Why predicting Super Rugby’s quarterfinal line-ups requires a generous leap into the unknown
Given its convoluted structure‚ predicting Super Rugby’s quarter-final line-ups requires a generous leap into the unknown.
The most significant areas of dispute in the last two rounds of the league stages involve the Rebels and the Sharks who are contesting eighth spot‚ while whoever gets the highest ranking between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs may yet have a profound impact on the competition.
What is certain is that the Crusaders‚ unless the unthinkable happens in the next two rounds‚ will top the points table‚ and that 10 sides can still mathematically make the quarter-finals.
The Brumbies‚ however‚ who are 10th‚ need a few miracles for them to sneak in.
The top eight as it stands look most likely to qualify.
The Sharks‚ however‚ with games against the Stormers at Newlands and the Jaguares at King’s Park‚ can still sneak in providing the Rebels slip up in their remaining matches against the Reds in Brisbane and the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The second match is going to require a gargantuan effort so they had better win in Brisbane this weekend.
While the basement of the top eight is still in dispute‚ the Crusaders pretty much have the league stages wrapped.
Who will occupy the next few places is less clear especially as Sanzaar has decreed that the top team in the Australian and South African conferences respectively‚ are guaranteed a home quarter final.
That means the teams currently with the fourth and sixth most points on the table are actually second and third.
The Lions’ defeat at King’s Park last week may yet prove costly as the Jaguares are now capable of overhauling them.
There may however‚ be merit in the Lions finishing further down the points table‚ only if they end up drawing the Waratahs‚ a team whom they beat in Sydney earlier this year‚ in the quarter finals.
The Waratahs may have the sixth most points but as Australian conference winners they look likely to be elevated to second.
The Jaguares now look favourites to win the South African conference which means they will be elevated to third if they have fewer points than the ‘Tahs.
Playing the Waratahs in the quarters may actually have long term benefits for any team having to cross the time zones to get to Sydney.
That team would not have to acclimatise for the semi-final or indeed the final should they qualify. Of course‚ that’s providing the Jaguares don’t upend the apple cart.
The battle for hosting rights in the other quarter final is likely to be fascinating.
The Hurricanes lead the Chiefs by four points but that can be wiped out when the teams clash in Hamilton next weekend.
In a another quirk of the competition draw‚ whoever wins that quarterfinal is likely to travel to Christchurch to face the Crusaders who will probably meet either the Rebels or the Sharks in their quarter.