The Super Rugby playoffs run home is back in focus this week, after the completion of the mid-year International Tests. The month of June saw the All Blacks retain their top ranking in World Rugby, the Wallabies slide down the list and the Springboks gain two spots on the ladder.
Now attention shifts to the domestic competition. Franchise rugby, with loyalty now divided for fans – just as the national teams break-up into their club colours this weekend.
ITS BACK! @SuperRugby 🇦🇺🇦🇷🇳🇿🇿🇦
Just three rounds left until the Finals series….
Week #17 kicks off on Friday with some crucial clashes in all conferences
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— Super Rugby/TRC (@SuperRugby) June 26, 2018
We take a look at the teams in each Conference who still have a shot at the Super Rugby playoffs. Making the knockout stages of the competition in three weeks time.
New Zealand Super Rugby playoffs run
We start with the New Zealand Conference. With the exception of the Auckland Blues, the remaining teams are all in a commanding position to make it to the final eight. The Crusaders and the Hurricanes are both theoretically in contention for first place overall. Currently they are only separated by nine points; while the Hurricanes have one game in hand.
Crusaders likely leaders, but Canes chasing hard
The Crusaders still have to play the Highlanders and the Blues (both at home) after a bye in Week 17. That means, if they lose to the Highlanders, the Hurricanes will be in with a shout. On the other hand, the Hurricanes will face the Brumbies (away), the Blues (at home) and finally, another local derby against the Chiefs up in Hamilton.
What might affect their hopes, is that they could also be without their key play maker in the coming week. Beauden Barrett suffered a concussion in the second Test against France and wasn’t cleared to play in the final Test. Even one franchise match without Barrett [in Canberra] could trip-up their ability to secure a home quarter-final.
Not reliant on one man though, the Hurricanes will be aiming high, to replicate their success of 2016.
Sitting second in the New Zealand conference, the high flying @HurricanesRugby will look to bounce back from consecutive losses to storm their way into the playoffs.#DontMissAThing pic.twitter.com/XRYLpVlxC2
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) June 25, 2018
The more likely outcome in the NZ conference though, should see the Crusaders take the top spot, with the Hurricanes having to settle for second – and fourth place overall.
The two other NZ teams in contention, the Chiefs and the Highlanders, have a tougher run for a wildcard spot on the overall log. They play a derby this coming weekend at ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji. This means the Highlanders will not have a clear home advantage, as its the first time they will play up in the Pacific. They also have only a three point lead over the Chiefs.
A loss in the coming match would see them ending up in sixth place overall. The Chiefs will take on the Brumbies (at home) and the Hurricanes (away) to end their season. The Highlanders have a similar Super Rugby playoff run facing the Crusaders (away) and the Rebels (at home).
Australian Conference top spot still ‘up for grabs’
With only one point separating the Waratahs and the Rebels in the Australian Conference Super Rugby playoff run, both teams will be optimistic for the coming three weeks. They have also played the same amount of games and gathered the same amount of wins thus far.
Waratahs stars missing in crucial local derby
The Waratahs probably have a slightly easier run as they play the Sunwolves at home in Round 18. This weekend’s derby against the Rebels may very well be the decider over who tops the conference and gets the home Quarter-final. Although, sadly the Waratahs have lost their captain, Michael Hooper, who will be on the side lines for up to four weeks.
All the best Hoops. Recover well and see you back in camp in a month. #GoldBlooded
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) June 25, 2018
Another concern is Israel Folau, who has received a citing. This means he may cop a one or two week ban, making them a slightly weaker side in this crucial Round 17 game. The Rebels have a tougher run after that, facing both the Reds and the Highlanders (away) before the end to the regular season.
Long shot chance for the Brumbies
The ACT Brumbies have an outside chance of making it, however they would need to win all their remaining matches. This would include wins over the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. A highly unlikely scenario given their season’s performances so far.
South African Conference too tough to call
With three teams still theoretically able to make the playoffs, the South African Conference may provide some surprises. Only 12 points separate first and third place on the log! Meaning an upset may be likely on the cards.
Happy days! Vodacom #SuperRugby is back this weekend and we have one epic local game coming up. If you want to win tickets to the Cell C Sharks v Emirates Lions game in Durban this weekend, just reply with #SHAvLIO. Ts & Cs apply: https://t.co/JXeWdCbkQv. pic.twitter.com/l0Mv516PKU
— vodacomrugby (@VodacomRugga) June 25, 2018
CellC Sharks could ‘rock the boat’
The Lions currently lead the pack, with the Jaguares and the Sharks also remaining in relative contention. The Sharks, who are now the clear underdogs, will have to win all their remaining games, including beating both the Lions and the Jaguares to stand a chance.
The Lions, who have a bye in Week 18, will need to beat the Sharks (away) and the Bulls (at home) to secure the top spot. While over in South America, the Jaguares will play both the Stormers and Bulls at home, before ending their regular season against the Sharks (away). A couple of bad performances could see them missing out on their first ever Super Rugby playoff spot.
Importantly for the Jaguares hopes of a playoff spot are, that they came away relatively unscathed from injuries during the June Test window. A blessing, considering the bulk of the team also play for the Pumas.
So across all three conferences, plenty could change, in the Super Rugby playoffs run home.
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