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Super Rugby finals: Best and worst case ladder positions for every team and predicted quarterfinal match ups

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29th May, 2024
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Well, it’s that time of the year again. How this season has flown by. 

With the final week approaching for the regular season of Super Rugby Pacific, it is time for us to dive headlong into our best and worst-case scenarios for every team… and we think will be going through to the quarterfinals next week.

Where will your side finish? Who will they face? Can they still make the finals? All will be answered below. But before we begin (for those unfamiliar)…

How do the finals work?

There is a straightforward 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.

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All times are TBC depending on the host teams.

A view of the Super Rugby Pacific trophy is seen ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific Final match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 24, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

A view of the Super Rugby Pacific trophy is seen ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific Final match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 24, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

A reminder of the points system

Competition points are awarded in all regular season matches on the following basis: 

  • Win: 4 points
  • 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

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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

Alright, now with housekeeping out of the way, we’ll make our way down the current ladder and give our predictions on where each side could finish. Strap in!

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – MAY 11: Sam Darry of the Blues celebrates on full time during the round 12 Super Rugby Pacific match between Blues and Hurricanes at Eden Park, on May 11, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Every team’s finals scenarios

1st. Blues – 51 points

Remaining game: HOME vs. Chiefs, Saturday 5:05pm AEST.

Despite the loss over the weekend, you should be happy this season if you are a Blues fan. The direct approach, physicality and belief Vern Cotter has instilled in this side is nothing short of exceptional. Having said that, their loss to the Crusaders has opened the door.

With the top three sides all on equal victories, competition points and points differential come into play. Depending on the results this weekend, a top-two finish will mean the Blues could likely face either the Drua or the Rebels, with a third-placed finish even seeing a Highlanders clash on the table. 

Best case scenario: 1st – Should the Blues achieve victory over the Chiefs, a top-two finish is guaranteed, and if the Hurricanes can only manage a standard victory over the Highlanders, a favourable points differential will see them finish top of the ladder. A bonus point victory, however, will put the Blues in an unassailable position at the top.

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Worst case scenario: 3rd – Should the Blues lose this weekend – and both the Hurricanes and Brumbies win –  the Blues will drop to third based on having less victories. In this scenario, even with a losing BP for the Blues, it would not be enough to hold onto second.

Prediction: 2nd – Despite the favourable draw and likely being favourites against the Chiefs, the Hurricanes facing a weaker opponent in Wellington means a bonus point victory there could prove the difference between the top two Kiwi sides. Even so, the Blues will likely have a weaker opponent in the quarterfinals. 

Brett Cameron of the Hurricanes kicks the winning penalty during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Chiefs and Hurricanes at FMG Stadium Waikato, on May 24, 2024, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Brett Cameron of the Hurricanes kicks the winning penalty during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Chiefs and Hurricanes at FMG Stadium Waikato, on May 24, 2024, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

2nd. Hurricanes – 51 points

Remaining game: HOME vs. Highlanders, Saturday 2:35pm AEST.

Clark Laidlaw – take a bow! Even with a large exodus of All Blacks, the Hurricanes have shown themselves to be one of the toughest sides to knock over. However, as evidenced by the Blues and Brumbies, they are not unbeatable.

The Blues’ loss over the weekend has given the Canes an opportunity for them to regain the top of the ladder. The top-two will likely face the Drua or Rebels, with a third-placed finisher facing the Highlanders.

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Best case scenario: 1st – the Hurricanes win, and win big. With equal competition points and victories, a bonus point victory is the best shot they have, given the Blues have a more favourable points differential, but they also have a tougher opponent. A bonus point win would see them take first, even if the Blues manage a four-point victory over the Chiefs – and it also guarantees the Brumbies cannot leap over them. 

Worst case scenario: 3rd – should they lose to the Highlanders – and combined with victories for the Blues and Brumbies – the Hurricanes will drop to third based on victories and competition points. If only the Brumbies win in this scenario, the Hurricanes likely stay in second – unless the Blues pick up a losing bonus point.

Prediction: 1st – We’re going bold here: the Hurricanes finish as minor premiers in 2024. Their side defeats the Highlanders with a bonus point at the Cake Tin, which proves the difference between them and the Blues – and sets up a clash with the Drua or Rebels in the quarter-finals. 

Len Ikitau of the Brumbies in action during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels at GIO Stadium, on May 24, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Len Ikitau of the Brumbies in action during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels at GIO Stadium, on May 24, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

3rd. Brumbies – 48 points

Remaining game: AWAY vs. Western Force, Saturday 7:35pm AEST.

