Last weekend’s results have changed things somewhat. Previous to round 10 I had reasonably thought that around 40-42 points would be needed to make the finals but with some of the front runners giving up vital points, I reckon we are now looking at around 38-40 points being the magic number.
The stumbling Tahs have done themselves no favours while the Brumbies are now the shining lights of the Australian contenders based purely on form over the last two rounds. The Ponies however are in the grip of an injury crisis which may well cruel their chances.
The Force rebounded well after the disappointment of getting done on the siren against the ‘Canes with what looked to me to be a ‘finals dress rehearsal’ against the Tahs. They have beaten every other Australian side – but will they be able to call themselves the best Australian team of the Super 14 come the end of the season?
Tahs – Currently 28 points
After consecutive losses and a bye this weekend, the Tahs look well and truly in the chutney. A few weeks ago the equation was pretty simple, win their remaining home games and snag a win or two against the Jappie easy beats, the Lion and Cheetahs, and the finals beckoned.
Not so simple now, it seems.
The Tahs must win at least two of their last three games, more than likely with a smattering of bonus points, to even get close to making it. This situation seems inconceivable when you consider their position at the start of round 9.
A positive for the Tahs is the parallel decline of the Sharks. The game in Durbs will no doubt be pivotal for both teams but the Tahs must be considered a big chance with their collective big game experience
Verdict – The Tahs are more than likely to beat the Cheetahs and the Lions but their lack of try scoring ability might limit their chances of bonus points. I reckon they will grind the flashy Sharks into the dirt with their attrition based style – so three wins from three for me.
Three wins gives them 40 points and see them finals bound with an away semi the best they can hope for.
Brumbies – Currently 27 points
The win against the Stormers was based on emotion; the win against the Bulls was based on heart. Without doubt they are the sentimental favourites of everyone but sentimentality counts for nothing when you look at the draw they face.
The Brumbies have 4 games to secure around 13 points which means they can drop one game, and this it will probably be this weekend against the ‘Canes.
An away game against the worse than pathetic Reds plus a home game against the erratic Blues will probably count as wins. The way the Reds and Blues defend it could well turn into a bonus point victory for one or both of these games.
Their Waterloo looks to be in the final round when they face the Chiefs in the Waikato. This will be a tough task with the Chiefs probably chasing a win to finish top of the table.
Verdict - The Brumbies hopes ride on the fact they can win two tough games in Nu Zulund. I think they might win against the Blues but the Chiefs game looks a bridge too far.
Two wins and some bonus points will give them around 38 points which is borderline but, being the sentimental bloke I am – fuck it, they’re in with an away semi!!
The Force – Currently 23 points
The bi-polar Force continue to defy the form guide and confound tipsters. After the surrender against the Canes they bounced back with a great win against the Tahs.
Depending on which Force team takes the field this weekend, they should have a 5 point free hit against the Lions, but after this things get tricky.
Two challenging games in South Africa against the Bulls and Stormers pose problems for the exiles from the West and there is no respite in the final round when they face the Clan at Subi.
The Force play better away from home but it is hard to see them getting the required 16 or so points from their remaining games.
Verdict – For the Force to make the finals they would have to string together four weeks of consistent effort, and, given currently they struggle to do this week-to-week, they may as well book the end of season trip now as around 35 points looks the best they can do.
The glass is half full!!
OK, I may be over-estimating the chances of the Brumbies, but what is life if you don’t have dreams?
The Tahs look as if they will limp into the finals but the prospect of an away semi is the best they can hope for, and, with three of the preceding weeks on the road, that’s as far as they will go.