Super Rugby Finals Predictions

We are now at the time of the Super Rugby season where all the teams have stopped for a breather whilst the international rugby season takes place.  For the South African and New Zealand franchises this also presents an opportunity to “catch up” in games played with the Australian conference franchises that have a longer break than normal for the British and Irish Lions tour.

As with previous seasons I will endeavor to look into the crystal ball for readers and pick who will be in the final six come finals time.  For the uninitiated the finals structure in Super Rugby works this way: the winners of the three franchises go through to the finals plus three “wildcards” that come from the next three franchise ranked by points across all conferences.

 Here is how the table looks at the end of round 17:

 

Team

P

W

L

D

PD

BP

Points

Brumbies

15

10

3

2

141

7

59

Chiefs

13

10

3

0

100

8

56

Bulls

13

10

3

0

104

6

54

Reds

15

9

4

2

23

6

54

Cheetahs

14

9

5

0

28

6

46

Crusaders

13

8

5

0

75

6

46

Waratahs

15

8

7

0

42

4

44

Blues

13

6

7

0

16

11

43

Hurricanes

13

6

7

0

-46

7

39

Sharks

13

6

7

0

33

6

38

Stormers

13

6

7

0

0

6

38

Rebels

15

4

11

0

-134

8

32

Force

15

3

11

1

-105

5

27

Kings

13

3

9

1

-179

2

24

Highlanders

13

2

11

0

-98

6

22

 

For the purposes of this discussion it is obviously possible to discount some of the teams from the running.  Those teams that are in the running for the finals still are:

 

Team

P

W

L

D

PD

BP

Points

Brumbies

15

10

3

2

141

7

59

Chiefs

13

10

3

0

100

8

56

Bulls

13

10

3

0

104

6

54

Reds

15

9

4

2

23

6

54

Cheetahs

14

9

5

0

28

6

46

Crusaders

13

8

5

0

75

6

46

Blues

13

6

7

0

16

11

43

 

Those Waratahs fans wanting to have a little shout at me: they only have one game left and it is a mathematical impossibility for them to make the finals.  Surely that is enough said!

So that leaves seven teams in the running for six spots.  Let’s now look at the runs home for each of those teams and pick a final six.

Blues

The Blues remain in the running for the final six despite their woeful record (6-7) because they have won 11 bonus points during the course of the season.  They probably have the hardest road home with a tour to South Africa taking up two of their last three games.  They start off facing the Sharks in Durban.  This is a fixture that they will be a somewhat confident of winning given the poor form of the Sharks this year.  This, I expect, will present their only joy during the last 3 rounds of the season because they face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in round 19 and then the Chiefs in the final round of the season.  Both of those teams are in hot form and I expect the Blues to fall to them.  Bonus points will be important at the end of the season however I do not expect the Blues to gain any in their last three rounds.

Results: W / L / L      Points: 4

Crusaders

The Crusaders are the enigmas of the competition of that there can be no dispute.  They started the season with their normal slowness and lost to the Western Force of all teams along the way.  That said, they have shown, their last game against the Chiefs aside, a real aptitude to defeating teams above them on the table.  Their run home sees them not leaving the South Island of New Zealand and, indeed, they have two home games to finish.  They face the Highlanders and the Hurricanes in two games that they should win with bonus points.  The game that is sandwiched between it is an absolute blockbuster as the host last year’s winners, the Chiefs, at home.  This is the return bout of the two current heavyweights of the New Zealand game, the first of which was won well by the Chiefs on their home patch.  This game is the hardest one to tip, frankly, and I lean to the Crusaders in a close run thing for the purposes of this exercise only because of their home ground advantage.

Results: W(BP)/ W / W(BP) Points: 14

Cheetahs

This has already been the best season ever from the Cheetahs.  I have said just about every week for the last 2 months that they have added to their attacking flair of times gone past a defensive approach that has proved very effective.  The Cheetahs are massively benefited by a bye in the final round of the season that sees them banking four points whilst others are scrapping from them.  Their other games see them face the Stormers away and host the Blues.  The Stormers are not the side they used to be and whilst they may have designs on acting as spoilers here, I do not see them having enough fire power left to do so.  The Blues will come to Bloemfontein desperate for a win but the Cheetahs have been very strong at home this season and will be looking finish their games at home on a high.  I do not believe the Cheetahs will pick up a bonus point in either game.

