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Super Rugby Round 18: You can’t write ‘penultimate’ without a pen

Ben Lam of the Hurricanes. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Expert
4th July, 2018
78
2561 Reads

A word that always makes me smile is ‘penultimate’.

It’s not the very best of something, and it’s not the very last of anything, but it’s pretty bloody close. And it’s fun to say.

Apparently, it’s even misused in some American circles to mean ‘ultimate’. I’d have thought that not actually being the word ‘ultimate’ would’ve been a giveaway that it didn’t mean the same thing, but maybe that’s just me.

“The pen- part of penultimate”, the Merriam-Webster dictionary people tell me, “is simply the Latin prefix that means ‘almost’, so the word literally means ‘almost last’.”

So while this is indeed the penultimate round of Super Rugby for 2018, this isn’t the ‘almost last’ week of the Tipping Panel. No sir; we are nothing if not stayers, and we’ll be going through to the end. Which should give Harry enough time to make up ground and finish ‘actually last’ by a point.

Round 17: Nobes 4; Digger, Harry, Brett and Geoff 3; The Crowd 2.

Overall: Nobes 73; Geoff 72; The Crowd 68; Digger and Brett 67; Harry 62.

Nobes
Tips: Crusaders, Rebels, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Waratahs, Jaguares, Sharks

Crusaders at home is usually a safe bet, so I will pick them over the Highlanders. The Rebels will bounce back and defeat the Reds to secure a playoff spot.

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The Brumbies will visit the Chiefs and will not be able to pull two consecutive upsets. The Hurricanes will have some of their soldiers back on their feet and that will be enough to see off the Blues.

The Waratahs will welcome the game against the Sunwolves to clinch the top spot in the conference.

The Jaguares will defeat the Bulls and take the first spot in the South African conference. The Sharks are in a must-win position and will take care of the Stormers in really close game.

Sure thing: this week we will know who is going to be the new coach for Los Pumas.

Brett
Tips: Crusaders, Rebels, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Waratahs, Jaguares, Sharks

Well, I’ve gone and picked the same as Nobes, so that doesn’t help my Brumbies-finals-chances of catching him. But I just don’t see Round 18 as a week that screams ‘upsets’, unfortunately.

The Crusaders will run out onto Wyatt Crockett Stadium, which will randomly stand tall or collapse in a heap depending on whether they or the Highlanders have the ball. Regardless, the competition leaders will lay down a finals foundation of home games with a win. The Rebels, meanwhile, will watch the Waratahs’ second half and take note of what playing for a second set of 40 looks like.

The Brumbies showed last week that they’re capable of putting on points against strong counter-attacking sides, but the thing about the Chiefs is that even if you put 30 on them, they can still put 31 back on you easily. If this was in Canberra, a Brumbies win wouldn’t be out of the question. It’s not, so I think it is. Is a Blues win in Wellington out of the question, on that topic? Well, yes. Yes, it is.

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The Sunwolves have won three of their last five and are playing some great rugby, but surely – surely! – the motivation of sneaking into second will be enough for the Waratahs to get home.

And I’m sure the Jaguares have the Bulls covered, just as I’m sure the Sharks have the already-looking-at-2019 Stormers covered, despite both sides being away.

Sure tings: there will be upsets. I’m not a gambler, but there’s retirement-worthy value in picking against us this week.

Geoff
Tips: Crusaders, Rebels, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Waratahs, Jaguares, Sharks

The Highlanders revisit the site of last season’s heartbreaking loss to Mitch Hunt’s miracle dropped goal. I’m tipping their fate will be sealed well before the 83rd minute this time around.

Surely the Reds can’t be as poor as they were last week in Auckland, but the Rebels need this win too much. The Brumbies need to win as well, but the Chiefs in Hamilton are a different proposition to an out-of-sorts Hurricanes. An honourable loss awaits the Ponies. The Canes have been in decline for a while now, and are almost going so badly they could lose to the Blues. Almost.

The Sunwolves are full of initiative and have the best kicker in the competition, but the Tahs have enough points in them to seal top spot in the Australian conference.

Have the Bozo Bulls got any smarter since their Singapore sojourn? Perhaps, but if the Jaguares maintain their discipline they will win.

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The final match is this week’s coin toss. The Sharks defended well last week against the Lions and have grown through the competition, while the Stormers have flatlined. It’s always a good idea to stick to the home team in close South African derbies, so Stormers it is.

Sure thing: Jerome Kaino will not be taking any kicks for goal this week, but if the Crusaders manage to get a few points up and score late, watch out for Wyatt Crockett to be handed the kicking tee.

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Digger
Tips: Crusaders, Rebels, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Waratahs, Jaguares, Sharks

Canes by plenty. Maybe.

The Highlanders will be highly motivated to make amends after last week’s first half and teams have been known to misfire somewhat after a bye, but the Crusaders are too good to ignore at home. The Rebels, meanwhile, have more to play for than the Reds at this stage, so I’ll back them away in Brisbane.

The Chiefs in Hamilton appear to be a bridge too far for an ever-improving Brumbies side, and the Waratahs should cruise in at home against the Sunwolves, especially with second place outright up for grabs.

I will back the Jaguares away in Pretoria; they look a far more cohesive unit than the Bulls. And I will back the Sharks away, who just appear the better side on paper despite their inconsistency – and will have to live with the automatic regret and eventual telling off from Harry Jones of not picking the Newlands side.

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Sure thing: Kaino will play an absolute blinder and I will regret most of my tips, along with my new favourite catchphrase ‘check check’ annoying more than just my co-workers.

Harry
Tips: Crusaders, Rebels, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Waratahs, Jaguares, Sharks

Comparisons are finally easy, because every team has played 14 games, except the Lions and Stormers (15 each).

The Crusaders will honour Wyatt Crockett, who conceded 356 scrum penalties across his illustrious career, but lineouts are a lot more important than scrums in the modern game; Crusaders by ten.

The Rebels attack better than the Reds, score a lot more tries, miss fewer tackles, hit harder, kick smarter, and complete more offloads and good passes. Rebels by five.

The gravelly Chiefs will break the Brumbies line without even trying; Chiefs by plenty.

The mysterious Hurricanes are only better at one thing than the Blues: having a good margin of points scored compared to points conceded. That will continue. The hard-tackling, scrambling Sunwolves aren’t going to win in Sydney, at the moment.

The Bulls will give the Jaguares a lot to worry about, but then again, they will let the Jags score 35. Jags by five.

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The Stormers are just trying to not get injured. Sharks are on the rampage, as they (-4 in point differential) and the Rebels (-1) storm to a thrilling conference versus conference denouement. Sharks, with a bonus point, setting up a thrilling last round. The Rebels will be playing in that crazy covered stadium against Kiwi-Scots, while the Sharks have to host the Pumas-who-are-not-Pumas.

The finalists will win this week.

Sure thing: Momentum will be a word much used. The 12-win Crusaders and the nine-win Jaguares have it, while the eight-win Waratahs and seven-win Rebels and six-win Sharks need to find it, and the ten-win Hurricanes are wondering where it went.

Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon (AEST).

Who have you got, Roarers? Who gets your tip? Got a sure thing yourself? Let us know in the comments below, and enjoy your rugby this weekend.