After a slow start, Stephen Larkham has built the leading Australian side into a quality contender – and one of the most imposing sides to face at home. While they sit three competition points behind, their equal victory count with the Blues and Hurricanes puts them in a prime position to snatch the top of the table.

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Pending results, this weekend they could finish as high as first and as low as third, which offers completely different scenarios on how their quarterfinal might look. 

Best case scenario: 1st – Should the Brumbies win in Perth, with a bonus point or otherwise – and both the Blues and Hurricanes lose – an Australian side will finish at the top of the ladder in 2024. If only one of those Kiwi sides goes down, the Brumbies (with a victory in Perth) finish in second, but with a strong home semifinal in the picture.

Worst case scenario: 3rd – if we know anything, it is the Perth can be a real banana skin this time of year, and the Brumbies know better than most after 2023 – should they lose and leave with no points – and the Chiefs pick a bonus point victory against the Blues – they can equal the Brumbies on competition points. However, the Canberra side will have the better victory record, so they will stay in third. 

Prediction: 3rd – while Perth is a hard place to win, unlike in 2023 the Brumbies will likely go over with a stronger side, unaffected by Wallabies’ rest requirements. They have nothing to lose – but everything to potentially gain with a win over the Force.

4th. Chiefs – 43 points

Remaining game: AWAY vs. Blues, Saturday 5:05pm AEST.

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Despite what might be considered an underperforming season – many folks, us included, predicted the Chiefs would top the ladder – the Waikato-based side is coming to the end of it in strong form, with a guaranteed home quarterfinal locked in.

While there is still plenty to be gained from a trip to Auckland, the Chiefs will be unable to climb any higher on the ladder due to the Brumbies’ favourable win record – a shame, given the Chiefs can equal them on competition points if they manage with a bonus point victory in Auckland. They also have a much better points differential.

Additionally, with seven points separating them from the fifth-placed Reds, there is no way they can be overtaken either – which guarantees the two sides will face off in the quarter finals in Waikato.

Prediction: 4th – Regardless of this upcoming weekend, the Chiefs will round out the top four, and will face the Queensland Reds at home in the first week of finals. 

Jeff Toomaga-Allen of the Reds celebrates victory. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

5th. Queensland Reds – 36 points

Remaining game: AWAY vs. NSW Waratahs, Friday, 7:35pm AEST.

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The Queensland Reds have had their ups and downs, but overall Les Kiss’ first year at Ballymore has been an encouraging success. Incredibly, their upcoming clash against the Waratahs is the only lock in terms of the ladder, for both teams.

Like the Chiefs above them, the Reds’ quarter is locked in, with them guaranteed to finish in fifth no matter the outcome. Currently, they sit seven points below fourth and eight points clear of sixth, meaning that no matter the outcome against the Waratahs, there is no way for them to catch the Chiefs nor be caught by the Highlanders. 

Prediction: 5th – This side of the ladder is cut and dry – the Reds will be heading to Waikato to face the Chiefs in the quarterfinals.

Tanielu Tele’a of the Highlanders. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

6th. Highlanders – 28 points

Remaining game: AWAY vs. Hurricanes, Saturday 2:35pm AEST.

Now things get interesting!

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Considering how hard many Kiwi sides have been giving it to the Highlanders as the ‘traditional’ weak side on the other side of the Tasman, it is important to recognise how vital a year of growth it has been for Clarke Dermody and company. The impact of Jamie Joseph has been felt in a much improved campaign, with the monkey of a near four-year losing streak against their co-patriots firmly off their back.

Despite finals being locked in, they face a tough assignment this weekend – which could mean come quarterfinals they will likely face the likes of the Brumbies in Canberra – or should surprising events occur in Fiji, head up to North Island to face the likes of the Blues and Hurricanes.

Best case scenario: 6th – Considering the sizeable gap between the Reds and Highlanders, there is no way, even if they manage an upset in Wellington, for the Dunedin-based side to progress further up the ladder.

Worst case scenario: 7th – The eighth-placed Drua sit seven points behind the Highlanders and have no way to catch them. However, should Fiji go down to the Rebels in Lautoka – and the Highlanders lose to the Hurricanes – then Melbourne can leapfrog over the Highlanders on competition points and finish in sixth – which would likely send the Highlanders to face one of the top two sides – currently the Blues or Hurricanes – away from home.

Prediction: 6th – Given the challenge to win in Fiji, the Highlanders will mostly likely face the Brumbies in Canberra if they finish in their current position.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – APRIL 26: Taniela Tupou of the Rebels replaces Sam Talakai during the round ten Super Rugby Pacific match between Crusaders and Melbourne Rebels at Apollo Projects Stadium, on April 26, 2024, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

7th. Rebels – 26 points

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Remaining game: AWAY vs. Fijian Drua, Saturday 12:05pm AEST.

