New Zealand Super Rugby teams are leading the way with their structure off the field and their intensity on it.
That’s the summation of Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree as one of the most lop-sided regular seasons in the championship’s history rolls towards its final weekend.
Four New Zealand teams are guaranteed to qualify for the quarter-finals while the fifth, the Blues, have lost only six of their 14 games.
The Kiwi sides have won 49 games in total compared to 28 from the five Australian outfits and 41 from the six South African outfits. The newly formed Jaguares and Sunwolves have won four between them.
Well-travelled coach Plumtree says New Zealand Rugby has got everything right off the park, which also explains the world champion All Blacks’ dominance at Test level.
“It’s probably to do with the depth and systems that we’ve got in place here now,” Plumtree said.
“There just seems to be a gravy train of talent coming through here and it’s structured in a way that the players can perform at a high level.
“And it’s got something to do with coaches and management around the country that are well organised.”
Plumtree spent six years coaching in South Africa and had a stint as assistant coach of Ireland.
He said the professional structure was encouraging an improved standard from a deep pool of Kiwi players.
He said games against other New Zealand teams were more difficult because of what appeared to be superior fitness and mental application over 80 minutes.
“Certainly the intensity of the last 20 minutes of any encounter against the New Zealand sides, you have to be in the hunt right the way through to get a win.
“You know the ante is going to upped at some point in a game.”
Plumtree was wary of getting too carried away about New Zealand’s dominance.
South Africa’s Lions are set to top the overall table and he said playing knockout rugby in places like Johannesburg, Cape Town (Stormers) or Canberra (Brumbies) would represent an enormous challenge.
The competition structure means only one New Zealand team can host a quarter-final, leaving the other three to travel to face opponents who – in at least two games – will have finished below them on the table.