The 2019 Super Rugby season is in its business end with the quarterfinals taking centre stage this coming weekend.
All but one New Zealand teams have made the last eight, with only the Blues missing out, while the South African conference is represented by three contenders, with the Brumbies the lone Aussie outfit making the cut.
Eight will be reduced to four, with the action kicking off on Friday morning (SAST), as defending champions Crusaders continue their bid for yet another title against the Highlanders in Christchurch first up.
The second quarterfinal comes in the very early hours of Saturday morning, and takes place in Buenos Aires, where the South African conference winners the Jaguares welcome the Chiefs.
The last two South African teams standing are on show after sunrise, with the Bulls kicking things off with a tough ask as they travel to Wellington for a clash against the Hurricanes.
The men from Pretoria have been boosted by the return of Springbok centre Jesse Kriel as well as lock Jason Jenkins, who both slot into the starting lineup.
The team is captained by flyhalf Handré Pollard, who is eager to lead his side to the last four of the competition.
“We achieved one of our goals and the next target is to get into the semi-finals.
“As a group we have learnt good lessons this year, and we need to keep the belief and the focus if we want to succeed.”
The Sharks round up the quarterfinal fixtures with a trip to Canberra where they will be looking to put one past Australian conference winners, the Brumbies.
While the hosts have made four changes from their last outing, the Sharks have made just one – Curwin Bosch replacing the injured Aphelele Fassi at fullback.
It’s a first meeting between the two sides this year, and visiting skipper Louis Schreuder noted the fresh challenge posed by the hosts.
“We haven’t faced them this year, they’re one of the teams we missed, they’re the log leaders in the Australian Conference so they’re not in the quarter-finals by chance,” he said.
“They’re a physical, well-organised team with a good set-piece and kicking game so we’re going to have to be well-prepared for that.”
Super Rugby 2019 quarterfinals
All times are SAST.
Crusaders vs Highlanders – 9:35
Jaguares vs Chiefs – 0:05
Hurricanes vs Bulls – 9:35
Brumbies vs Sharks – 12:05