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[2015 Super Rugby] The Run Home

TRF Mr Fish

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We're into the last four rounds of the regular season before we progress to the inevitable farce that is the Super Rugby finals.

Whilst ten teams are still technically in contention, we can probably narrow it down to eight - the Hurricanes, Chiefs, Highlanders, Brumbies, Bulls, Waratahs, Stormers and Crusaders. I don't think many would predict that the Lions or Rebels (especially) will be able to bank enough points to make the finals.

So, without further ado, here are the contenders.

Hurricanes
Points: 52
Current position: 1st
Games remaining: Blues (A), Crusaders (A), Highlanders (H), Chiefs (A)

The Hurricanes are all but guaranteed that top spot, it would take a small miracle for another team to oust them given how many points they've earned and how well they've played all season. That being said, they have arguably the hardest run in of any team. Three of their opponents are competing for a spot in the finals and the Blues are performing a lot better than they did at the start of the season and are yet to lose a match at Eden Park. Most likely the Hurricanes will win at least two of their final four matches, however, which should see them end with the most points any team has managed in the history of Super Rugby (if you remove the 8 points teams used to get for byes).

Likely finishing position: 1st

Chiefs
Points: 44
Current position: 4th
Games remaining: Highlanders (A), Reds (A), Hurricanes (H)

The Chiefs have gone pretty well this season and even if they were to lose their remaining three games they will likely still make it through to the playoffs. Two victories would probably see them sew up 4th spot. All three matches are winnable, but the Chiefs have never done well against the Australian teams so even the Reds match could be a difficult one. If the Chiefs were able to win all three of their matches and the Hurricanes ended their season with a run of losses then the Chiefs could actually steal first, but I don't think anyone would be betting on that at this point in time.

Likely finishing position: 4th

Highlanders
Points: 39
Current position: 5th
Games remaining: Force (A), Chiefs (H), Hurricanes (A), Blues (A)

The biggest issue the Highlanders have is that they still need to rest their All Black contingent of Smith, Smith and Fekitoa. I think they'll wait until the last two games of the season before they leave these guys off the team sheet - the Chiefs match will be a major factor in who ends up in 4th place. Like with the other teams, it is entirely foreseeable that the Highlanders could lose all four of their remaining matches - they've never done well against the Force and the Blues are on the up. I'd be surprised if the Highlanders fell off the pace so much and missed out on the playoffs altogether, however. Two wins in their final matches is achievable.

Likely finishing position: 6th

Brumbies
Points: 38
Current position: 2nd
Games remaining: Bulls (H), Force (A), Crusaders (H)

The Brumbies have done enough against the weaker teams this year to put then in pole position for the last few weeks of the season. However, whilst their run in is one of the easier ones of the contenders, they've struggled against top teams this year so nothing is a given. The Bulls will be tiring from their Australasian tour and the Force have been hit and miss so far, but if the Crusaders are still in contention for the play offs come the last week then that will be a mighty clash, which could decided the Brumbies' fate.

Likely finishing position: 5th

Bulls
Points: 35
Current position: 3rd
Games remaining: Brumbies (A), Rebels (A), Cheetahs (H)

Like the Brumbies, the Bulls have a relatively easy finish to the season. Also like the Brumbies, they only have three matches left so need to win at least two of them to have any chance of making the finals. There is a very real possibility that they could lose all three of their matches, and by the team they're back in the Republic they may find they're too far behind the eight ball for their last match to matter too much. Their 35 points likely won't be enough for them to grab a play off spot in the wildcard position, so they will need to take out their conference, which is hard to see happening when you compare their remaining matches to the Stormers'.

Likely finishing position: 8th

Waratahs
Points: 36
Current position: 6th
Games remaining: Crusaders (H), Lions (A), Cheetahs (A), Reds (H)

The Waratahs are yet to head to the Republic, but they have arguably the easiest tour of any team in the competition (there would have been no arguments at the start of the season about it, that's for sure). Their hopes of doing the double could well be decided tonight against the Crusaders. If they win, then they will be in a very good position to take out the Australian conference. If they lose, then they'll go to South Africa with a shadow hanging over them. The Reds/Waratahs matches can go either way, but at home the Waratahs should be too strong and they'll be playing for too much. Three victories is a good target for the Waratahs and should see them make the top six.

