Where the action is: Five into two wildcard spots won’t go

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Tracking the conference and wildcard table movement this season has been fascinating, and you’ll recall last month heading into Round 9 that I first flagged the intriguing battle that was looming around the middle of the Super Rugby standings.

    Since then, the race has only got hotter.

    The 2018 season is unique in its make-up. We’ve had 15 teams in Super Rugby before, and we’ve had conferences feeding eight-team finals series before, but we’ve never had 15 teams feeding into a final eight.

    When Super Rugby last played as a 15-team competition in 2015, we had three conferences feeding a six-team finals, and even going back to the last season of Super 14 in 2010, the first week of the finals were straight knock-out semi-finals.

    What has been reasonably consistent since 2011, however, has been a regular season of either 15 or 16 games, just as all teams will again play 16 teams in 2018.

    And in seasons of 15 or 16 games, teams have needed at least nine and generally ten wins to reach the finals.

    I say ‘generally’ very deliberately. In 2011, the Bulls missed the playoffs with ten wins. The Brumbies and Hurricanes did the same thing in 2012. In 2014, the Western Force finished with nine wins, but missed the finals to the Chiefs and Highlanders, who both got through with eight wins and excellent bonus point tallies.

    Nine wins was enough for the Brumbies in 2015, but not the Crusaders, and the Bulls again missed out with nine wins in 2016.

    So in 2018, teams will need ten wins to be safe, but nine wins and bonus points could get you there in this first season of 15 teams feeding eight playoff spots.

    With six rounds to play – and only five for the South Africans, who won’t play at all in Round 16 – it means we can very safely rule out the current bottom four teams: the Reds, Blues, Brumbies and Sunwolves.

    David Pocock

    David Pocock (AAP Image/Rohan Thomson)

    Of those four teams, the Reds on 17 points *could* win all six games and finish with ten wins. ‘Could’, in theory. In reality, four of those six games are against current top eight sides, with games against the Blues and their weekend conquerors, the Sunwolves to come.

    At the top end of the table, there is now a six-point gap between the Chiefs in sixth and the Rebels in seventh, meaning the top six looks pretty set, but for one possible change that needs to be considered. The current top six comprises the Crusaders, Lions, Waratahs, Hurricanes, and the Highlanders one point above the Chiefs.

    Between that top grouping and the bottom four, there are five teams – the Rebels, Jaguares, Bulls, Sharks, and Stormers – within two points of each other, and all of them with decent claims for the final two wildcard spots.

    This is where the action is for the run home.

    The Rebels, fresh from their 79th-minute win over the Brumbies courtesy of Reece Hodge’s clutch penalty, have a bye this weekend, and then face a Brave Blossoms June squad-weakened Sunwolves and the Blues in Auckland before the international break.

    After the break, it’s the Waratahs in Melbourne, and the Reds and Highlanders away to finish. To get to ten wins, they’d need to win all five games. Four wins and at least two bonus points could put them in the mix as well.

    Will Genia

    Will Genia (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

    The Jaguares, like all the South African sides, will have a week off in Round 16 – the Republic started Super Rugby a week early, so they’ll break a week early for the internationals – and are also fully intra-conference from here on. They face the Bulls and Sharks before the break, and then the Stormer after it, all in Buenos Aires. Win those three – and they certainly can – would give them nine wins, meaning they might only need to win one of their return legs against the Bulls and Sharks to qualify.

    The Bulls have been as high as second in the conference, and as low as fifth, all in the last month. At the peak, they’d snuck into eighth overall. They have the Jaguares in Argentina this weekend, then the Brumbies back at Loftus before the break. After it, it’s the Sunwolves in Singapore, the Jaguares back at Loftus, and the Lions in Johannesburg to finish. With five wins now, they need to win all five to get to ten wins. Problem is, there’s a couple of tricky games in that lot.

    The Sharks’ issue is that with only four wins and a draw now, they cannot get to ten wins. They would need to win all five remaining games just to get to nine, so bonus points will become crucial. They face the Chiefs in Durban this week, then head to Buenos Aires to face the Jaguares. After June, it’s the Lions at home, the Stormers at Newlands, and the Jaguares back in Durban. I’d be nervous if I were a Sharkie.

