Hurricanes may hold Super key
Securing top spot in their conference may no longer rest in their hands, but the Hurricanes may yet prove kingmakers in this season's Super Rugby competition.
They can deny the Crusaders top spot on the overall log if they beat them in the last league match, providing the Lions beat the Sunwolves and the Sharks in their remaining matches.
The Lions will be desperate not to have to travel should they reach the final, but to earn that right they need to leapfrog the Crusaders, who lead them by three points.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are holding on to a slim hope of repeating the Houdini act that saw them come from nowhere to top the table last year.
"We have lost control of that," Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said of his team's prospects of topping the New Zealand conference.
"If the Crusaders beat the Highlanders next week it doesn't matter what happens, they'll be on top of our pool.
"We've got to deal with the Force and Chiefs before we have that long break before we play the Crusaders.
"We are probably one or two weeks away from some tactical manoeuvring and positioning in the log. A lot hinges on the game between the Highlanders and the Crusaders."
Boyd was asked to gaze into the crystal ball.
"Irrespective of how many points you get in your conference, you only get a home quarterfinal if you top your conference. The two in South Africa are most likely to be the Lions and the Stormers and I think the wild card looks like it might be the Sharks.
"The interesting thing is if the Crusaders go through and finish on top, the Sharks would have to travel to the Crusaders; if they don't, the Sharks would probably go to the Lions.
"That will be a repeat of the game play in the last round [of the league stages]. There may be some tactical stuff going around that as well."
For Lions coach Johan Ackermann the key is recapturing the magic that has seen them win 10 games on the trot when they resume hostilities in July against the Sunwolves and the Sharks.
"It's about keeping momentum and managing the break well. We still control our own path. Hopefully we resume with the same energy and passion.
"The All Black players I suppose will have the same thing. It would have been nice to just keep on playing.
"Last year we were able to play some of our better rugby after the break and hopefully we can do so again," said Ackermann about their victories over the Crusaders and the Highlanders before losing the final away to the Hurricanes.