Defending the title of Super Rugby Champions has proven hard in the past. Can the Hurricanes go back-to-back in 2017?
The off-season has almost come to an end and that means that 18 teams are priming themselves to battle it out for the Super Rugby trophy once again. For the Hurricanes, it means defending their maiden championship which they earned with a 20-3 victory over the Lions in the 2016 season finale.
The Hurricanes’ triumph was the fourth instance in the last five years in which the trophy was lifted by a New Zealand team, but now they face what is arguably the toughest task in world sport – successfully defending the championship.
They won’t need to look too far back into the history books to find some solace, though. While it’s been a few years since a team were last crowned champions in back-to-back Super Rugby seasons, it’s been even longer since a reigning champion has failed to at least make the finals.
In fact, all but one of the last eight Super Rugby seasons have seen the reigning champions make the first stage of the play-offs at the very least. It’s even more favourable for New Zealand champions, who’ve made the penultimate week of knockout competition in all but one instance in the last decade.
The Bulls’ 2008 performance after winning Super Rugby 2007 is the only instance in the last 10 years of a reigning champion failing to win an average of fewer than 2.5 competition points per game. Interestingly, they are also one of just two teams to have defended their title in the last decade alongside the Chiefs.
The Bulls’ 2010 season was the best of any reigning champion in the last 10 years; their 12 wins from 15 games giving them the best win rate (80%) in that period. They also scored more points per game than any other team (33) and lost the fewest games on their way to a first place finish and a second consecutive season lifting the trophy.
On the back of their maiden championship, the Hurricanes will look to become the fifth different team (and the fourth from New Zealand) in Super Rugby history to successfully defend a title (Blues, Crusaders, Bulls, Chiefs).