For the second straight season the Hurricanes have topped Super Rugby following the round robin. Can they turn home advantage into a maiden title?
After last year enjoying playing at home all the way to the final, the Hurricanes were pipped to the title by the Highlanders. They host the Sharks in Wellington on Saturday night.
If the Highlanders are to go back-to-back they need to first defeat the Brumbies in Canberra.
The Highlanders, after beating the Chiefs for the sixth straight time on Saturday, finished second in the New Zealand conference and fifth overall. The Highlanders and Brumbies met at the end of April in Invercargill, where the Highlanders ran out 23-10 winners.
The Chiefs will travel to South Africa and face the Stormers, who have yet to encounter any Kiwi opposition this season, while the Crusaders will be heading the same direction, visiting Ellis Park to encounter the second-placed Lions, whom they beat 43-37 in the Republic in April.
If all three New Zealand teams do the business on the road, the semifinals will be in Wellington, where the Hurricanes would host the Crusaders, and Dunedin, where the Highlanders would welcome the Chiefs.
Friday night: Brumbies v Highlanders (Canberra)
Saturday night: Hurricanes v Sharks (Wellington)
Sunday morning: Lions v Crusaders (South Africa)
Sunday morning: Stormers v Chiefs (South Africa)
How the playoffs work
- The eight sides are ranked 1-8 and carry that ranking through the playoffs
- The four conference winners, who are ranked 1-4 based on competition points, earn a home quarter-final.
- The other four spots are taken by the three best-placed teams from Australasia and the best-placed runner-up from the two South African conferences. They are ranked 5-8 based on competition points.
- The semifinals are worked out based on the highest ranked team left playing the lowest ranked team and the second-highest ranked team playing the second-lowest ranked team.
- The highest ranked team earns home advantage for the remainder of the playoffs.