    And having played twelve games, I’d also be nervous if I were a Stormer. They’re yet to win away from Cape Town, even lost there to the Chiefs on Saturday, and now must trek to Hong Kong to play the Sunwolves brimming with confidence and keen to take some form into the June Test camp. Then it’s the Lions back at Newlands. After the break, it’s the Jaguares in BA, then the Sharks back in Cape Town before another bye. Four wins would get them to ten wins overall, but the question is, is there four wins there?

    The other consideration in all this is the Waratahs, who sit only one point above the Rebels on top of the Australian conference with the same number of wins, a much better points differential, one fewer bonus point, but with the slight advantage of their earlier draw against the Sharks.

    Israel Folau

    Israel Folau (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    The Tahs don’t have the worst run home though: the Highlanders in Sydney this Saturday night, then the Chiefs and Reds both away before the June Tests. On the resumption, it’s the Rebels in Melbourne, and home games against the Brumbies and Sunwolves to finish. Four wins in that six would get them to nine wins, but if they’re good enough they should win at least that many. The Rebels game probably decides the conference.

    The eight-team finals series in a 15-team competition has been criticised in some circles, but a condensed mid-table set like this with so many teams eyeing off not many playoff spots will make the run home really exciting.

    Next week, I’ll lay down some predictions and try and nut out who does and doesn’t make the playoffs.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (138)

    • May 15th 2018 @ 5:05am
      Brisvegas said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:05am | ! Report

      Brett thankyou for all the information is it me or are there others who get confused with this stupid draw? One day sanity might prevail and we get a straight forward everyone plays everyone once and the finals are then played. Do the tahs play the canes etc

      • May 15th 2018 @ 8:57am
        Gav said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        If you follow the NBA, NFL or MLB especially like myself, the Super Rugby draw is wonderfully simple. A nice change.

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2018 @ 11:06am
        Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Bris, I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for when you look at a draw. I reckon it’s about as confusing as you let it be.

        If you’re just trying to see who plays who in any given week, or you’re just looking at your team, for eg, it’s pretty simple: one week they play one team, the next week they play another team, and so on.

        If you’re trying to establish who has the so-called harder or easier draw, and who’s not playing who, then sure, It can get a bit complicated.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 9:18am
          Steven said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          I haven’t read this whole of this thread, but it seems to me there’s a mistake in your article’s logic. Eight out of fifteen teams will make the play-offs. A team is more likely to make it than not. Winning eight games out of sixteen should, all things being equal, put you through. Especially when the top teams are winning a high proportion of their games and the middles ones are beating each other. It doesn’t seem likely that any of the five teams you’ve identified will win almost all of their remaining games to get to nine or ten wins. But two of them will qualify. It’s conceivable that a team will get through with only seven wins (if lots of teams end up on seven wins and bonus points decide which ones go through).

          And another thing: lots of people are saying that the Crusaders and Hurricanes are going to meet in the final. But aren’t they almost certain to meet in the semis?

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2018 @ 5:20am
      Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      From SA conference I think the Lions and Jaguares have the best shot.

      Australia it is the Waratahs and Rebels.

      New Zealand it is the Crusaders, Hurricanes, Highlanders and Chiefs.

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2018 @ 11:08am
        Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

        Biltong, my suspicion is that the eight teams we have now are the eight we’ll finish with, with the distinct possibility of some re-ordering – but I’ll reserve the right to change my mind by next week!

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 1:09pm
          Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

          Agree Brett, there is a slight chance of change, but I doubt it.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 2:42pm
          Toddyq said | May 15th 2018 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

          I can’t see the Rebels making it.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 5:23pm
        Harry Jones said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

        Howzit, gents.

        The Jaguares-Bulls “derby” this week is HUGE.

        A Bulls upset, and they are looking pretty.

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 6:03pm
          Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

          I would like to see the Bulls progress, although the Jaguares will be deserved qualifiers, they really bucked up their defence and reduced the risky plays. Discipline is also much better

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2018 @ 5:28am
      Nobrain said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:28am | ! Report

      Great analysis , to many if ‘s as well as outcomes which it will make every game a final in many cases. This is good for the competition imo.

