Rugby: What's at stake in the final round?

The Chiefs secured the New Zealand conference in round 16 and last weekend's results guaranteed them a top-two finish, a first-round bye and a home semi-final. Photo / Getty Images.
The Chiefs secured the New Zealand conference in round 16 and last weekend's results guaranteed them a top-two finish, a first-round bye and a home semi-final. Photo / Getty Images.

The Super Rugby playoff picture became a little clearer after last weekend's penultimate round with eight teams now vying for the six playoff spots.

The Highlanders were mathematically eliminated from the race after losing to the Reds in Brisbane last weekend and will collect four points for this weekend's bye, but have to settle for ninth place.

The eight remaining teams each face unique challenges this weekend, with home semi-finals, playoff seeding and making the top six all major talking points.

Here is our breakdown of what each team needs to do.

CHIEFS

The Chiefs secured the New Zealand conference in round 16 and last weekend's results guaranteed them a top-two finish, a first-round bye and a home semi-final. If they are to ensure they finish first overall they need a five point win over the Hurricanes this weekend. A slip up could see them overtaken by the Stormers.

Hurricanes v Chiefs - Westpac Stadium, Friday 13th July.

Best case: First overall.
Worst case: Second overall.

STORMERS

The Stormers' secured the South African conference with their win over the Cheetahs last weekend and with it a playoff place and a top-three finish. One point this weekend will secure a top-two finish.

The Stormers can finish first, but need one point more than the Chiefs manage, since they will hold the tiebreak on most wins. With a loss the Stormers can be overtaken by the Brumbies.

Stormers v Rebels - Newlands Stadium, Sunday 15th July.

Best case: First overall
Worst case: Third overall

BRUMBIES

One point will secure the Brumbies the Australian conference, a playoff place and a top-three finish. They need the Stormers to lose and fail to take any points to try to get into the top two.

Only a loss with no points and a Reds five-pointer can stop them winning the Australian section. Should that happen it is still possible they get eliminated from the playoffs.

Brumbies v Blues - Canberra Stadium, Saturday 14th July.

Best case: Second overall
Worst case: Eliminated

CRUSADERS

The Crusaders need three points to secure a playoff place. They cannot finish higher than fourth - a win against the Force will ensure that is where they end up.

A loss could see them eliminated from the playoffs, should the Hurricanes, Reds, Sharks and Bulls all win.

Crusaders v Western Force - AMI Stadium, Saturday 14th July.

Best case scenario: Fourth
Worst case scenario: Eliminated

BULLS

The Bulls sit in fifth place and need the full five points to secure a playoff place. They hold a narrow differential advantage over the Sharks and both teams have an equal number of wins.

Bulls v Lions - Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, Sunday 15 July.

Best case: Fourth
Worst case: Eliminated

SHARKS

Level on points with the Bulls, the Sharks need five points to guarantee a playoff place. They need to match whatever the Bulls do next week and win by 18 points more to claim that tiebreaker on differential.

Sharks v Cheetahs - Kings Park, Sunday 15 July.

Best case: Fourth
Worst case: Eliminated

REDS

If they catch the Bulls or Sharks - who sit one point ahead on the table - they will have a tiebreak advantage on the most wins rule.

If they catch the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference, the same applies.

If the Reds cannot catch the Brumbies and take an automatic place, they do need one of the wildcard teams to slip up and fail to score four tries at the very least to make the playoffs.

Reds v Waratahs - Suncorp Stadium, Saturday 14 July.

Best scenario: Third
Worst: Eliminated

HURRICANES

The Hurricanes need at least two of the teams ahead of them in the wildcard spots to slip up, as they do not hold the tiebreak against any of them.

The Hurricanes do not have as many wins as the Reds (first tie-break) and they have an inferior differential to both the Bulls (29 points worse off) and Sharks (8 points worse off).
They face the Chiefs at home.

Hurricanes v Chiefs - Westpac Stadium, Friday 13 July.

Best scenario: Fourth
Worst: Eliminated

New Zealand teams

Best case scenario: Ideally three New Zealand sides will make the top six. The Chiefs are guaranteed and the Crusaders are very likely, but the Hurricanes have a tall task.

The best case for New Zealand neutrals would be if the Chiefs won the conference, Crusaders finish fourth and Hurricanes finish sixth.

This would mean the Crusaders and Hurricanes would avoid each other in the qualifying round, and could serve up a potential all kiwi final.

Worst case scenario: In the unlikely event that the Crusaders lose at home to the Western Force, and the Hurricanes lose at home to the Chiefs, New Zealand will only have one team in the playoffs.

A more likely 'worst case' for New Zealand rugby would be that the Hurricanes get eliminated and the Crusaders have to meet the Chiefs in a blockbuster semi-final.

- Herald Online

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