With just one weekend left before finals in the Super Rugby Pacific competition, the top eight is almost set but the jostling for positions is still intense.
This is every team’s best and worst case scenario for their final position and the predicted quarterfinal opponents for the top eight.
How do the finals work?
There is a straight forward three week playoff structure for the Super Rugby Pacific finals.
In week one the top eight teams play off in quarterfinals based on ladder position. The games are 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v 5 with the top-ranked team hosting.
In week two the top ranked quarterfinal winner hosts the lowest-ranked quarterfinal winner and the second highest ranked quarterfinal winner hosts third highest ranked winner.
In week three the top-ranked semi-final winner hosts the other semi-final winner.
All times are TBC depending on the host teams.
A reminder of the points system
Competition points are awarded in all regular season matches on the following basis:
Win: 4 points
Draw: 2 points (there have been no draws so far in the competition).
Loss: 0 points for loss of more than 7 points.
Bonus: 1 point for loss by 7 points or less.
Bonus: 1 point for 3 tries or more than opponent.
How ties on the table are resolved
If two or more teams are equal on competition points for any position on the table at the end of the season, the final standings are decided using the following steps until the tie is broken
a) Most wins from all matches;
b) Highest aggregate points difference from all matches;
c) Most tries from all matches;
d) Highest aggregate difference of total tries for versus tries scored against from all matches;
e) Coin toss
Blues, 1st, 54 points.
Remaining game: AWAY vs. NSW Waratahs, Saturday 7.45pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Blues are assured of finishing first and a home Super Rugby Pacific final if they win the quarterfinal and semi. They are six points clear of the second-placed Crusaders and would be tempted to rest star players with the top spot secure and following a bruising encounter with the Brumbies on Saturday night.
All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke is unlikely to feature after appearing to injure his hamstring against the Brumbies while Rieko Ioane has a similar issue.
The Highlanders, currently eighth, look to be the likeliest opponent in the quarterfinal.
Prediction: The Blues will finish top and can afford to take it easy against the Tahs which might add some added drama to the play off picture.
Crusaders, 2nd, 48 points.
Remaining game: HOME vs. Reds, Friday 5.35pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Crusaders can’t get into first but will drop to third if they lose by more than seven points (missing a bonus point) and if the Brumbies can win with a bonus point against the bottom placed Moana Pasifika. The second scenario seems a decent bet considering MP have lost 11 of their 12 games and will also be backing up after a match on Tuesday.
The Crusaders should be fresh in key areas with Scott Robertson having rested Pablo Matera, David Havili, Will Jordan and Richie Mo’unga for a drubbing of Fijian Drua.
A second place finish would pit the Crusaders against the seventh placed side. That is currently the Reds, but the pacings between 5-7 are so tight it could be a quarterfinal against the Hurricanes (fifth), or Waratahs (sixth).
Prediction: The Crusaders will have too much for an injury ravaged Reds and secure second spot and therefore play the Queenslanders again in the first week of the finals.
Brumbies, 3rd, 44 points.
Remaining game: AWAY vs. Moana Pasifika, Saturday 5.05pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Brumbies can finish second, as explained in the Crusaders section above, but they could also slip to fourth if they lose to MP and the Chiefs beat Fijian Drua.
The Brumbies can finish no lower than fourth, though, so a home final is secure. If third, they will face the sixth placed team – currently the Waratahs, although the Reds and Hurricanes could also finish there.
Prediction: The Brumbies will easily handle Moana Pasifika but will stay third. Expect the Hurricanes to have too much for the Force, also backing up for two games this week, to maintain fifth meaning a blockbuster quarter final between the Brumbies and the Waratahs in Canberra.
Chiefs, 4th, 41 points.
Remaining game: AWAY vs. Fijian Drua, Saturday 1pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Chiefs can move into third above the Brumbies should they sweep aside the Drua as expected and the Brumbies suffer a shock defeat to Moana Pasifika. But a surprise defeat of their own could see the Chiefs slip as low as sixth, if the Hurricanes and Waratahs both win their matches.
Prediction: The Drua are unlikely to provide the shock needed to deprive the Chiefs of a home final and the likeliest result is that they stay where they are in fourth and face fifth placed Hurricanes – even though the Reds and Tahs could also finish in fifth.
Hurricanes, 5th, 38 points.
