Is the Highlanders' glass half full or half empty?

The Highlanders have had a very tough start to the season and now need to make the most of the...
The Highlanders have had a very tough start to the season and now need to make the most of the next run of four games before their bye early in June. Photo: Getty Images

There are two ways to look at the Highlanders position on the Super Rugby table.

It is simply all good - they are just a win away from breaking into a play-off position and the side can get well up the table.

On the other hand, things are distinctly gloomy - the side sits 13th, has won just three games from nine and there is a log jam of teams in front of it.

In reality, the position for the Highlanders is a bit of both - the Highlanders are not out of it but neither are they a raging hot certainty to make the play-offs.

That comes from a competition which is very close and a couple of wins can lead to a side leaping up the table.

The Highlanders have had a very tough start to the season and now need to make the most of the next run of four games before their bye early in June.

What is becoming clear this season is that - apart from the Crusaders - anyone can beat anyone and will do exactly that.

Look at the Jaguares - they were second last after six rounds, having just come off a loss to the Chiefs at home.

The side then went to South Africa and beat the Bulls and Sharks, thrashing the latter by 51-17 and getting back into the play-off race.

The Brumbies lost to the Crusaders earlier this month but have since beaten the Lions at home and then the Stormers in Cape Town, to come back into the reckoning. The Reds are the same - lost to the Bulls in South Africa and then went out and beat the Sharks, who are an incredibly inconsistent team.

Compared to last year, the table is exceptionally close.

Last year at this time, there were 14 points between the 14th placed team and the side in fifth. This year there are just five points between the same placed teams.

Games are a lot closer and needing to win seven or eight games to make the play-offs may not apply.

Why are games so much closer?

This time last year, four of the six top sides were New Zealand teams. This year only the Crusaders and the Hurricanes are in the top reaches.

The Chiefs, Blues and Highlanders have all struggled as they have not been able to field their strongest teams because of All Blacks rest requirements and a lack of depth. Defence is also dominating more than last year.

But these sides are not out of it. One could argue the Highlanders have the best run in.

The men from the south have just the one game left to play against New Zealand opposition, where they will look to do the double over the Chiefs, playing under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium on May 4.

The Blues and Chiefs both still have to play four games against their countrymen, so do not have it as easy.

So the Highlanders being stuck back in 13th is not a bad thing. They are actually only four points away from the fifth-placed Lions and the sixth-placed Sharks.

If results go their way this week, they could quite easily be into seventh, come Sunday.

Then again, is everyone just playing for the right to go to Christchurch and be walloped by the Crusaders?

Let's hope not.

Add a Comment