    • May 15th 2018 @ 5:41am
      JRVJ said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:41am | ! Report

      1. I don’t think there’ll be two Australian teams in the playoffs.

      Obviously I could be wrong, but I think it’s either the Waratahs or the Rebels, with the Waratahs having a slightly softer schedule (IMO).

      2. The winner of the Jags – Bulls game in B.A. this weekend will be in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot (especially if the Chiefs beat the Sharks in Durban).

      No guarantees, of course, but in a very solid position (the Bulls in particular would be sitting pretty, since they still play the Jags in SA).

      3. Don’t discount the possibility that the Lions are caught in the SA conference. They’re only 7 points ahead of the rest of the pack, with one more game under their belts than the Jags, Bulls & Sharks.

      4. It’s hard for me to see the Stormers making it. They’re one point behind the three-headed monster in the SA conference, with one more game under their belts.

      It’s not impossible that they sneak in, but I would not bet on them.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 10:31am
        Nobrain said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        The advantage of the Jags is that they have two play three at home and only two away, but also have the problem that
        all the players will be used in the window in June and the depth is not so large in case of injuries and fatigue.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 10:51am
        Train Without A Station said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        Not sure how the Waratahs have a “softer schedule”.

        They play Highlanders

        Rebels play Sunwolves

        Pretty similar really.

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 11:07am
          PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          agree quite similar.
          Tahs a little bit easier because they have 1 game in hand the brumbies

          Rebels slightly easier playing blues to tahs chiefs but tahs having that extra game against brumbies at home makes a bit better draw

          • May 15th 2018 @ 11:16am
            cantab said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

            Yeah, bascially they have 1 game more that you would expect them to win.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 11:35am
            JRVJ said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            “slightly” being the operative word.

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2018 @ 2:31pm
            jeznez said | May 15th 2018 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

            Brumbies if they have Pocock, Valetinie and Naisarani in might still be a stumbling block for the Tahs.

            I know the team has been seriously out of form but the breakdown pressure and the tight carrying that trio provide could be a banana skin for the Tahs. A bit like the Force in the second meeting last year.

            • Roar Rookie

              May 15th 2018 @ 3:58pm
              Kirky said | May 15th 2018 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

              Jez’ You may be right mate but the Brumbies are in freefall and are woeful right now, it will be interesting tho, no doubt about that!!

              Crusaders and the Hurricanes at the Cake Tin in the Final, Hurricanes to win!

              • May 15th 2018 @ 4:55pm
                Train without a station said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

                The Brumbies have played some of their better footy the last 6 weeks…

              • May 16th 2018 @ 9:29am
                Fionn said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

                The Brumbies have been diabolical the last 6 weeks…

                The most we have done is played decent in patches against the Jags and Rebels. The rest has been dire.

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2018 @ 9:50am
                Train Without A Station said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report

                Fionn really?

                They played decent against the Crusaders (not good enough), beat the Reds (who beat them previously) and pushed the Rebels who walloped them previously.

                They seem closer than they did early in the season.

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2018 @ 3:59pm
              PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

              I would hate for the tahs to have to beat the brumbies to top the conference, I could easily see brumbies lifting for that and beating them.

              Tahs look mentally very fragile.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2018 @ 4:50pm
                jeznez said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

                They’ll have been shocked at giving up that lead against the Crusaders. Has been a tough few games the 0-29 against the Lions and then failing to get over the Blues has to have shaken them.

                Not surprised that Malone is talking them up – am sure he is just trying to instil some confidence but seeing that the Tahs lost 7 of their rucks to the Crusaders 2 suggests to me that the same old problem reared its head once the Crusaders forwards got going.

        • Columnist

          May 15th 2018 @ 11:17am
          Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          Three homes games to the Rebels’ two makes things slighty easier TWAS, but you’re right, there’s not a whole lot in it. Both teams could get to nine wins – both could get to ten wins in fact, given they play each other and the Tahs have a game in hand…

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2018 @ 11:30am
            Train Without A Station said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:30am | ! Report

            It’s basically the Blues or Chiefs, and the fact the Waratahs have a Brumbies game in hand. Though the Brumbies have pushed the Crusaders and Rebels recently so may be on a slight improv.