Despite the dip in form, the Melbourne Rebels will make their maiden finals berth – a great achievement, especially considering all of the outside discourse around them. 

However, their quarterfinal will be a tough assignment, with a trip to either Auckland, Wellington or Canberra – three of the hardest places to win away depending where they end up.

Best case scenario: 6th – if the Rebels beat the Drua in Fiji – and the Highlanders lose to the Hurricanes, the Rebels will move one spot up the ladder on competition points, and likely face a trip to Canberra.

Worst case scenario: 8th – If the Drua win in Fiji without a bonus point – such a result will also end the finals chances of all teams outside of the top eight – the Rebels will, surprisingly, remain in seventh despite winning fewer games thanks to having 26 competition points – meaning they will be one point clear of the Drua.

If Fiji win with a bonus point, and deny the Rebels a losing point, they will be equal with the Rebels on 26 competition points, but will move above them with a better victory record. Such a result will see the Rebels drop to eighth, and will likely head to Wellington or Auckland.

Prediction: 7th – Winning in Fiji may be a bridge too far for Melbourne, however, there is enough talent in this side to ask questions of Fiji and make it a close match. They’ll hang onto seventh by the skin of their teeth, but what happens afterwards, who knows. 

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Selestino Ravutaumada of Fijian Drua scores

Selestino Ravutaumada of Fijian Drua scores a try during the round six Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and Melbourne Rebels at HFC Bank Stadium, on April 1, 2023, in Suva, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

8th. Fijian Drua – 21 points

Remaining game: HOME vs. Melbourne Rebels, Saturday 12:05pm AEST.

Okay, this is where things get complicated.

The Drua are the only side in the top eight at risk of losing their current finals position, with three teams in the chasing pack – however, at home is where the Drua are their strongest. Fair to say, there is will be a lot of Crusader, Force and Moana fans hoping to see the Rebels pull an upset. 

Best case scenario: 7th – simply put, the Drua beat the Rebels with a bonus point. The result will be more victories this season than the Rebels, which is the first tiebreaker.

Even a victory without a bonus point would be enough to keep them in finals – no side in ninth or lower can beat 25 competition points.

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Worst case scenario: 10th – A lot has to fall for this scenario to play out, but if the Drua lose to the Rebels, even with a losing bonus point, their finals are in serious jeopardy. 

In this scenario with a Drua loss, should the Force or Crusaders win their respective clashes, both will overtake the Drua on competition points and likely be in a tussle for that final spot – with bonus points proving decisive. Removing bonus points, on the number of season victories the Force would claim eighth place with a maximum of five wins (over the Crusaders’ maximum of four wins). However, in an unlikely scenario points differential becomes the determining result, the Crusaders would sneak into eighth place. 

The last outsider, Moana Pasifika, will need to beat the Crusaders to overtake the Drua on competition points, with a bonus point ideal for them to extend their margin. If they beat the Crusaders with no bonus point – and the Force lose – they will be ahead of the Drua by one competition point and will claim eighth. However, if the Drua earn a losing bonus point against the Rebels, they will be equal with Moana on competition points and victories attained – meaning Fiji will go through based on a better points differential.

Prediction: 8th – Many of the best sides have struggled to beat Fiji in Fiji, so unless Melbourne pull together a performance of the season, Fiji should be home here and should be able to kill off all remaining finals chasers. A win however, will likely see them head to Wellington, Auckland, or in an unlikely scenario, Canberra.

Western Force players embrace during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Western Force at Suncorp Stadium, on May 25, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Western Force players embrace during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Western Force at Suncorp Stadium, on May 25, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

9th. Western Force – 19 points

Remaining game: HOME vs. ACT Brumbies, Saturday 7:35pm AEST.

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The Force did themselves no favours with that performance against the Reds. However, they have one ace up their sleeve – more victories banked.

They have a chance of making finals, but, like everyone beneath them, they will be hoping for favourable outcomes in other games – most notably the matches in Lautoka and Christchurch – even before they get to the Brumbies.

Best case scenario: 8th – Sitting only two points behind the Drua, the Force need to manage any sort of win over the Brumbies, ideally with a bonus point. However, they will also need to bank on the Rebels winning in Fiji to open up that opportunity, and for Moana Pasifika to spring an upset against the Crusaders. 

But, if the Force get a win against the Brumbies (with no bonus point), the Drua lose, and the Crusaders win but without a bonus point, it will mean the Force and Crusaders will finish on the same amount of competition points, and the Force will go through due to achieving more victories. Bonus points will be critical here.

Worst case scenario: 10th – Put simply, if they don’t win against the Brumbies, their season is over. 

