Super Rugby - The Road Home: Part 6 - Green and Gold Rugby
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Super Rugby – The Road Home: Part 6

Super Rugby – The Road Home: Part 6

With just one Round remaining I’ve sent the crystal ball away for recalibration and invested in a calculator to work out the various quarter final possibilities.

Remember that the winners of the Australian, New Zealand, and two African Conferences are seeded 1 – 4 depending on where they finish relative to one another. The next-best African and three next-best Australasian teams are seeded 5 – 8, also depending on where they finish relative to one another.

Whether by blind luck or prescience, the draw for Round 17 has just one match (Reds v Rebels) that can’t influence the make up of the quarter finals in any way.

AFRICAN GROUP

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The Lions (52 points) and Stormers (46) have already secured the two African Conferences, with the Lions assured of finishing higher. The Sharks (39) hold the African wildcard by two points from the Bulls (37). Final round fixtures (all times and dates are AEST) are:

Sharks v Sunwolves (Home) 03:00 Saturday
Stormers v Kings (H) – 01:05 Sunday
Bulls v Cheetahs (Away) – 03:15 Sunday
Lions v Jaguares (A) – 07:40 Sunday

Prospects: the Lions are resting their entire XV from last week so will likely lose. Both the Stormers and Sharks should pick up bonus point wins against the bottom two teams in the competition. Barring a major upset in Durban the Bulls v Cheetahs result won’t matter.

Lions (52) Africa 2 Conference winner
Stormers (51) Africa 1 Conference winner
Sharks (44) African wildcard

AUSTRALIAN CONFERENCE

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The Brumbies and Waratahs both have 39 points but the Canberrans are in the box seat with nine wins to the Sydneysiders’ eight.

Waratahs v Blues (A) – 17:35 Friday
Brumbies v Force (H) – 19:45 Saturday

Prospects: you’d assume the Brumbies will win, probably with a bonus point, making the ‘tahs result irrelevant. A non-BP win for the Brumbies would give the ‘tahs an opening but they’d need a bonus point win to exploit it, which seems improbable.

Brumbies (44) Australian Conference winner

NEW ZEALAND CONFERENCE

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The Chiefs (51), Crusaders (50), Highlanders (48) and Hurricanes (48) will all qualify, but in what order? In an almost perfect piece of scheduling, its second v fourth followed by third v top (home team first):

Crusaders v Hurricanes – 15:35 Saturday
Highlanders v Chiefs – 17:35 Saturday

Prospects: both games could go either way and by just about any margin (or end in a draw) so the permutations are too numerous to list. Suffice it to say that any of the four could win the Conference. If it’s the Chiefs or Crusaders they’ll take top seeding into the playoffs, if it’s the Highlanders or Hurricanes they’ll be third seeds.

My heart says Crusaders and Chiefs, but I’m going with the punters: Crusaders ($1.49-$2.60 favourites) and Highlanders ($1.65-$2.25), with no-one picking up any bonus points. Provided they do lose by seven or less, the Chiefs would still qualify ahead of the Highlanders on points differential (currently +160 to the Clan’s +139) as both would have eleven wins.

Crusaders (54) New Zealand Conference winner
Chiefs (52) Australasian wildcard
Highlanders (52) Australasian wildcard
Hurricanes (49) Australasian wildcard

PREDICTED QUARTER FINALS

1. Crusaders v 8. Sharks
2. Lions v 7. Hurricanes
3. Stormers v 6. Highlanders
4. Brumbies v 5. Chiefs

  • Christopher

    Imagine the noise if there was all NZ semis

    • HK Red

      If that occurred (not unlikely), I think those Semi’s would be rightly deserved.

      • Christopher

        Agreed, although it would be great to see the lions get the chocolates after seasons of being easybeats a team of unknowns giving it a good run. I hope they hold onto their success better than the reds!

    • Kokonutcreme

      Imagine the noise if the Blues missed a wildcard spot this year to an African team on lower points than them.

      • Woopsies

        If the Blues beat the Waratahs with a bonus point and the Brumbies loose to the Force the 5th placed NZ team will have more points than the top Australian team

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    I think you’ve nailed it Brent, although I’m still hoping for a Hurricanes win. As my daughter said, they seem to win the games they should lose and lose the games they should win so an upset is on the cards. About the only good thing in this for Australia is that it gives Cheika extra time with the Wallabies to prepare for the Rugby Championship. I’m hoping he’s spent the last 2 weeks reviewing what went wrong against England and coming up with a plan to win (except against NZ who I still want to win – always).