      • May 15th 2018 @ 11:08am
        cantab said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

        Not much chance of a chiefs win, as they can’t play any of their AB’s.
        So Dmac, ALB, Retallic, Cane are all out.

        Not very fair on them, as the othe kiwi teams got to pick which games players missed.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 11:31am
        The Neutral View From Sweden said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        2. The winner of the Jags – Bulls game in B.A. this weekend will be in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot (especially if the Chiefs beat the Sharks in Durban).

        Every single AB in the Chiefs are back in NZ preparing for the AB camp, so the Sharks had a bit of luck with the draw here.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 11:37am
          JRVJ said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report


          It looks like Lood de Jager and Lizo Gqoboka are out for the rest of the season, so the Jags are certainly looking good for this weekend’s game (and I suppose the return game in the Republic after the June window).

          But really, it’s anybody’s tournament at this point.

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2018 @ 11:51am
            Nobrain said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:51am | ! Report

            The backs will be the key in this game. Advantage in lineouts imo , scrum equal power, breakdown even numbers. Pollard vs Sanchez. the offensive insides of the Bulls vs de reliable defense of Jaguares in the center. Fullback, advantage Bulls since Tuculet is out for the season and who ever take his place ( Bofelli?) it will the first in a couple years.

            • May 15th 2018 @ 3:32pm
              ThugbyFan said | May 15th 2018 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

              Hi Nobrain, Damn that sucks for Los Jaguares as that fullback, Joaquin Tuculet, was a pretty handy player. I remember looking him up after the Brumbies match and he has the same birthday as one of my sons.

    • May 15th 2018 @ 5:55am
      Taylorman said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:55am | ! Report

      Nice Brett, I used to look at the permutations then just gave up after the number of teams changed almist every year it seems, means you have to start from scratch every year.

      Its a very up and down year for most sides, exvept my Blues of course and its not nice to hear my old Otahuhu club starting a huge brawl in a match with Pakuranga last week.
      After it in fact. Abysma!l.

      Canes will come through in the end for me at leadt for Shields premature sendoff alone.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 15th 2018 @ 8:42am
        Shane D said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        Saw the words Blues & 10 wins in the same sentence. Came over all nostalgic.

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2018 @ 11:28am
        Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        I expect the Shields and Boyd factors to drive the ‘Canes pretty strongly, TM…

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 11:34am
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          Did you see Boyd’s comments on Shields after the game against the Blues Brett?

          • Columnist

            May 15th 2018 @ 12:16pm
            Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 12:16pm | ! Report


            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2018 @ 12:45pm
              The Neutral View From Sweden said | May 15th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

              “I don’t know what they were looking for in a six but I think I have made no secret of the fact that I think Brad is a good enough player to have played in the All Blacks jersey and personally I think if he had got in there, he would have grown even more because he is such a good person,”

              “Brad is just one of our best. He is about three games away from playing 100 games for the club; he’ll be the 14th centurion for the Hurricanes and he’ll be a sports quiz questions because he’ll be the only Hurricane to play 100 games who hasn’t been an All Black. He was desperately keen to put on the black jersey but the question didn’t come a knocking.

              “There is nothing that he doesn’t do. He is the guy who shakes everyone’s hand. He is the guy who is picking up gear at the end of training.

              “He is the guy who when someone is down he is empathetic. He is just an amazingly grounded guy and to my mind he is the sort of person you would be really keen for your daughter to marry.”

              P.S. A funny little detail from the Canes camp is that his teammates sang “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” for Brad in the dressing room before training after it was official he was picked for England.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2018 @ 3:40pm
                Ralph said | May 15th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                Yep. Good luck to him.

              • May 16th 2018 @ 10:17am
                Jacko said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

                i think his coach should select someone who he knows is dedicated tot the role….Is Shields going to protect himself from injury now? That would make England look very very silly

              • May 16th 2018 @ 3:49pm
                Akari said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

                Thanks for that, NV. What a man that England is inheriting and may he be successful in the tests that he would be involved in. I still want the Boks to win ofc.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 15th 2018 @ 4:07pm
          Kirky said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

          Brett! The Shields factor worries me not but Boyd leaving annoys the hell out of me!

