Eight Super Rugby sides in final shoot-out
The Brumbies are on the cusp, the Reds need a minor miracle even with a Waratahs drubbing, while also-rans Western Force and Melbourne Rebels can shape them with boilovers.
Australia will probably only have one team in the Super Rugby finals but all five can have a major say on who finishes in the top six, and where, this weekend.
The permutations are seemingly endless with all seven final-round matches featuring teams in contention.
Even results won’t decide who makes it and who finishes on top of the ladder with bonus points to hold the key on a captivating day of action when six games will be played back-to-back across the three countries on Saturday.
Defending champions Queensland will need to have the rugby gods on their side if they are to stay alive and defend their title as it seems mother nature won’t be.
The seventh-placed Reds (53), sitting a point behind South Africa’s Sharks and Bulls, need four tries against NSW for a bonus point to put the heat on their rivals but forecast rain will make it highly unlikely in the interstate grudge match.
It would also be the only way they can knock the Brumbies (58) off top spot on the Australian conference if the ACT-based side slip up against the Blues in Canberra on Saturday afternoon.
A boilover by the Force, listed as $13 rank underdogs, against the Crusaders (56) in Christchurch can also open the door but not even the most loyal fans in Perth can expect a fitting farewell for retiring pioneer Nathan Sharpe.
Likewise, the Rebels loom as Cape Town cannon-fodder for the South African conference-leading Stormers (62) who need a bonus-point win to possibly steal the minor premiership and pole position off the front-running Chiefs.
The Chiefs (63) kick off the final round against the eighth-placed Hurricanes (53) in Wellington on Friday night which shapes as the match of the round.
While six of the top eight finals-contending teams need bonus-point wins to improve their play-off hopes or positions, all have spoken about the importance of focusing on the win first and foremost.
Queensland have only once scored four tries in their 18 Super Rugby clashes against the Waratahs and the Brisbane rain, which fell all day Thursday and is forecast over the weekend, is making that prospect even more unlikely.
“It would be nice if it was a brilliant night,” coach Ewen McKenzie said. “But the weather worries me more from a crowd point of view. We want to get the biggest crowd possible.”© AAP 2013