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Super Rugby: The road to the finals and beyond

Michael Hooper of the Waratahs. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)
Roar Rookie
3rd July, 2018
18

I have no doubt that Brett’s regular Tuesday column will continue his excellent The Run Home series where he will attempt to predict who will and will not make the finals.

Not having the patience to wait for his predictions and given my urgent need to convince myself that the Rebels are going to make it, I have spent a fair part of the weekend unleashing my inner Nostradamus.

I’m seeking to fearlessly predict not just who will make the finals but the order of finish and ultimately, the final outcome.

While the final winner will be no surprise, some of the outcomes along the way should make this the most interesting Super Rugby season ending for some years.

As I am predicting that some of the final points tallies will be very close in the middle of the Eight it is important to understand the tie-break rules in the event of a tie.

There are five criteria in ascending order:
1. Most wins from all matches
2. Highest aggregate points difference from all matches
3. Most tries from all matches
4. Highest aggregate difference of total tries for versus tries scored against from all matches, and finally
5. Coin toss.

If you think that the use of some of the higher criteria is unlikely, consider that today the Bulls and the Stormers occupy 11th and 12th place respectively with five wins each and an aggregate points difference of -44 each with Bulls on 11th only through having a better aggregate try difference.

As of today only ten teams remain with a mathematical chance of making the Quarter Finals with the Bulls, Stormers Blues, Reds and Sunwolves holding the 11th to 15th places in that order with no mathematical chance of catching the current eighth place holder the Rebels.

The current standings of the remaining top ten are summarised below showing total points and wins (not even I am going to try to predict final aggregate points or try differences). The table also shows the run home for each team (a + means a home game).

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As of Round 17

Rank Team Played Wins Points Rd 18 Rd 19
1 CRU 14 12 54 HIG BLU+
2 LIO 15 8 41 BYE BUL+
3 WAT 14 8 39 SUN+ BRU+
4. HUR 14 10 45 BLU+ CHI
5 CHI 14 9 41 BRU+ HUR+
6 HIG 14 9 40 CRU+ REB+
7 JAG 14 9 38 BUL SHA
8 REB 14 7 35 RED HIG
9 SHA 14 6 32 STO JAG
10 BRU 14 6 29 CHI WAT

With the exception of the Crusaders and Hurricanes, the difference between second and seventh is only three points. Also note that the Lions have only one game left. The Rebels bonus points are keeping them in the game.

Cruelling the chance of a major boil over from the bottom up is the draw, with none of the bottom four having a home game (but watch the Jags).

If the QFs were to be played next week they would be:
QF1 Crusaders vs Rebels
QF2 Hurricanes v Chiefs
QF3 Lions v Jaguares
QF4 Waratahs v Highlanders

For what it’s worth I think that would result in the semi-finals being Crusaders vs Chiefs (based on last weekend’s form) and Waratahs vs Jaguares with a Crusaders vs Jaguares final.

The Crusaders are the only team I would be confident in tipping against the Jaguars at the moment, so they win.

So now for my promised fearless predictions.
1. Crusaders: no problems, two wins with a BP against the Blues for nine points.
2. Lions: shot themselves in the foot on the weekend, should beat the Bulls but no BP for four points.
3. Waratahs: (through clenched teeth) should get two wins but a BP will be hard to get as while the Sunwolves leak a lot of points they never lie down and score many themselves, eight points.
4. Hurricanes: will get one win against the Blues with a BP but will struggle against the Chiefs in Hamilton, losing by less than seven for a BP, six points.
5. Chiefs: they looked very good in Fiji and should get two wins at home but will struggle to a BP out of two fired up teams.
6. Highlanders: they have a sniff at a losing BP in Christchurch but the Rebels will deny them a try BP, one win and five points.
7. Jaguares: the team on the move and they have no problem playing SA this year. Not big BP winners to date so two wins and eight points only.
8. Rebels: should get a BP win at Suncorp (because they must) but try as might I can’t see them beating the Highlanders at FBS, one win and six points.
9. Sharks: did themselves a big favour on the weekend and momentum should see them beat the Stormers but the Jags will take them down, one win and four points.
10. Brumbies: part of me wants them to win both games but most of me believes it will be close but no cigar, no wins and two BPs.

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I expect there to be strong objections to some of these predictions from many quarters but, these are my fearless predictions and I am sticking with them – note my scrupulous lack of bias in not picking the Rebels to beat the Highlanders – and they result in the following final outcome to the regular season.

Rank Team Played Wins Points
1 CRU 16 14 63
2 WAT 16 10 47
3 JAG 16 11 46
4 HUR 16 11 51
5 CHI 16 11 49
6 HIG 16 10 45
7 LIO 16 9 45
8 REB 16 8 41
9 SHA 16 7 36
10 BRU 16 6 31

For completeness I am predicting that none of the Bulls, Stormers, Blues or Reds will win another game and their current positions and points will remain unchanged.

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The Sunwolves will beat the Reds to move equal to the Reds on four wins and 19 points each.

Current points and try aggregates strongly favour the Reds so I will award the Wooden Spoon to the Mighty Moondogs.

Positions 1, 4, 5, 6 and 8 are unchanged from Round 17 and the big winners are the Tahs and the Jags. The Lions are left to rue dropping the ball last Saturday.

Yes, the system has thoroughly screwed the Hurricanes yet again and the Chiefs can feel a little bit screwed, but the outcomes are a lot closer between the conferences than the last two years.

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While the eight is pretty firm in my view, the final positions from 2 to 7 (bar fourth) are very vulnerable to minor changes to my predictions. For example, if the Jags pick up a BP they move to P2 based on games won. It will be a nail-biting finish for all teams.

The finals
From the SANZAAR website, the quarterfinals will be drawn as follows: QF1 1 v 8; QF2 4 v 5; QF3 2 v 7; and QF4 3 v 6. The winner of QF1 plays QF2 in SF1 and you can figure out the rest.

Hence
QF1 Crusaders vs Rebels
QF2 Hurricanes vs Chiefs
QF3 Waratahs vs Lions
QF4 Jaguares vs Highlanders

My heart says the Rebels are going to rip the Crusaders a new one and go on to win the championship taking all before them.

Sigh, back to reality. I am going for home advantage in all games. This reverses my picking the Chiefs over the Canes the week before, but home advantage will count for a lot.

So the semi-finals will be
SF1 Crusaders v Hurricanes and
SF2 Waratahs v Jaugares

See how unbiased I am in giving the Tahs two home finals?

Both of these games are tough to call but I have to give SF1 to the Crusaders. They don’t lose many home games and even fewer home finals.

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I have been very impressed by the Jags since they beat the Rebels and went on to complete a four-zip Australasian tour, which was as good a performance as I’ve seen in Super Rugby. They have then gone from strength to strength.

They seem to just play enough to win, so no big bonus point-winning thrashings – just strong defence and an ability to take the half chances when they come up.

The Tahs will be tough to beat at home but something in my water says that the Jags will take this. Sorry Tahs fans.

So, a grand final between the Crusaders and the Jaguares.

How do I get to listen to the Argentine commentary?.

The Crusaders to win back-to-back and their ninth title overall. Given their dominance throughout the season, richly deserved. The Rebels will take it next year