This week we enter Round 12 of the competition which means we have just half a dozen games before the Super Rugby finals commence. While many Australian Rugby fans (if there any such thing at the moment) will be relieved when this Super Rugby season finishes, we must not forget that under this quirky SANZAAR competition, one of our teams will actually host a Quarter Final.
Put aside how undeserving that is, considering our top ranked team is in 10th position in a ‘traditional’ table. A home town Quarter Final will be a godsend for all of our struggling teams as it means a big financial boost from hosting (assuming there may be some increased ticket sales) the big game. Forgetting our chances of actually winning that game (although, as they say, anything can happen come finals time), finishing first in the Australian Conference is vital for each team.
More interestingly, the race to first is still far from over. Let’s take a look at each team and their run home.
1st – Brumbies on 18 competition points
Rnd 12 – Lions (H)
Rnd 13 – Kings (A)
Rnd 14 – Jaguares (A)
Rnd 15 – Rebels (H)
Rnd 16 – Reds (A)
Rnd 17 – Chiefs (A)
The Brumbies have not won a game this year outside of their conference and unfortunately only have two conference games left this season. To make matters worse they are only home for two more games – this weekend against the Lions and in Round 15 against the Rebels. Their ‘South African’ tour isn’t too imposing from an opposition perspective, but it’s an almighty trek with minimal recovery time.
It’ll be a tough ask to shut down the Lions this weekend, despite being at home, and then the Brumbies jump on a plane for their tour of the South African conference. As far as tours go, it isn’t the toughest as they face the bottom two teams of the Africa 2 Conference, but even the bottom placed Kings are now sitting on the same number of season wins as the Brumbies. I’ll back the Aussies to snag one win, and then a couple of important victories over the Rebels and Reds, but I can’t see them as able beat the Chiefs in Waikato in that last round.
Three more wins to come (potential bonus point wins in the Aussie Conference games). I’m suggesting they’ll secure another 14 competition points to finish on 32 points.
2nd – Waratahs on 15 competition points
Rnd 12 – BYE
Rnd 13 – Rebels (H)
Rnd 14 – Highlanders (A)
Rnd 15 – Chiefs (A)
Rnd 16 – Jaguares (H)
Rnd 17 – Force (A)
A bye this week may help with injuries but at a time when all Aussie teams are desperate for points, it’s a pain in the arse. With just two conference games to come the Tahs will rely on their three remaining matches to try to give them an edge over their compatriots. A couple of games in New Zealand make it a tough run home, but even if they were in Sydney it would be hard to see the Waratahs winning.
The Tahs should win their two home games and they’ll drop the two in New Zealand. Fantastically so much could count on that last round away game against the Force where the East Coast Elitists in sky blue will be made to feel so welcome by the locals. Emotion will win that one (aka the Force).
No points for the bye of course, and then eight points from their remaining home games. I think they’ll go down out west but probably pinch a losing bonus point. This will see them finish on 24 points.
3rd – Reds on 11 competition points
Rnd 12 – Rebels (A)
Rnd 13 – BYE
Rnd 14 – Force (H)
Rnd 15 – Blues (A) * Apia
Rnd 16 – Brumbies (H)
Rnd 17 – Highlanders (A)
Another dastardly bye comes when a team most doesn’t need it. The Reds have the advantage over their higher placed Aussie competitors in that they have three conference games, two of which are at home. Unfortunately these are counter balanced by a couple of away games against kiwi teams (albeit the Blues game will be in Samoa). While the Blues and Highlanders sit at the bottom of the NZ conference, neither will be easy games for the Reds.
The most likely win here is over the Rebels this weekend, but with Sean McMahon and Colby Faingaa due back, it won’t be easy. I’ll give us a victory over the Force because I can be biased like that, but the Brumbies is probably a bridge too far. What to expect against the Blues in Samoa, less than a week before they take on the British Lions, is anyone’s guess – we’ve never lost to them there at least.
Just the eight points from the Force and Rebels game is foreseeable. A win over the Blues is possible but would be a surprise and I can’t bank on it. Reds to finish on 19 points.
4th – Force on 9 competition points
Rnd 12 – Jaguares (A)
Rnd 13 – Highlanders (H)
Rnd 14 – Reds (A)
Rnd 15 – Hurricanes (H)
Rnd 16 – Rebels (H)
Rnd 17 – Waratahs (H)
The Force have the best run home of the Aussie teams with four home games. It’s a big chance for their beleaguered rugby community to come out in numbers and ride the season home. While it will be a surprise if they beat either visiting New Zealand teams, their final two games are big statements ready to be made. Even their two away games, this weekend against the Jaguares and a fortnight later against the Reds, are winnable.
I will back the Force to knock off the Rebels and the Waratahs to close out the season, and potentially their existence. I can’t see them running either of the Landers or Canes close, although they did give the Chiefs a scare. Their big chance is this weekend against an up and down Jags and then the Reds, who they have had the wood over of late.
I’ll go nine points just from those final two games. A win this weekend is hard to pick but could set them up for a big run home. I think two bonus point losses are more likely which will see them finish with 20 points.
5th – Rebels on 7 competition points
Rnd 12 – Reds (H)
Rnd 13 – Waratahs (A)
Rnd 14 – Crusaders (H)
Rnd 15 – Brumbies (A)
Rnd 16 – Force (A)
Rnd 17 – Jaguares (H)
The Rebels are somewhat the masters of their own destiny with matches against each of the other Aussie Conference teams. If they can win those, they can finish on top of the Aussie log! Remarkable. Unfortunately three of those games are on the road which won’t make the job easier. Any thoughts of another upset win over the Crusaders should be washed away, but a last round match against the Jaguares is there for the taking.
I don’t see things turning around for the Rebels despite the return of Sean McMahon, and perhaps a few others. I actually think their next win will be that last round one against the Jags (watch this come back and bite me this weekend when they host the Reds). It’s a game too early to expect McMahon to make a significant difference and after that they take on the Tahs, Crusaders and Brumbies.
Sorry Melbourne readers but I can only see four points, perhaps a loss bonus or two, meaning the Rebels will end up on 12 points.
Well that’s a fairly boring conclusion. That the Aussie conference won’t change from what we see of it today and that the Brumbies will be our sole representative in the finals.
Ironically, after tipping them to finish with the wooden spoon on our podcast a week or so ago, I think the Force are in a position to make a strong statement on their run home. If they can win in Buenos Aires this weekend then they are in an excellent position for a strong finals run.