Maths for the Reds to make Super Rugby finals
Queensland Reds' Quade Cooper runs the ball in his Super Rugby return (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
The not particularly evocatively named Mr Price Kings Park, Durban. The not overly fan-friendly time of 3:10 am, Sunday eighth July.
One of those intra-South African games where the casual rugby watcher is still not certain where the teams come from.
And yet possibly it should be the focus of attention for Reds followers – if only for those elusive bonus points.
For the Reds to get to the Super Rugby finals they have to either get past the Brumbies to top the Australian conference or make it into the top six across the three conferences. Either way, they pretty much have to win their last three games (against the Rebels, Highlanders and Waratahs – not a series of gimmes by any means, but let’s be optimistic).
If the Brumbies can win two of their last three (Force, Waratahs and Blues), they’re a good chance of staying top regardless of the Reds’ results – and that they’ll win two of those games at least looks the percentage bet to me.
That leaves the Reds supporter to wonder if they can get into the top six instead. Currently, the Highlanders are equal with them in eighth on 44 points, with the Hurricanes and Sharks in equal sixth on 45, and the Brumbies and Bulls in equal fourth on 49. Since we’ve already given the Brumbies a leave pass, that suggests the Crusaders on 51, Stormers on 54 and Chiefs on 58 should get the same benefit.
So can the Reds get to sixth by outpacing the Highlanders and overtaking two of the teams in front of them? Bonus points would certainly help. Beyond that, they can help themselves directly only against the Highlanders – the Reds winning that game pretty much puts the Highlanders out.
Unfortunately, the next two targets (the Hurricanes and Sharks) both have a bye in the last three weeks (as do the Highlanders). The Hurricanes’ last two games on the other hand are both eminently losable – against the Crusaders and Chiefs, meaning there’s a real chance for the Reds to get in front of them.
That puts the Sharks in the crosshairs – their last two games are against the Bulls (at home in Durban) and the Cheetahs. You’d have to fancy them in a must win game against the Cheetahs, meaning their game against the Bulls becomes potentially the most crucial one for the Reds.
If the Sharks win, that could be enough to keep them just in front of the Reds. The double whammy for the Reds is that even if the Bulls lose that one, their other two remaining games against the Cheetahs and Lions will probably yield enough points to keep them in front of the Reds.
Hence all that attention on Mr Price Kings Park.
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