WITH two rounds left in this year's Super Rugby competition, things are nice and tight.
While the Chiefs have the lead, it's still anyone's competition. And by anyone's, I mean any one of nine teams potentially have the chance to do 'the lap' come August 4.
The next two weeks promise to be 'white knuckle stuff' for all involved.
Bonus points are a necessity, and that (should) mean attack at all options. That suits some teams better than others.
Irrespective, it's going to be an exciting couple of weeks.
Reds loom as real potential Super champs
As I mentioned above, the run to the semis suits some teams better than others.
And with Will Genia and Quade Cooper on deck and firing, and with bonus points a necessity, the Reds are real possibility to make the semis through the wild card opportunity.
I think Cooper and Genia are that influential on the Reds' finals chances, that all their forwards need is parity with opposition forwards, and their outside backs to give the halves options and/or hit at gaps. Add some intent and application in attack and defence, and you have a team with an impressive set of ingredients for inclusion in the finals.
If Genia and Cooper's supporting acts can achieve their set tasks, the two stars will rack up enough tries to win games and deliver much-needed bonus points.
While the duo can get the Reds into the finals, is the team capable of back-to-back Super Rugby victories?
Let's just say, without them, the Reds' chances of 'doing the lap' drop dramatically. But with them, I believe their power to influence outcomes give the Reds a ten, possibly fifteen point advantage.
We know finals footy is always, always different to the footy required to win the week-to-week stuff. This is especially so in rugby where the incentive regime (three points for field goals and penalty goals and only five for a try) encourages risk-averse footy, potentially reducing the importance of attacking players such as Cooper and Genia.
And sadly, that is definitely the case in 2012 Super Rugby. Nonetheless, I have that much confidence in these two star players, that, for the most part, the Reds' approach to finals footy should not deviate too much, allowing Genia and Cooper to be themselves.
I'm not so confident in the other Aussie team in finals contention, the Brumbies.
We all know the Brumbies have surprised in 2012. And they should rightly be leading the Aussie conference. But to win the Super Rugby title, I'm not sure they have enough firepower.
Possibly these are bold and premature predictions. I'm thinking more than a few people reading this will question my sanity and (parochial) agenda, but I place a fair bit of importance in the power of two of the world's best players, and their supporting acts.
Nonetheless, starting with the Reds game against the Highlanders at Suncorp tonight, we are in for an exciting run into the finals.