One gets a week off at home, while the other packs their bags and heads to Cape Town.
How Australia’s two contenders, the NSW Waratahs and Brumbies, spend next week’s opening round of the Super Rugby finals could not be more contrasting.
The Brumbies’ 37-24 loss to the Crusaders on Saturday afternoon cost them any chance of winning the Australian conference, finishing second overall and having the week off their NSW counterparts have booked.
Stephen Larkham’s side went into the final round of the regular season equal on points (47) with the Waratahs with a chance to heap pressure on the reigning champions before they faced Queensland on Saturday night in Sydney.
Instead, they came away with nothing and the Waratahs, who led the Brumbies due to having more wins this season, went on to secure a 31-5 bonus-point win over the hapless Reds.
To make things worse for the Brumbies, superstar flanker David Pocock had to leave the field before halftime due to a concussion, but he is expected to face the Stormers in a sudden-death qualifier in Cape Town on Sunday morning (AEST).
“He’s on a six-day return to play protocol, but he should be fine,” Larkham said.
“He can partake in training on the Wednesday, so I think he’ll be alright.”
The Brumbies also have winger Henry Speight in the casualty ward after he injured his shoulder in the brutal encounter against the Crusaders who sent All Blacks legends Dan Carter and Richie McCaw off winners in their last Super Rugby appearances.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has warned his side they won’t be getting a holiday this week as they continue their quest to become the first Australian team to defend their Super Rugby title.
“It’s going to be about staying very focused on each day at a time and not think about anything else except for how we are going to approach that first match in a couple of weeks’ time,” Cheika said.
The Waratahs overcame a scrappy first half to score four tries after the break to overrun the hapless Reds and put more pressure on coach Richard Graham whose days seem numbered after Queensland finished the season third-last overall and second-last in the Australian conference.
Next week’s other sudden-death qualifying final is between the fourth-ranked Highlanders and the fifth-ranked Chiefs in Dunedin on Saturday.
The highest-ranked winner of the two qualifying finals, which will be the third-placed Stormers if they win, will play the Waratahs in Sydney in two weeks, while the other winner faces the runaway competition-leading Hurricanes.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes defeated the Chiefs 21-13 in New Plymouth on Saturday night as they look to clinch a maiden Super Rugby title.
South Africa’s only representative in the finals, the Stormers, rested several players for their clash with the Sharks in Durban and fell 34-12 to the home side.
Also on Sunday (AEST), the Bulls beat the Cheetahs 42-29, while on Friday the Highlanders outclassed the Blues 44-7 before wooden spooners the Western Force defeated the Melbourne Rebels 13-11.