I read an interesting article in the New Zealand Herald on possible outcomes based on the log as it currently stands:
The closer the Super Rugby playoffs get, the more obvious it becomes that the conference system will probably work against New Zealand winning the title this season.
As the points table stands, the Highlanders and Chiefs would meet in a sudden death match in the first week, as would the Waratahs and Brumbies.
Should the Hurricanes – the likely top seeds – lose in the second week, New Zealand may concede its home advantage for the final, even though it has dominated Super Rugby this year and fills the top three spots in a combined table for now.
Here’s how the playoffs would play out if the season ended today:
(3) Waratahs v (6) Brumbies, Sydney
(4) Highlanders v (5) Chiefs, Dunedin
(1) Hurricanes v lowest ranked qualifier winner
(2) Stormers v highest ranked qualifier winner
1.HURRICANES (57 points, +126) – Highlanders (h), Chiefs (a)
2.STORMERS (43pts, +72) – Lions (h), Sharks (a)
3.NSW WARATAHS (42pts, +45) – Cheetahs (a), Reds (h)
4.HIGHLANDERS (48pts, +116) – Hurricanes (a), Blues (a)
5.CHIEFS (44pts, +60) Queensland Reds (a), Hurricanes (h)
6.BRUMBIES (42pts, +108) – Force (a), Crusaders (h)
7.LIONS (40pts, -22) – Stormers (a), bye
8.CRUSADERS (36pts, +107) Blues (a), Brumbies (a)
9.BULLS (36pts, +23) – Rebels (a), Cheetahs (h)
The Stormers again find themselves in a precarious situation due to the fact that they only managed to scrape together a measly 3 bonus points. This leaves them 5 points adrift of the Highlanders, who also won 10 games.
The Waratahs are just one point behind the Stormers on the log, but have two easy games left. The Cape side has to beat the Lions and the Sharks (away) to have any chance of securing the coveted second spot. Suddenly, bonus points become the vital deciding factor.
The Lions must also be ruing the fact that they have a bye in the last week, but it will act as a strong motivator for the weekend clash with the Stormers.
If the Bulls can get 10 points in their last two matches, they will end on 46 points. While it is possible, it is unlikely – their team selection this season resulted in having to rest two crucial players in Pollard and Strauss in a must-win game on Saturday.
Will Franco Smith bring back the sparkle in Cheetahs rugby? It’s a tough ask, but his selection of four Shimlas seem to indicate that he plans to opt for enthusiasm, rather than reputation. The unnecessary physicality of the Waratahs will certainly be a stern test, but all the Stormers supporters will be right behind the Cheetahs.
My dogter vra laas week wie die Vrystaters borg.
“Hoekom wil jy weet?”vra ek.
“Te oordeel aan hulle truie lyk dit of dit Eno’s is – die lemoengeur.”