Likely finishing position: 3rd

Stormers
Points: 34
Current position: 7th
Games remaining: Rebels (H), Cheetahs (H), Lions (H), Sharks (A)

The Stormers have four matches remaining, none of which are against ***le contenders. That doesn't mean they are easy matches, but they certainly have a lot to play for and should realistically win all their upcoming matches. Derby matches can be difficult, but the Cheetahs and the Lions both in Cape Town should leave no excuses for the Stormers to not leap frog the Bulls and clinch the top spot in the South African conference. Their last match against the Sharks may well be the hardest, especially if Pat Lambie is back, but they'll know by the time the match rolls around what they need to do to book their ticket in the finals.

Likely finishing position: 2nd

Crusaders
Points: 31
Current position: 9th
Games remaining: Waratahs (A), Hurricanes (H), Blues (A), Brumbies (A)

This is one of the hardest run ins to the end of the season, purely in terms of who the opposition teams are. The Crusaders aren't sitting on enough points to cruise into the finals either, they need to win matches. So why then, are they still in contention, ahead of the Lions? If the Crusaders can win against either the Brumbies and Waratahs then they will likely knock out that team from the play offs. They'll be at home to the Hurricanes and want to get revenge for their loss in Wellington, and if they're still in with a chance when they hit Eden Park then you can bet your bottom dollar that they will throw everything at the Blues. That being said, it is still an incredibly hard challenge they have ahead of them. Do I think they'll manage it? No, but if any team can, then it's the Crusaders.

Likely finishing position: 7th

So my final standings I've predicted are:
1 Hurricanes
2 Stormers
3 Waratahs
4 Chiefs
5 Brumbies
6 Highlanders
7 Crusaders
8 Bulls

Which would leave us with qualifying finals in Sydney (Waratahs v Highlanders) and Hamilton (Chiefs v Brumbies).

Thoughts?
 

Kiwi_

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Highlanders

The fact teams can finish 2nd and 3rd miles below 4th 5th and 6th in points tally is still outrageous.

I think we will be 5th, we will beat the Force, Chiefs and the Blues and I hope the Crusaders pinch 6th of the Brumbies.
 

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Highlanders:

Strength: Lineouts (3rd most successful in the comp) and try-scoring (3rd best)
Weakness: Tackling (12th in the comp) Running meters: Good at scoring tries, but come in at 8th when it comes to gaining meters

I think the Highlanders are capable of a few more upsets this year and potentially could even make the final. They have claimed some pretty awesome scalps and shown us what they can do. The tour to South Africa was good, but it showed us that they need to keep focused at times for the full 80, and defend well when under pressure at set pieces (rolling maul for example). The Lions are a pretty good side compared to other years though to be fair. If you're qualifying finals are correct, I think the Highlanders could beat the Waratahs. In terms of their remaining games, I'd rest Fekitoa and Ben Smith against the Force tonight. While the 'Landers have shown they can beat big teams, they have also shown that they struggle without their All Blacks (see the Brumbies match). That means they could enjoy having a full AB contingent against the Chiefs and Hurricanes, and I'm sure they'd be capable of beating the Blues without Aaron Smith. That's just what I'd do.


Hurricanes

Strength: Tackling (2nd in the comp) Try Scoring (equal first)
Weakness: Lineouts (12th the comp) Offloading in the tackle (6th in the comp - still ok)

My expectation of the Hurricanes is that they will win at least three of their remaining matches. Blues and Crusaders are definitely winnable - unless the Crusaders lose tonight and pull a rabbit out of the hat next week. Despite the shocking season, I think the Crusaders have a big performance in the tank. I'm not sure whether it'll be tonight or next week; I'll take a gamble and say it'll be against the Tahs. Hopefully we can avenge the loss of last year's final. Highlanders in Wellington is a winnable match for the 'Canes because a home game at the cake tin for the in-form team of the competition? Should be a done deal. Don't the Canes also have players to rest? So it'll also depend on selection management. Last round - by this stage the Chiefs should have their locking options replenished and Retallick should be back? Maybe a victory to the Chiefs in that one.

