Super Rugby Playoffs Run

Super Rugby Playoff Run
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 05: The Super Rugby trophy during the Super Rugby Final media opportunity at Westpac Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Simon Watts/Getty Images)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

See the full Super Rugby 2018 schedule here.

 

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Cornelius is a long serving analyst and rugby fanatic, now trying his hand at some in depth game and tournament dissemination. Cornelius' love for Rugby was solidified in 1995 when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup after South Africa became a democratic nation. He has always believed that sport, although dividing us on the pitch, is the best tool to bring us all together. After school, he traveled and worked in the UK, before returning to South Africa and working as a data analyst for a utility company. He has also worked in the Middle East (Egypt), and upon returning in 2017, started writing part time.

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