With six rounds remaining in the regular season I’ve fired up the crystal ball for a look at who will, who won’t, and who might yet be playing finals footy.
To recap, there are two Groups, Africa & Australasia, and four Conferences, Africa 1, Africa 2, Australia, and New Zealand. The Conference winners will be seeded 1-4 according to where they finish relative to each other.
The Conference winners will be joined in the Quarter Finals by one African and three Australasian “wildcards”, seeded 5-8 according to where they finish relative to each other. Even if a wildcard finishes with more points than a Conference winner, the wildcard cannot be seeded higher than fifth & the Conference winner cannot be seeded lower than fourth.
Yesterday, in Part One, I concluded that six teams – Reds, Force, Kings, Sunwolves, Jaguares & Cheetahs – have no hope of making the playoffs, and that the Stormers & Lions will likely win the Africa 1 & 2 Conferences with the Bulls the most likely African wildcard.
Today I’ll look at the four teams best placed to win the two Australasian Conferences.
The Contenders – Australasian Conference Winners
Crusaders: current points 37
Form: eight wins since their round one loss & fewest points conceded (168) & highest points differential (+130) in the competition.
Remaining fixtures: Highlanders (Away), Waratahs (Home), Blues (A), Chiefs (Fiji), Rebels (H), Hurricanes (H).
Prospects: the winning streak will likely end, but it’s hard to see them dropping more than two. Chiefs in Fiji will be pivotal.
Predicted final points: 58
Predicted seeding: New Zealand Conference winner
Chiefs: current points 37
Form: eight wins, two losses & the most points scored in the competition (342).
Remaining fixtures: BYE, Rebels (H), Waratahs (A), Crusaders (Fiji),
Reds (A), Highlanders (A).
Prospects: the bye hurts their chances, as do the two matches away (plus the one in Fiji) to fellow-contenders, but should flog both Rebels & Reds to partially compensate.
Predicted final points: 55
Predicted seeding: wildcard
Brumbies: current points 25
Form: six wins, four losses & only one bonus point, the least of anyone other than the Kings.
Remaining fixtures: Rebels (Away), BYE, Sunwolves (Home), Reds (H), Blues (A), Force (H).
Prospects: having the bye means they’ll need to win four matches, probably including Rebels, or they’ll be sweating on other results going their way.
Predicted final points: 45
Predicted seeding: Australia Conference winner.
Waratahs: current points 25
Form: five wins, four losses & fewest points conceded in the Australian Conference (181).
Remaining fixtures: Bulls (H), Crusaders (A), Chiefs (H), Sunwolves (A), Hurricanes (H), Blues (A).
Prospects: up against five fellow-contenders, albeit three of them at home, is probably a bridge too far as far as winning the Conference is concerned. A wildcard isn’t out of the question but they’d likely need a kiwi team to implode.
Predicted final points: 42, not enough to qualify.
Tomorrow I’ll look at who might fill the remaining wildcard positions, and what the Quarter Final draw would look like.