After 135 matches, the official 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-finalists have been confirmed, but they would have been oh so very different had the tournament followed a more traditional, and, to be honest, fairer, system.
As it stands, with a view to trying to keep the interest in the tournament up in all three countries, the conference winners – and not the top 4 sides on the overall log – take the top four rankings.
The four wild card teams (best runner up from South Africa Conferences 1 & 2, and three next best teams from the Australian & New Zealand Conferences) then make up the next four qualifiers.
Hence the current quarter-finals:
QF1: Lions  versus Sharks 
QF2: Crusaders  versus Highlanders 
QF3: Stormers  versus Chiefs 
QF4: Brumbies  versus Hurricanes 
But if the tournament were structured “Normally” using the combined log:
The quarter-finals would look like this:
QF1: Lions  versus Blues 
QF2: Crusaders  versus Sharks 
QF3: Hurricanes  versus Stormers 
QF4: Chiefs  versus Highlanders 
The Brumbies would be out, leaving Australia without a team in the quarters.
Instead of hosting a quarter, the Stormers would be sweating it out at the Cake Tin against last year’s champions! Talk about Christmas coming early for the “Streeptruie”!
The Crusaders, instead of having to take on the likes of Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Tevita Li, Lima Sopoaga and Aaron Smith, would host the Sharks, a team that lost to the Bulls at home. Talk about taking a caning from the system!
The Blues, instead of bungee jumping off the Auckland Sky Tower, would be in Joburg liking their chances of upsetting the Lions at home. No wonder they had no interest in their final game against the Wolves in Tokyo. Can you blame them?
Has there ever been a more flawed, and quite frankly, unfair, system? At a time when stadium and TV audiences are at their lowest, this is yet another dagger in the heart of Super Rugby.