Chiefs

Strength: Attack rugby in general (1st in comp for carries, clean breaks, meters and offloads, fourth for tries)
Weakness: Ill-discipline (11 yellow cards this season - thats the most cards of any team)

It could be a tight finish for second in the NZ conference between the Highlanders and Chiefs. Even if the Highlanders lose tonight, which I could see (the trip back to NZ is difficult as it is, but the Force can be a banana skin side), finishing within 7 for a bonus point would be helpful. At Forsyth Stadium the next week, with the enclosed roof, and two teams who can run - possible bonus point win for the Highlanders? Next week, Landers lose to the Canes - Chiefs beat the Reds. But the final round, Highlanders should be able to beat the Blues, and it'll all depend on whether the Chiefs can tip the Canes up.

Crusaders:

Strength: Scrum success rate (2nd in the competition for this)
Weakness: Rucks (languishing at 14th)

As for the Crusaders - while I think we are capable of winning at least two more of our remaining games, I don't hold out much further hope than that. Kind of pessimistic really. Unless the Chiefs and Highlanders have rough endings to their season, and unless we start winning each game with a bonus point then I can't see much happening. Hopefully Dagg can settle back into fullback tonight. At best I think we'll beat either the Warratahs, Hurricanes or Brumbies in an upset. Can't see more than that. Love to be proved wrong.
 

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Stormers

1 Hurricanes
2 Waratahs
3 Stormers
4 Chiefs
5 Brumbies
6 Highlanders

With the Stormers beating the 'Landers at home and then the Waratahs and Chiefs away for the ***le (everyone can dream damn'it!)
 

Kiwi_

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Highlanders

1 Hurricanes
2 Waratahs
3 Stormers
4 Chiefs
5 Brumbies
6 Highlanders

With the Stormers beating the 'Landers at home and then the Waratahs and Chiefs away for the ***le (everyone can dream damn'it!)

How pathetic would the competition format be if the Highlanders finish in 6th with more points than the Stormers in 3rd.
 

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How pathetic would the competition format be if the Highlanders finish in 6th with more points than the Stormers in 3rd.

I hear ya. It's happened before though and everyone saw it coming the moment this format was announced so nothing new here. I think though the Stormers will probably end above the Highlanders. It's the Chiefs though that are the hardest done by if they do end up with the 2nd most points yet have to play the QF and not get to host the SF should they go through. That's IF the games go as I forsee which they probably won't.
 

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How pathetic would the competition format be if the Highlanders finish in 6th with more points than the Stormers in 3rd.
I agree, but that's one of the compromises you may end up with in multinational competitions.
 

TRF Mr Fish

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The Bulls loss to the Brumbies last night means that the Chiefs and Highlanders are all but certainties to make the finals now.

Finishing order is still up in the air - will the Brumbies or Waratahs take out the Oz conference and will it be the Stormers or Bulls solely representing Africa in the top six?

The Crusaders can only make it through if they record bonus point wins against the Blues and the Brumbies, and the Brumbies don't record any bonus points in their remaining two matches against the Force and the Crusaders. Alternatively if the Brumbies actually lose to the Force in Perth next week it will make things a lot easier on the Crusaders - but I can't really see that happening.

The Highlanders/Chiefs match could have a major impact on where the qualifying finals are located (technically either team could still steal first place from the Hurricanes, but that's incredibly unlikely). Likewise if the Waratahs win in Jo'burg then the Lions will be out of the running and the Waratahs will be in pole position to take out the Oz conference.
 
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Kiwi_

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The Bulls loss to the Brumbies last night means that the Chiefs and Highlanders are all but certainties to make the finals now.