Results: W / W / B               Points: 12

Reds

If the Reds do not make the finals they have no one to blame but themselves.  A draw and a loss to the Force will be unforgivable missteps for the Reds if that happens and, really, their destiny is partly out of their hands with only one game left for them this season against their hated foe, New South Wales.  This time last year injuries started to bite for the Reds and their season petered out.  The Reds will be praying for limited injuries to come from the British and Irish Lions break to avoid the current form they are in waning.  A plus for the Reds is that players like Quade Cooper, Jake Schatz and Rod Davies are not in the Wallabies set up and thus will be in cotton wool and preparing for the run to the finals.  I expect the Reds to win their final game of the season against the Tahs as they will be better prepared and better rested but, as with the Reds season as a whole, I do not expect them to garner a bonus point here.

 Results: W                 Points: 4

Bulls

The Bulls have for all intents and purposes wrapped up the top spot in the South African conference.  They are playing the final three rounds basically to determine where they are will be positioned on the table and to, hopefully for them, avoid playing in the qualifying final week.  The first two games of their run to the finals are home games against the Southern Kings and Sharks, both of which they should be expected to win well.  I have a nagging concern that they may be tempted to rest some players in one of those two games and thus I am only tipping one of the games to be by a bonus point type margin.  Their final game pits them against their old rivals, the Stormers, in an away game that the only interest will be whether the Bulls can secure home ground advantage during the finals.  On form, I again expect them to win this fixture but it will be in a close one.

Results: W(BP) / W / W                   Points: 13

Chiefs

The Chiefs, having had a minor form dip in the middle of the season, have been the form team of the competition in recent weeks and they will have one eye firmly on their finals defence as they work their way through the final three games of the season.  They presently sit atop the New Zealand Conference and barring a massive surprise they will remain there.  Again the question will be whether they will get a week off in the qualifying final week.  Their game against the Crusaders is sandwiched between two bonus point win opportunities against the Hurricanes and the Blues both of which I think they will take.  That leaves their game against the Chiefs in round 19.  I have spoken above with respect to my views on this game and it is only the home game advantage that leans me toward the men from Canterbury.

Results: W(BP) / L / W(BP)              Points: 10

Brumbies

The current leader of the whole competition is our final team to look at and it would be fair to say that they only sit atop the competition as an adjunct of having played an addition two games over and above every other team.  That is not say they are not deserved winners of the Australian conference because they certainly that.  They are the form team in Australia and, like the Reds, will be hoping that their key men avoid injuries in the British and Irish Lions games.  They face the Force in round 20 and based on evidence of this week I suspect the Force have already got both eyes on Mad Monday and will not pose much of a challenge here.  That being the case I am tipping the Brumbies to win and to pick up a bonus point.

Results: W(BP)                      Points: 5

If I am right and all of the games noted above result with outcomes as I have predicted this is what the top of the table will look like:

 

Team

P

W

L

D

BP

Points

Bulls

16

13

3

0

7

67

Chiefs

16

12

4

0

10

66

Brumbies

16

11

3

2

8

64

Crusaders

16

11

5

0

8

60

Cheetahs

16

11

5

0

6

58

Reds

16

10

4

2

6

58

Blues

16

7

9

0

11

47

 

So where does this leave us? Well a couple of important things will be decided in round 20 and will be decided in this way in my view:

 

  • The Bulls and the Chiefs will win their conferences and will get the first week off in the finals.
  • The Brumbies will win the Australian Conference but will not have won enough points to give them the week off.  They will host the sixth placed team in the first week of the finals.
  • I am tipping the Cheetahs and the Reds to finish on the same amount of points after 20 rounds.  Points difference will be the determining factor as to who plays the Brumbies and who play the Crusaders in the first week of the finals.  I suspect the Cheetahs will end up above the Reds and that leads to the mouthwatering prospect of a Brumbies v Reds final in the qualifying round.

 

There is it: I have looked into my crystal ball and tipped the top six.  I confess this year it was a bit easier than last year with the international break coming a little later into the season.  The top teams have raced ahead of the flock this season but the finals are already presenting as wonderful contests. I, for one, cannot wait!

 

 

 

About Stephen Humphreys

Steve is sports tragic and is particularly fanatical about rugby and cricket. A proud Reds member, Steve is also a fan of Wallabies as well as the Welsh team (when they are not playing the Wallabies). When not following rugby, cricket and all other sports, Steve is an account director at an accounting firm. Follow Steve on Twitter!

Speak Your Mind

*