Super Rugby Rd 17: The finals equation

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There's one round of Super Rugby to go, but there are still plenty of question marks over who will play in the playoffs.

For everyone playing at home - the four conference and four wildcards are sorted into eight finals seeds, with the conference winners seeded one to four and hosting a quarter-final and the wildcards (one from the South African conferences and three from the Australasian group) are seeded five to eight, with 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 playing off in the opening week.

So,which Australian team will make it and who will the play?

Brumbies - 39 pts, 9 wins, 3 bonus points PD +85

Stephen Larkham;s next challenge is to helps his team bounce back. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Brumbies are in the box seat for the Australian conference win but not really through any excellent performances, after both Australian contenders coughed up their chance to grab an advantage last weekend.

Run home: Force (H)

What they need to do

The Brumbies will have the advantage of knowing exactly what their task is when they line up on Saturday night. If the Waratahs have lost in Auckland without any bonus points, the Brumbies will win the conference. Anything else they do, the Brumbies simply have to match it. If it’s a win, then they just need the four points, if the Waratahs take a bonus point as well, then the ACT needs all five.

Biggest danger

They’ve already received some bad news this week, with winger Joe Tomane robbed of a Brumbies farewell after breaking his leg in club rugby. Tomane would have been a helpful addition to a team that has lacked attacking spark since his knee injury midway through the year. It’s been a tough few rounds for the Brumbies and they’ll have to on their game to make sure a Force side that has been through the wringer doesn’t catch them off guard.

Waratahs- 39 pts, 8 wins, 7 bonus points PD +102

The Waratahs are readying for a bonus point fight. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Waratahs sit second in the Australian conference, after missing a chance to go top, but now they face the Blues in Auckland, a team and venue that put the Brumbies finals plans on hold last weekend.

Run home: Blues (A)

What they need to do:

Beat the Blues and beat them by a lot. The Waratahs have to win at Eden Park, a ground at which they have won just two matches in 21 years. A win would put them on level pegging with the Brumbies until the latter plays the Force. Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson admitted after last Saturday’s match that they would likely need a bonus point for any hope of scraping into finals.

Biggest danger

Execution. It was their biggest issue against the Hurricanes and pushing passes and poorly timed offloading won’t be good enough against the Blues either. Auckland ran rings around the Brumbies last weekend but the Waratahs have shown their attack can be far more lethal. They just have to make sure they finish it off.

Who will the Australian winner play?

Chiefs - 51 pts, 11 wins, 7 bonus points, PD +160

The Rebels couldn't stop a Chiefs' first half onslaught. Photo: Getty Images

Run home: Highlanders (A)

The Chiefs win on Saturday night and they will almost definitely top the New Zealand conference. The Waikato side just has to match whatever the Crusaders do earlier in the day. If the Jaguares upset the Lions on Sunday, the Chiefs could spring to top seed with a win. Could drop as low as seventh in finals seeding with a loss and they did lose to the Highlanders earlier this year, so it’s possible.

Crusaders 50 pts, 11 wins, 6 bonus points, PD +195

Run home: Hurricanes (H)

The Crusaders could steal the top conference spot and a home final if they outdo the Chiefs on Saturday afternoon, when they take on the Hurricanes. All they can do is try to take maximum points from the match and hope the Highlanders do the double against the Chiefs.

Highlanders  48 pts, 10 wins, 8 bonus points, PD +139

The Highlanders sit in the last wildcard spot currently. Photo: Getty Images

Run home: Chiefs

The Highlanders could put themselves well up the pecking order if they can beat the Chiefs again this year. A win could see them propel to the top of the conference, if the Crusaders lose to the Hurricanes. With their superior points difference, the Highlanders would likely best the Highlanders in the final positions. A loss would put them as low as seventh in the overall standings for the quarter-finals, meaning a likely trip to South Africa.

Hurricanes 48 pts, 10 wins, 8 bonus points, PD +119

Run home: Crusaders (A)

With so little separating the New Zealand conference top four, the Hurricanes just have to win to shake things up this weekend. Depending on other results, their scenario could fall a similar way to the Highlanders - win and they would probably finish third in the New Zealand conference, lose and they stay as they are.

Who will the other finalists be?The Lions have taken out the South Africa 2 conference. Photo: Getty Images

Lions - 52pts, 11 wins, 8 bonus points, PD +198

The Lions just need to win against the Jaguares this weekend to make sure they top the overall log and take top finals seed. Have already secured a home final and will face the lowest seed, most probably the Sharks.

Stormers - 46pts, 9 wins, 8 bonus points, PD +138

The Stormers can’t shift from their position, after securing a home final last weekend. They will likely have the third seeding, pitting them against the third-placed New Zealand side, which could theoretically be any of the top four.

Sharks - 39pts, 8 wins, 5 bonus points, PD +80

A win against the Sunwolves and their finals spot is sewn up, with the most likely outcome a South African derby against the Lions.

How Week one could look

Lions vs Sharks

Chiefs vs Hurricanes

Stormers vs Highlanders

Brumbies vs Crusaders