Reds, Stormers stand by for semis rivals

The Queensland Reds and Cape Town-based Stormers lie in wait for the two survivors of this weekend’s first play-offs round in Super Rugby, aware survival over three weekends in the revamped finals format could boil down to a penalty shoot-out.

The Auckland Blues will play the New South Waratahs on Friday and the Canterbury Crusaders host the Durban-based Sharks on Saturday in first-round play-offs, with the winners advancing to play semifinals against the Reds and Stormers.

The Reds, who finished the regular season in first place, will play the lowest-ranked qualifier to advance in Brisbane on July 2, when the Stormers—beaten finalists last year—will play the highest-ranked winner at Newlands in Cape Town.

A basic explanation of the semifinal permutations are as follows:

The Crusaders finished the regular season in third place, the Blues in fourth, the Waratahs in fifth and the Sharks in sixth. That would mean that if the Crusaders win their play-off in Nelson, they can only play the Stormers and if the Sharks win they can only play the Reds.

  • If the Blues and Crusaders win, the Crusaders will play the Stormers and Blues will play the Reds.

  • But if the Blues and Sharks win, the Blues will play the Stormers and the Sharks will play the Reds.

  • If the Crusaders and Waratahs win, the Crusaders will play the Stormers and the Waratahs will meet the Reds in what would be a dream scenario for Australian fans.

  • If the Sharks and Waratahs win, the Waratahs will play the Stormers and the Sharks will play the Reds.

To add a new layer of uncertainty to an already compelling playoffs series, any games that are undecided after regulation time, two 10-minute periods of extra time and one 10-minute spell of sudden death overtime—in which the first team to score by any means wins—will be decided in a penalty shoot-out.

The penalty shoot-out has been adopted by Super Rugby for the first time this season, although it was slated as the ultimate tiebreaker in the last World Cup and has been employed controversially in professional rugby in 2009.

Each team must nominate five players to take part in the shootout and each of those players will attempt to kick penalty goals from different points on the 22m line.

The first attempt will be taken from in front of the posts, the second from 15m in from the touchline on the left side, the third from 15m from the touchline on the right side, the fourth from in front again, and the fifth from 15m in from the left touchline.

If teams cannot be separated after the five kicks apiece, the sequence will be repeated on a sudden death basis until a winner is found.

The formula was applied in professional rugby after the 2009 Heineken Cup play-off between Leicester and Cardiff which was level 26-26 after full time and extra time. Leicester won the shoot-out 7-6 but the use of the measure was not popular.

Britain’s Telegraph said “it was absolutely no way to finish a magnificent contest and the rugby authorities should think again about penalty shoot-outs to decide such occasions”.—Sapa-AP

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