For the four New Zealand teams in the Super Rugby playoff hunt, the bonus point lolly scramble is about to start, but a greedy attitude over the next fortnight could leave them upset.

The Blues are out of it, but the Chiefs, Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders are all in with a good show of making the top eight, and every competition point will be crucial in how they finish on the table.

A top-four position will guarantee home advantage in the first week of the playoffs and the No1-seeded team is guaranteed a home final if they make it that far.

The Crusaders, who play the Rebels in Christchurch on Saturday following their disappointment against the Chiefs in Fiji where they failed to bank even a losing bonus point in a 23-13 defeat, should be particularly careful.

Advertisement

They lost to the Melbourne-based team at AMI Stadium in round one last year, and missed the playoffs altogether.

This season Todd Blackadder's men have lost only to New Zealand teams - the Chiefs twice and the Highlanders in Dunedin - but another careless approach in what are likely to be wet conditions could be costly.

Their willingness to push passes in difficult conditions in Suva last weekend backfired, as did turning down kickable penalties in favour of attacking lineouts, all of which came to nought.

"The decision making around offloads and the decision making around when to kick weren't thought through as well as they could be," assistant coach Dave Hewett said today. "We've certainly gone a long way in trying to rectify that this week because the reality is we're in winter now so even if it's [not raining], the grass will be wet, it will be cold, so you've got to consider that as well."

Asked about the importance of a bonus point, he said: "Given how we performed on Friday, it's really important. Obviously five is the maximum we can get; win first, and then we'll be looking for that bonus point. Every team who's in with a sniff of the quarter-finals will be looking for a bonus point to give themselves the best advantage when it comes to those quarter-finals."

Prop Wyatt Crockett said: "We're trying to finish as high up the ladder as we can and to do that we've got to play really well against this Rebels side and obviously we've got to get a bit of momentum back after having a loss last week."

This season teams can score a bonus point should they score three more tries than the opposition. The issuing of a bonus point when losing by fewer than seven points remains the same.

The Chiefs will be looking for maximum points against the Reds in Brisbane, but seem to struggle away against Australian teams - their last match before the June break was a 45-25 thrashing by the Waratahs in Sydney. They too must be careful not to get ahead of themselves.

The Highlanders will also be factoring in a big haul against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires following the arrival of their All Black reinforcements, but the Hurricanes, facing a difficult assignment against the Waratahs, will probably be happy with a four-point win.

An added difficulty for the Crusaders is that they will face the Rebels without No8 and skipper Kieran Read following his workload over the June series against Wales. Read's rest was planned early in the season, Hewett said.

NZ run-in


Chiefs (46 pts, 2nd overall, 1st NZ conference)

v Reds (Brisbane), v Highlanders (Dunedin)

Crusaders (45 pts, 5th overall, 2nd NZ conference)
v Rebels (Christchurch), v Hurricanes (Christchurch)

Hurricanes (44 pts, 6th overall, 3rd NZ conference)
v Waratahs (Sydney), v Crusaders (Christchurch)

Highlanders (43 pts, 7th overall, 4th NZ conference)
v Jaguares (Buenos Aires), v Chiefs (Dunedin)

Blues (30 pts, 11th overall, 5th NZ conference)
v Brumbies (Auckland), v Waratahs (Auckland)