    • Big Ted

      I wish I shared your optimism re: Australia’s game plan for the RC but I fear it will be more of the same. As much as I feel that more variety in attack would be a step in the right direction for our maligned Wallabies, unfortunately lack of vision, game awareness, basic skills will be a barrier for them until they can change it at a grass roots level

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I’m not sure variety is the answer. The Wallabies need to identify what their strengths are and then come up with a plan to use those regardless of the opposition. What I’d really like to see is them playing as a team instead of individuals and losing the aggressive bullshit that is inhibiting them at the moment. They seem to have crossed the line from playing hard aggressive rugby to being dickheads looking for fights instead of playing the game

        • Big Ted

          I agree re: the aggressive rubbish. I think Aussie teams feel that niggle and aggression will be enough to over power teams as a supplement for technique, skill and smart decision making. I still feel variety, i.e. kicking wisely behind a rush defence, playing for field position when required. Employing a tighter/go forward game at times would be a better way to figure out what our strengths are. We had two big Fijians in the centres against England and didn’t try to use them to punch over the advantage line. The coach doesn’t seem to know what the teams strengths are currently so maybe trialling some different styles of play rather than the “go wide at every opportunity” ploy might shed some light on this

        • Keith Butler

          The wonderful phrase quoted many times in super rugby and internationals ‘earning the right to go wide’ springs to minds

        • Simon

          Absolutely. And if you don’t earn the right, you go wide and backwards, as we did against England. There are ways around that rule but they involve smart kicking, which we also lacked.

        • Kokonutcreme

          I hate that phrase “earn the right to go wide” it’s misused as a throwaway line by commentators who don’t understand what it really means.

          There is absolutely nothing wrong with attacking wide with the ball in hand – as long as you’re moving forward doing so and not laterally which is what most teams fall guilty of when not applying themselves correctly.

          Critics of teams that attack wide too early before “earning the right to go wide” are also guilty in turning a blind eye to teams that constantly hit the ball up phase after phase, without gaining a lot of ground, believing in this fallacy that the weight of possession and number of tackles the opposition is forced to make is an indicator of “smart rugby” because it will tire the opposition.

          I tell you what tires a team out more than making tackle after tackle where they don’t need to move more than a few metres in defence, it’s chasing the ball up and down the field where neither team will kick the ball out, having to get up off the ground quickly after every tackle because the ball was either offloaded in contact, or recycled quickly to maintain continuity.

        • Simon

          I think variety in attack is definitely part of the answer. England could easily have been knocked over in two of those tests if we’d played with some variety instead of easily-predictable rinse-and-repeat backline moves.

          I don’t remember a single chip over the top of the rush defence. Barely any crossfield kicks, even when playing under advantage. Instead we ran 22 phases hammering one-out at the line.

          I think the problem is precisely that they’ve identified what their strengths are and then focused too strongly on them while neglecting everything else.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          That’s a fair point and variety is always good, especially if the variety plays to other strengths but I’d argue they think their strength is in one area but it may not be. They seem to think their strength is getting the ball wide fast and outpacing the defence using either Folau, or perhaps Hooper, to do some magic while the rest sit back and watch. Unfortunately for them Folau is such a freak that this does occasionally work for them and they can’t get through their head that it’s not a winning formula.

        • Simon

          Well I think the reason it’s not a winning formula is because it’s been their one tactic for years now and it’s become predictable and easy to defend against. You never have the defence in two minds about what to do because they never have to worry about whether they’ve going to have to turn around and leg it downfield after a chip kick.

          There’s nothing wrong with the tactic itself IMO, but it does require the rest of the team to coordinate. You need hard-running forwards to keep on the front foot, you need a solid set-piece and you need breakdown dominance. Get those things right (like in the first game against the ABs last year), throw in some variety to keep the defence guessing, and then when you do go to the expansive backline play, the gaps will open.

          When you go straight to the expansive backline play with no variation whatsoever, against a Tier 1 defensive setup it just goes nowhere.

      • Jimmy T

        But we have the 2015 World Rugby Coach of the Year.

  • DK

    Brumbies will know their task that is required 24hrs before they kick-off. The interesting games are the kiwi ones as they have a direct result on the winner of the aussie pool. I think the Highlanders coming from Argentina and the road trip from hell the last couple of weeks could be a little too much for them and the chiefs i think are specials with the bookies this weekend especially after their semi-opposed training run last weekend.

  • BookiesMan

    Regardless of how results pan out from here, its been a poor season from everyone apart from the NZ sides.
    There are 2 rubbish sides in each of the 3 non-NZ divisions. I think they’ve only got points outside that sad-six mini league 3 times:
    Reds 28-27 Highlanders
    Sunwolves 17-17 Stormers
    Jags 29-11 Bulls
    That’s bad.
    On top of that, of the 40 or so Inter-conference/divisional, the kiwis have only lost about 3 times.
    That’s bad too.
    I cant see why anyone is rejoicing at the thought of SA viewing figures being down and I cant think why anyone reckons the NZ sides would want to only play the Australian sides in a breakaway league. At times like this, everyone should be sticking together to try to raise their game.
    On the plus side, its been a good year for betting as its been obvious from early on that everyone apart from the NZ teams is poor (at best)

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