          There’s heaps of good Blind side Flankers in New Zealand, but there’s few of the calibre of Boyd as a Coach!

          He is replaceable luckily with Johnny Plums’ and Carlos but Boyd is that cut above, a very, very, good Coach!

      • May 15th 2018 @ 3:44pm
        ThugbyFan said | May 15th 2018 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

        I asked this question in the Canes blog on the weekend and no one answered. Perhaps TM or Brett can. Seeing as Brad Shields is off to Wasps at season’s end but also has requested an early release from the NZRU so he can become an instant Pom and play for Eddie’s Egotistic Eggheads, does he return to the Highlanders after the SA jaunt or is he now a Pom Wasp forevermore and gone?

        Am not sure about Boyd’s speech (NVS below) but wasn’t Shields asked to join the AB squad about 3 years ago but declined as his wife was preggers or something like that? Am positive I read that somewhere.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 15th 2018 @ 4:18pm
          Kirky said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

          Thugby! Yeah mate, Shields was asked by the All Black Selectors to cover for the USA game, (I think) and he declined but whether his Kiwi Missus’ had anything to do with that I don’t know, ~ it sort of makes one think that Eddie the Mouth and Shields were talking then!

          I think Chris Boyd is being Loyal to his man with superlatives he used on Shield’s behalf, because Shields is a good player but there’s players in NZ better and much better than he! ~ it seems that at this very moment, the status quo’ regarding the abundance of good and very capable Blind side Loosies there is very ,very fluid, so really speaking Shields’ departure is really just a blip on the radar!

          • May 15th 2018 @ 4:37pm
            moaman said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

            There may be “heaps” of better players Kirky….and you should know…..but it is still a concern that born-and-bred nationals of one country are being lured abroad by other countries with fat wallets and a ‘fluid’ notion of what ‘representing your country’ means.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 12:26am
            ThugbyFan said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:26am | ! Report

            Thanks Kirky, I was in USA at that time and there is absolutely NO rugby news in the media at all.

        • Columnist

          May 15th 2018 @ 4:22pm
          Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

          No, he’ll return to the Hurricanes, TF – he’d still be contracted to NZR until later in the year…

          • May 16th 2018 @ 12:24am
            ThugbyFan said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:24am | ! Report

            Thanks Brett, personally I would have told Shields “see ya later sport, enjoy frosty England” but then I can see without the SA “tour as a Pom” thing, then Shields would have played to the best of his ability to win the Canes another trophy before he was off to Wasps.

            I see it as indicative that E.Jones has realised he needs more speed from his backrow as slower cruiserweights such as J.Haskell and C.Robshaw are so yesterday in rugby terms.

    • May 15th 2018 @ 7:06am
      Highlander said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Brett, the mandatory ABlack stand downs mean it is highly likely tthe Tahs will be facing a Highlander side without at least 2 of their senior players this weekend.
      Very surprised with the current bookie odds on that game

      • May 15th 2018 @ 7:32am
        HighTemplar said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

        The Highlanders won’t repeat what the Crusaders did in the first 30 minutes (drop the ball while on attack and kick the ball down Folau’s throat)

        • May 15th 2018 @ 10:10am
          BBA said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Highlanders could make other mistakes though. Warratahs may play better. Don’t think you can base anything on how 30 minutes of rugby from another team will have any bearing on the result.

          Motivation for the Warratahs will be very high and from the fans, nothing like a good we wuz robbed mentality to get everybody firing.

          This will be a very difficult game for the Highlanders.

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2018 @ 11:12am
            PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:12am | ! Report

            easy easy win to highlanders

          • May 15th 2018 @ 12:11pm
            Akari said | May 15th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            Not sure, BBA? They couldn’t dominate and beat a hopeless and clueless team like Blues two weekends ago.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 5:02pm
            Cinque said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

            Tahs looked battered. Forget the mental factor. Also, losing Hanigan is not a small loss. Seriously!