If the Force lose, the Crusaders will likely be favourites against Moana Pasifika and will overtake the Force with a victory. If the Drua win in Fiji, the entire chasing pack is finished for the season.

Prediction: 10th – The Force are a chance, but with many variables it is unlikely we’ll see them make the quarterfinals. If they do, they likely face a trip to Auckland or Wellington.

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Quinten Strange of the Crusaders celebrates after winning the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Crusaders and Blues at Apollo Projects Stadium, on May 25, 2024, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Quinten Strange of the Crusaders celebrates after winning the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Crusaders and Blues at Apollo Projects Stadium, on May 25, 2024, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

10th. Crusaders – 19 points

Remaining game: HOME vs. Moana Pasifika, Friday 5:05pm AEST.

Will the Crusaders pull off the impossible? Only three wins to their name is a big issue, but their many losing bonus points will come in handy.

Being the first game of the round will be a huge mental advantage, and a favourable home game against a traditionally weaker side will put pressure on the Drua, should they win big against Moana Pasifika. If they do, all eyes will be on Lautoka and Perth.

Best case scenario: 8th – Should the Crusaders prevail against Moana Pasifika, they will move up into eighth regardless of if they earn a bonus point or not. A bonus point would likely be needed to knock the Force out of contention based on competition points and number of wins.

Incredibly, the Crusaders will be pinning their hopes on the back of Aussie sides this weekend. They’ll be counting on a Brumbies victory to kill off the Force’s chances, and a Rebels victory in Fiji to open up eighth place. Achieve all of this, and they’re in.

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Worst case scenario: 11th – There are a lot of variables here, but again, it comes to nought if Moana Pasifika spring a surprise win in Christchurch. A victory for the Force in Perth will also kill the Crusaders’ chances based on number of wins, as would a Drua victory. 

A worst case scenario would see them finish in eleventh – which would come from losing to Moana Pasifika with no losing bonus point.

Prediction: 9th – The Crusaders should have enough in them to beat Moana Pasifika at home, but the other variables may be a bridge too far. However, if they somehow manage to sneak in, the current champions still being in contention completely changes the dynamics of the finals. 

Lotu Inisi of Moana Pasifika is tackled during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Moana Pasifika and NSW Waratahs at Go Media Stadium, on May 25, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Lotu Inisi of Moana Pasifika is tackled during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Moana Pasifika and NSW Waratahs at Go Media Stadium, on May 25, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

11th. Moana Pasifika – 18 points

Remaining game: AWAY vs. Crusaders, Friday 5:05pm AEST.

Like the Highlanders, 2024 has been a year of growth for Tana Umaga’s side, and, like the Force, they also have the benefit of having an extra win under their belt. 

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They are the biggest outsider for finals, but a maiden appearance for Pasifika is, against all odds, still possible. 

Best case scenario: 8th – Put simply, beat the Crusaders as a start. This will put them one competition point above the Drua, and they’ll be hoping the Rebels can beat Fiji and the Brumbies will knock off the Force in Perth. 

The Drua could still sneak into finals in this scenario if they manage a losing bonus point, which will make numbers of victories even and put points differential (favourable to the Drua) into play – but if Moana Pasifika can grab a winning bonus point, that’ll put them two points clear. 

Worst case scenario: 11th – A loss to the Crusaders will end their finals hopes completely, but even with a win in Christchurch a victory for either home side in Lautoka or in Perth will end their campaign. Very likely, it’ll mean they stay where they are.

Prediction: 11th – It is an outside chance – and likely a bridge too far for Moana Pasifika. There are few things better than when an underdog prevails however, and it is why this competition has been so much fun! 

Watch every match of Super Rugby Pacific ad-free, live & on demand on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport

12th. NSW Waratahs – 12 points

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Remaining game: HOME vs. Queensland Reds, Friday, 7:35pm AEST.

This season probably can’t end soon enough for Waratahs fans, Darren Coleman’s side sits six points behind Moana Pasifika at the bottom of the ladder, meaning there is no way for them to make finals, or catch any other team.

Regardless of the result against the Reds in Sydney, they will finish the season at the bottom of the ladder and will be playing for nothing by pride. This will be their first wooden spoon in a non-COVID affected season.

Prediction: 12th – I mean, is it a prediction? More just a statement. 

Scott Barrett holds the Super Rugby Pacific trophy as the Crusaders celebrate after winning the Super Rugby Pacific Final match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 24, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Who will lift the egg basket in 2024? (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Predicted quarterfinal match ups

Hurricanes (1) vs Drua (8)

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Blues (2) vs. Rebels (7)

Brumbies (3) vs. Highlanders (6)

Chiefs (4) vs. Reds (5)

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