The first ever Super Round is in the books and while the action on the field was superb, the weekend missed the mark in what it offered to support the event and keep fans engaged between matches.
Hopefully, the lessons from the weekend can be put into place and the event improved for next year -- because it definitely appears to be a worthwhile concept.
Read on as we discuss some of the big talking points in Australian and New Zealand rugby in this week's edition of Real or Not.
Fraser McReight needs to see some Test minutes in 2022
Real. I still can't quite get my head around the decision to leave Fraser McReight at home instead of sending him on the spring tour, even before Michael Hooper was injured against England. Heading away on a four-Test trip, without a genuine back-up at No. 7, never really made all that much sense. He could have started against Japan, while it would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce him off the bench, particularly against both Scotland and England when the Wallabies need a bit of second-half circuit breaker.
However, the full preseason seems to have done McReight the world of good, as his form so far in Super Rugby Pacific has been superb. Sure, he gave away a couple of key penalties against the Hurricanes at the weekend, but he appeared hard done by on at least one occasion and was generally involved in anything the Reds did well.
But we are none the wiser as to whether his game will hold up at Test level, where the physicality goes up a notch and the time in which he has to get on the ball is reduced.
Even the most one-eye Reds fan couldn't fault Hooper's return from injury, and there is no suggestion that McReight deserves to usurp the Wallabies skipper in the No. 7 jersey. But it is imperative McReight gets some minutes in the gold jersey this season and I would even look at handing him a start against Argentina, even though Hooper won't want to have a rest or take a week off.
Australia simply can't put themselves in a position at next year's World Cup where they will have no idea how McReight might hold up under immense pressure if Hooper was to get injured. And there certainly can't be a repeat of the 2011 World Cup when there was no back-up option for David Pocock after he was injured during pool play.
We'll have to take McReight at his word that rumblings he is getting itchy feet and is considering a move overseas is nothing more than scuttlebutt, but Dave Rennie and his fellow Wallabies staffers can no longer ask him to sit tight and keep his powder dry either.
McReight is not just Hooper's heir apparent at No. 7, but there is also every chance he is Wallabies captain, in waiting, too.
- Sam Bruce
The Waratahs can run the Crusaders close at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday
Real. On the surface of it, and judging by their places on the ladder, the Crusaders should swat aside the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday evening. But their respective Super Round victories tell a different story when you dig a little deeper than just the fulltime score.
Firstly, the Waratahs were their own worst enemies against the Chiefs. If Angus Bell's tackle on Sam Cane wasn't bad enough, then Jamie Roberts only made matters worse with his deliberate knockdown which meant NSW were left with just 13 men on the field for eight minutes.
The Chiefs ran in one try while they had one-man advantage, then two further five-pointers while Roberts was off the field to take a stranglehold on the match at 22-3. To their credit, the Waratahs still went to the sheds at just 30-17 down, before they then closed the gap to just three points early in the second half.
Their greater defensive workrate was always going to take a toll however, and they certainly weren't helped when Tom Horton followed Dave Porecki to the bench, which effectively rendered the Waratahs' lineout useless and forced the match into uncontested scrums.
Conversely, the Crusaders were well beneath their best against the Rebels, Scott Robertson's team let down by their handling on multiple occasions despite a crushing 47-17 victory. The worry for the Waratahs will be that Robertson won't have been too satisfied with what he saw at AAMI Park and will have since demanded much more from his Crusaders.
But if the Waratahs can right their discipline wrongs of last week, they have many more attacking threats from 15-1 than the Rebels, a far better set-piece [when it stays on the field] and their defence, until last Friday at least, has been significantly better than last year.
I'm not saying the Waratahs will beat the Crusaders, but I truly believe they will run them pretty close in front of what should be the best NSW crowd of the season.
-- Sam Bruce
Super Rugby administrators got it right with top eight finals series
No, no and definitely not real. We all know why Super Rugby Pacific administrators made this decision, they wanted to give Australian teams every chance to reach the play-offs, but to have a 12-team competition with an eight-team finals series creates a farce out of top-tier tournament.
Preseason we could see the pitfalls of the concept and now it's coming to fruition with the Highlanders sitting just four points outside the top 8 and very serious contenders to take out a position. It shouldn't need pointing out that they're currently 1-8 for the season and were the only New Zealand team to lose over the weekend.
As it is the Western Force currently round out the eight, with just two wins and a game in hand, and could still sneak into the finals with a win record below 40%. If they were to reach the finals, it'd mean a trip to Eden Park or Christchurch -- would it even be worth it?
Hopefully officials learn from this mistake and change tact for next year. A top 6 series should be the way forward with the top two teams getting a week off or a second chance match if they wish to drag the playoffs over four weeks.
At the end of the day, the simple fact that more than half the competition can reach the finals takes any excitement or enthusiasm out of the contest, in fact it just makes it laughable.
-- Brittany Mitchell