        • May 15th 2018 @ 5:12pm
          Muzzo said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

          Yeh but High Templar, you must remember that the Saders, last weekend were without, at least five of their top players, as in Dagg, Crotty, Havali, Read, Franks etc. Honestly iv’e never seen them drop so many passes as what they did in the first 30, but that also, was the pressure the Tah’s, put on them.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 10:18am
        Fox said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        Nice analysis Brett – I just hope we don’t have one team getting into the finals with less points than the team sitting at 9 like last year.

        I think if we must have the conference system – and TV tells everyone we must – then at least when the eight have been decided the table is adjusted to points and the teams with best season fairly and rightly get the home finals. I mean it is contemptibly stupid and a gross injustice when a side can get a home final over another that has finished 8-16 points higher and clearly had the better season and been a better performing side IMO.

        So Brett which Kiwi side will the Tahs play in first final?

        Because that is where they are heading – either the Highlander or Chiefs one suspects and the Chiefs have many of their big guns returning after the break – especially their AB’s in the pack, and Squire will return to Highlanders as well.

        These games against the Highlanders and Chiefs are important for the Tahs in more ways than one IMO. They might just be appetisers to the first stages of the finals.

        Next article- Which side will ruin a finals contenders hopes in an upset just at the wrong time?

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 11:17am
          PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          fox – if tahs win every game left except against cheifs and highlanders they could finish second ahead of the top sa team.

          Lions don’t look anywhere as strong as last year and have a tough draw, the SA teams take points off each other.

          Not saying it is likely but not a remote chance.

          Tahs or Rebels will be easy beats in the QF’s for a NZ team so I wonder what jostling there will be between cheifs and highlanders to ensure they finish 6th and play them rather than 5th and play either the canes or crusaders away.

          • Columnist

            May 15th 2018 @ 11:38am
            Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:38am | ! Report

            Equally Peter, the Rebels and Waratahs could both win five games and get to ten wins, and with the RSA and NZ teams taking points off each other, it’s not implausible at all that the Lions and Chiefs/Highlanders are caught.

            So to answer your question Fox, I don’t think it’s a definite the Waratahs would play an NZ side yet. They could play a 6th-placed Rebels, for eg. They could finish 7th themselves and play a 2nd-placed Lions.

            I do like the ill-placed upset idea though, that could be a really interesting discussion…

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2018 @ 11:45am
              PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:45am | ! Report

              I have discounted the chance of any oz team beating any nz team and they play each other so at most 4 wins to 1 team and 3 wins to the other.

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2018 @ 11:59am
              Fox said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report

              “I don’t think it’s a definite the Waratahs would play an NZ side yet. They could play a 6th-placed Rebels, for eg. They could finish 7th themselves and play a 2nd-placed Lions.”

              Yeah I think that is a fair call Brett and injuries to key players in June window might play a factor to and the law of averages tells you there will be some at some point to all sides one suspects.

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2018 @ 11:52am
            Fox said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:52am | ! Report

            Your last point is a very interesting one Pk – and the Tahs will need to win this weekend I think to have any chance of securing 2nd but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 11:01am
        Fox said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Aron Smith was stood down last weekend so won’t be against the Tahs and I doubt they will rest Ben Smith or Neholo for this game or anyone else for that matter.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 11:37am
          Highlander said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          A Smith has done his two stand downs so yep all clear.

          Ben Smith and Whitelock need to miss two of the next 3 games to meet AB protocols, gotta be favourites to miss this and the Reds game.
          Naholo has 1to go I think

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 11:12am
        PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        highlanders have the best game to beat the tahs so I see little chance of the tahs winning.

        Highlanders have an excellent kicking game and will prey on all the handling errors tahs make trying to run it back.

        Hard to see any area where tahs are better than the highlanders, I would have said marginally in the lineout but not with Hanigan out.

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2018 @ 11:32am
        Brett McKay said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:32am | ! Report

        Yeah, I’ve just seen the Tahs listed at $2.80, which does seem more than a tad generous for a home game after what they did last week in Christchurch.

        By way of comparison, the Chiefs were at $2.40 to beat the Sharks…

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 11:42am
          PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          don’t agree.

          The tahs performance has been overstated.

          It depended on crusaders making an unusual number of handling mistakes combined with a poor kicking game which was also poor tactically.

          I can’t see Highlanders making those same mistakes.

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