acknowledge the regular season efforts of New Zealand's five Super clubs before the playoffs kicked off.
"Our high-performance systems and structures continue to produce results and it’s testament to the efforts of the players, coaches and management teams at our Super clubs that they consistently compete at the business end of the season.
"This year presented some unique challenges to our Super Rugby clubs in a Rugby World Cup year and they have met them head on in bringing through a group of talented young players, including 32 newly contracted, who have been exposed to Super Rugby for the first time.”
Investec Super Rugby continued to be a popular competition with 450,000 fans attending matches in New Zealand during the 2019 regular season, Lendrum said.
“Like other professional sports leagues around the world we continue to face a challenge when it comes to attendance. Average crowds are down six percent from 2018, but we know the support base is there."
More than three million people per week engaged with Investec Super Rugby across NZR's digital channels during the regular season, a 94 percent increase on last year.
"We expect our final attendance figure for 2019 to improve through the Finals and I'm sure we will see the passion of the fans out in force for the quarterfinals this weekend," Lendrum said.
“I think we’ve seen the overall competitiveness of the tournament rise in 2019 and that’s been reflected in teams from the Australian and South African conferences recording a combined 12 wins over New Zealand teams. All the more pleasing that four New Zealand teams will once again be competing for a place in the final.”
While the regular season champion BNZ Crusaders set the pace for most of the season there have been highlights for all five of New Zealand’s Investec Super Rugby clubs including the Blues.
The Crusaders have dominated the points table and statistics in 2019 scoring the most tries (73) and most points (491), conceding the least points (257) and posting the best win-loss record with seven wins and a draw in Christchurch.
Outstanding Crusaders wing Sevu Reece was the New Zealand Conference’s Rookie of the Year as judged by the team at superrugby.co.nz, amassing 19 Rookie Points to edge Blues loose forward Tom Robinson.
The Pulse Energy Highlanders boasted the best kicking success rate among the New Zealand teams at an impressive 82 percent and the most successful lineout at 89 percent.
Blues wing Meilani Nanai was the most prolific runner in the competition eating up 1240 metres with ball in hand, while the Blues also had the most successful scrum with a success rate of 97 percent.
The Gallagher Chiefs made the most successful tackles (2,150) and completed the most offloads led by midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown with 32, while the Hurricanes posted the most wins (12) of any team with the club’s players beating the most defenders (434) and achieving the highest average metres gained per carry at 4.05 metres.
Investec Super Rugby quarterfinals draw (NZT):
Friday, 7.35pm, Crusaders v Highlanders, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday, 10.05am, Jaguares v Chiefs, José Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
Saturday, 7.35pm, Hurricanes v Bulls, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday, 10.05pm, Brumbies v Sharks, GIO Stadium, Canberra
20th season in the playoffs
Nine titles: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2017, 2018
Win-loss record v Highlanders
P36, W 24, L 11, D 1
11th season in the playoffs
One title: 2016
Win-loss record v Bulls
P 19, W11 , L 9
10th season in the playoffs
Two titles: 2012, 2013
Win-loss record v Jaguares
P 3, W 2, L 1
10th season in the playoffs
One title: 2015
Win-loss record v Crusaders
P36, W 11, L 24, D 1