Speed the essence in Super Rugby playoffs

Playing at speed is Super Rugby’s winning prescription and Chiefs coach Dave Rennie hopes his team can muster more of it over the next two weeks.

A trio of up-tempo New Zealand teams and the free-wheeling Lions have booked semi-final places, with three of them posting more than 40 points as the highest scoring season in competition history kept rolling.

The Chiefs must return to New Zealand to face the top-seeded Hurricanes on Saturday after dissecting the Stormers 60-21 in Cape Town.

The Hurricanes were equally ruthless in crushing the Sharks 41-0 in Wellington’s wild weather, holding a team scoreless for the first time in playoff history.

South Africa’s Lions put a dent in another celebratory New Zealand weekend, running away from the Crusaders 42-25.

They will stay in Johannesburg for Saturday’s (Sunday AEST) clash with the Highlanders, who emerged from the only gritty spectacle on offer, a 15-9 arm-wrestle to break a decade-long drought against the Brumbies in Canberra.

The four remaining teams have played arguably the most liberated style this season and Rennie suggested they never thought of doing it any other way against the bigger, stronger Stormers.

The result was an eight-try lesson in attacking play.

“We wanted to move their big forwards around and play at a high tempo,” he said.

“I thought our support play was sensational. When we’ve been at our best this year, we’ve done the obvious well and had support coming from depth.”

Rennie isn’t surprised at who else is still alive.

The defending champion Highlanders cut their cloth to suit any type of game, he said, while the Lions and Hurricanes are potent attacking outfits.

“The Hurricanes have probably been the most impressive team over the last 4-5 rounds and deserve their No.1 seeding. It’ll be a good challenge going down there.

“The Lions play like a Kiwi side. They’ve got a great skill set and they’ve been really impressive. I’m not surprised to see them in the last four.”

Crusaders captain Kieran Read admits the Lions had too much gas in the tank for his team, who he says are still rebuilding in the wake of the departure of several big names last season, most notably Test greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.

Read was disappointed fading form at season’s end meant there was no winning farewell for eight-season coach Todd Blackadder and four departing backs – Andy Ellis, Johnny McNicholl, Nemani Nadolo and Kieron Fonotia.

“It’s a pretty young team. To get where we got this year, we did really well through the middle of the year,” he said.

“It’s a new chapter next year.”


* HURRICANES VS CHIEFS, Saturday (1735 AEST), July 30 in Wellington.

* LIONS VS HIGHLANDERS, Sunday (AEST TBC), July 31 in Johannesburg.

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