Only three points separate five teams who’re all looking to make the playoffs when the final round of Super Rugby league fixtures are decided this weekend.
The only certainty going into the weekend’s action is that the Chiefs and Stormers are winners of the New Zealand and South African Conferences respectively, but there is still plenty to play for as both can finish top of the overall standings, a scenario which would be hugely beneficial when the semi-finals and possible final comes around as that team would enjoy home ground advantage.
The Chiefs are currently one point better off than the Stormers at the top of the standings but can still be pipped to top spot. The only way the Stormers can be stopped of securing a top-two finish – and a spot in the semi-finals – is if they suffer a shock loss to the Rebels and Australia’s top team, the Brumbies, pick up five points against the Blues.
While the Brumbies look odds-on to win their conference they, too, can be pipped at the post if they come horribly unstuck against the Blues, and the Reds – currently down in seventh place – absolutely hammer the Waratahs.
But the real action this weekend will come from the teams fighting for a place in the “quarterfinals”. The Crusaders (fourth, 56 points), Bulls (fifth, 54), Sharks (sixth, 54), Reds (seventh, 53) and Hurricanes (eighth, 53) are all looking to end inside the top six to secure a play-off match next weekend.
The Crusaders shouldn’t battle too much in overcoming the Western Force, while the Bulls will be favourites to down the Lions, but the men from Joburg will head to Loftus full of confidence after beating the Rebels. The Sharks are up against the Cheetahs in Durban and, too, will be favourites to bag the required points.
The Reds will probably beat the Waratahs but that may not be enough while the Hurricanes have to beat the log-leading Chiefs and hope other results go their way.