Hurricanes v Chiefs: Wellington tonight, 7.35
Ref: Jonathan Kaplan
TAB: Chiefs $1.60 Hurricanes $2.25
The only top-half-of-the-table clash of the final round, so the eighth-placed Hurricanes - reinforced by Victor Vito and probably Cory Jane - must win and then hope for an upset in another match. The two games in Australia offer the Hurricanes the best hope there. Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has given his pack a shake-up after the Crusaders did the same to them in the set pieces. A wild and crazy encounter awaits as the Chiefs set about securing the top playoff seeding.
2. Explosive mix
Take the best football stadium in the Southern Hemisphere, throw in rugby's most heated rivalry, add a heavy touch of Quade Cooper, stir in Queensland's absolute need for a four-try bonus point - and you might get the game of the round. The champion but over-achieving Reds were always likely to be one-hit wonders and will probably miss the playoffs. But they are in hot late-season form and their very slim hopes will be alive when they face the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium. The Wallaby-heavy Waratahs are so bad they have no chance in the Queensland cauldron (famous last words).
3. Storm clouds
The Stormers are unfancied frontrunners and now comes the news that their leading loosies Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster will not return for the finals. Yet by the end of this weekend, the Super 15's flying ugly ducklings could be the top seeds. The stingy Stormers give little and give little away. The 12th-placed Rebels have actually scored more points than their final round opponents, who lie second.
4. TAB not fab
Speaking of stingy, how come the Western Force are paying so little at the TAB? Come on troops - $12 for that mob, against the Crusaders, in Christchurch? More like $112. This game reeks of being the massacre of the season. It's uncanny how the entire final round of the competition has pitted top sides against bottom sides. Spooky.
5. Awards time
Might as well get in quick. Believe it or not, the Flops of the Season aren't the Blues, who are as bad as the Waratahs but have more excuses. The New South Wales outfit, rich with test players, are paupers in results and style. Coach of the Year is Dave Rennie, for turning the Chiefs around and playing football that is good to watch. Myth of the Year are the Highlanders. Player of the Year - the flying, try-scoring Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo, for breaking the mould. Surprise of the Year - Jake White. What an amazing effort with the Brumbies - it makes you wonder what White might have achieved with the Blues. Star of the Future - Beauden Barrett. He'll win the battle with Aaron Cruden for the All Blacks' No10 jersey because his flair comes with more of a percentages approach. (Which is not to decry Cruden, who is a genuine sensation.)
Herald's betting analyst Michael Guerin searches for weekly gems.
Any normal week, thinking you can pick the majority of the Super rugby results is fraught with danger. Travel, personnel changes and fluctuating levels of motivation mean punters are better off sticking to betting in one or two games. But not this week. With all the major players needing to win before the finals, motivation will be razor sharp; travel is largely not a factor and there are few serious injuries from last week. So it's worth putting some of the logical favourites at small odds into a multi bet to achieve a decent dividend. The Reds, Crusaders, Sharks, Stormers and Bulls should all win at short odds but if you run them through the Chiefs (makes sense) or Hurricanes (Vito fans) you can build a nice return. And don't be scared to add the Blues to get within 12 of the Brumbies as the Canberra team have been adequate at best in winning lately and if they do build a lead may pull players in the last 20 minutes knowing they have a home qualifying final next week. Suggested bet: Crusaders-Reds-Sharks-Stormers-Bulls to win with Brumbies by less than 12. Twitter: @GuerinSports5