As we approach the final round of the Super Rugby regular season, the six teams in the playoffs have already been confirmed: the Bulls, Chiefs, Brumbies, Crusaders, Reds and Cheetahs are all through, but the finishing order is still very much up for grabs.
With all the other teams having nothing to play for though, it makes your SuperBru picks very difficult indeed. Here’s how we see it for Round 20.
Crusaders v Hurricanes
The Crusaders have an outside chance of topping the NZ conference on points difference if they pick up a 5-point win and the Chiefs lose to the Blues. That may prevent Todd Blackadder from resting too many players ahead of the playoffs, and I’d expect a big win here over the Hurricanes, continuing their winning momentum into the business end of the season. Crusaders by 13.
Rebels v Highlanders
Only 6%on SuperBru predicted the Highlanders’ victory over the Hurricanes last week, and even fewer would have expected them to score 49 points in the process. The Rebels have been out of action whilst the British and Irish Lions have been in town, and could be disinterested with only one match of the season remaining. I’m backing the Highlanders to finish their dreadful season on a high. Highlanders by 8.
Blues v Chiefs
A point for the Chiefs will guarantee top spot in the New Zealand conference, but they’ll be eyeing up one of the top 2 places to guarantee a home draw. Their opponents have had a torrid time of late, with 5 defeats in a row and most recently a 21-point thrashing by the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Morale is likely to be low, and with nothing to play for, the Chiefs should bag 2nd place on the log. Chiefs by 8
Waratahs v Reds
The Reds are already through and can’t catch the Brumbies, but having been on the sidelines for several weeks, they ought to choose a strong side to build some momentum ahead of the playoffs. It’s a tricky away game in Sydney, but I’m backing Will Genia and Quade Cooper to do it for the Reds. Reds by 5
Force v Brumbies
With just three wins this season, the Force have been a disappointment, but have still managed to upset the form book every now and then – wins over the Reds and Crusaders ranked very highly on the SuperBru Upsetometer! They are capable of beating the Brumbies, but Jake White’s side will be focused on a victory that could see them into the top 2 if the Bulls or Chiefs slip up. Brumbies by 18.
Sharks v Kings
The Kings have a chance to climb off the bottom of the log with a victory in Durban, but apart from that, there isn’t much interest in the result of this game. It could be a Grand Slam Point killer, but you’d back the home side. Sharks by 13.
Stormers v Bulls
This fixture looked exciting when the schedules were announced, but the Stormers are out of contention after a disappointing start to the season. The Bulls have won 9 in a row and sit top of the log, and a win in Cape Town would be a big step towards lifting the Super Rugby trophy at Loftus Versfeld. That should be enough motivation to see them through, despite the Stormers’ recent form. Bulls by 5.