Remaining game: AWAY vs. Force, Saturday 10pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Canes can get up into fourth with a win over the Force, if the Chiefs are upset by Fijian Drua. But and upset loss could see them drop to seventh if both the Tahs and Reds win.
Prediction: Expect wins for both the Chiefs and the Canes, setting up a quarterfinal between the pair in Hamilton.
Waratahs, 6th, 37 points.
Remaining game: HOME vs. Blues, Saturday, 7.45pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Tahs won their eighth of the season in Dunedin on Sunday – their first success there since 2008 – to continue the impressive rise under Darren Coleman. A win over the Blues, who might be tempted to rest players with top spot locked in – could carry the Tahs as high as fourth. For that to happen they will need a winning bonus point and the Chiefs and Hurricanes to both lose, the Chiefs by more than seven.
A Tahs loss and a Reds win against Crusaders will see them slip down a spot to seventh.
Prediction: With the Blues secure at the summit and the Tahs charged up in front of a huge crowd at Leichhardt, it has all the makings of an upset. The Canes and Chiefs, though, will both win leaving the Tahs still in sixth and facing the Bumbies in the quarters.
Reds, 7th, 35 points.
Remaining game: AWAY vs. Crusaders, Friday 5.35pm AEST.
Scenarios: A Reds win could see them finish as a high as fifth, but that would require losses to the Hurricanes and Waratahs. They can’t finish any worse than seventh though, with the Highlanders unable to catch them from eighth.
Prediction: The Reds lost James O’Connor to a hamstring injury and Josh Flook to a shoulder injury and now have 10 regular squad members sidelined with injury. That will make winning in Christchurch unlikely and it looks like they are destined to face the same opponent on the same ground a week later.
Highlanders, 8th, 22 points.
Remaining game: AWAY vs. Rebels, Sunday 2pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Highlanders can’t reach the Reds and are six points clear of ninth placed Rebels, and yet are not assured of a finals place against the Blues. The Force beat Moana Pasifika in a catch up game on Tuesday and the bonus point means they are three points behind Highlanders. If the Force beat the Hurricanes ders lose by more than seven.
Prediction: The Highlanders were poor against the Tahs on Sunday and lost Sam Gilbert for five weeks to a dumb red card. They would be expected to have too much for the Rebels on Sunday but a Force win on Saturday night would have them needing a victory and pile the pressure on against a team with no finals on the line.
Force, 9th, 19 points.
Remaining game: HOME vs. Hurricanes, Saturday 10pm.
Scenarios: The Force gave themselves every chance of making the finals in eighth with a bonus point garnering victory over Moana Pasifika on Tuesday night in Perth. A win coupled by a Highlanders loss to the Rebels will mean a fourth Australian team into the top eight.
Prediction: The Force dug deep to beat Moana Pasifika but backing up for a second game in a week will be tough. PLenty rides on the side the Hurricanes decide to put out on the long trip to Perth.
Rebels, 10th, 16 points.
Remaining game: HOME vs. Highlanders, Sunday 2pm AEST.
Scenarios: The Rebels can’t catch the Highlanders but can be passed by the Force. They are only five points clear of Fijian Drua in 11th but a superior points differential means the Fijians can’t catch them.
Prediction: A loss to Highlanders coupled with a Force win over Moana Pasifika on Tuesday will see the Rebels finish 10th.
Drua, 11th, 11 points.
Remaining game: HOME vs. Chiefs Saturday 1pm AEST.
Scenarios: Drua have only a mathematically remote chance of improving to 10th. They need Rebels to lose and to make up a points differential of 107 points. Not going to to happen. They cold end up with the wooden spoon though. A loss to the Chiefs coupled with a Moana Pasifika bonus point win would see MP leap them into 11th.
Prediction: Another loss incoming but they might just have done enough to avoid the wooden spoon and minor bragging rights in the battle of the competition newcomers.
Moana Pasifika, 12, 6 points.
Remaining game: HOME vs. Brumbies, Saturday 5.05pm AEST.
Scenarios: It’s hard to see Moana Pasifika, with one win all season, improving that against the Brumbies on Saturday. A shock win with a bonus point, coupled with a Fijian Drua loss could do it, but the odds would very extremely long.
Prediction: It looks like season one ends with the spoon for Moana Pasifika.
Predicted quarterfinal match ups.
Blues (1) vs Highlanders (8).
Crusaders (2) vs. Reds (7).
Brumbies (3) vs. Waratahs (6)
Chiefs (4) vs. Hurricanes (5).