Finishing order is still up in the air - will the Brumbies or Waratahs take out the Oz conference and will it be the Stormers or Bulls solely representing Africa in the top six?

The Crusaders can only make it through if they record bonus point wins against the Blues and the Brumbies, and the Brumbies don't record any bonus points in their remaining two matches against the Force and the Crusaders. Alternatively if the Brumbies actually lose to the Force in Perth next week it will make things a lot easier on the Crusaders - but I can't really see that happening.

The Highlanders/Chiefs match could have a major impact on where the qualifying finals are located (technically either team could still steal first place from the Hurricanes, but that's incredibly unlikely). Likewise if the Waratahs win in Jo'burg then the Lions will be out of the running and the Waratahs will be in pole position to take out the Oz conference.

You forgot to mention the Lions with 2 away games left vs the Waratahs and Stormers.. unlikely for them to win either of them, but they could make things hard for the Stormers or Waratahs with their great forward pack, also they could be in with a sniff given results go their way.
 

SomeOke

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Well given the Brumbies win today the most likely top six looks to be:

Canes
Chiefs
Highlanders

Brumbies
Tahs

Stormers

Probably a fair reflection of how Super Rugby has gone this season with the SA teams being so woeful in general, quite depressing really. Basically in order for the above to change one of the teams above needs to lose all their remaining games. There's even the outside change of sneaking the Saders in there ahead of the other Aus team as far as I know.
 

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For me the Canes can claim their first ***le. They deserved it if you look at what they achieved this season and how they achieved it. Other I don't mind the Chiefs taking a third ***le.
 

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Well given the Brumbies win today the most likely top six looks to be:

Canes
Chiefs
Highlanders

Brumbies
Tahs

Stormers

Probably a fair reflection of how Super Rugby has gone this season with the SA teams being so woeful in general, quite depressing really. Basically in order for the above to change one of the teams above needs to lose all their remaining games. There's even the outside change of sneaking the Saders in there ahead of the other Aus team as far as I know.

What's a worry is the Sharks, they have most of the Spring Boks, a lot of injuries yeah, but still a woeful season.
 

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What's a worry is the Sharks, they have most of the Spring Boks, a lot of injuries yeah, but still a woeful season.
It is certainly a worry, however one of the key factors to why SA is doing so badly is our mass migration of talent overseas. Ever since Heineke Meyer decided to pick overseas players our Super Rugby franchises have suffered and will continue to suffer, it doesn't necessarily mean the that the Springboks will suffer.

Ultimately we need to face facts and realize South Africa's domestic future is in Europe whatever those consequences may be. Money talks, and South Africa can't compete. It's not necessarily the worst thing that could happen. Brazil and Argentina occasionally manage to field great football teams despite there local leagues being nothing more than "feeders".
 

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It is certainly a worry, however one of the key factors to why SA is doing so badly is our mass migration of talent overseas. Ever since Heineke Meyer decided to pick overseas players our Super Rugby franchises have suffered and will continue to suffer, it doesn't necessarily mean the that the Springboks will suffer.

Ultimately we need to face facts and realize South Africa's domestic future is in Europe whatever those consequences may be. Money talks, and South Africa can't compete. It's not necessarily the worst thing that could happen. Brazil and Argentina occasionally manage to field great football teams despite there local leagues being nothing more than "feeders".

I heard something like 250+ SA professional Rugby players are playing in leagues outside of SA. That's an incredible stat. How has Habana been playing in France this season? He will be a starter come RWC?
 

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I am actually glad in retrospect of how poorly my team has played on tour.

Frans Ludeke's tenure as coach is done IMHO
Pierre Spies is not captain material
Why Dean Greyling is still playing is a big concern for me
Francois Hougaard is being wasted on the wing.

I think only the Stormers has a real shot to the playoffs now for the SA teams, and maybe that is a good thing. The Springboks playing for the other teams will then get more time to rest/recover and be in proper condition for the RC and World Cup.
 

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As I thought, the Lions forwards gave it to the Waratahs. Big game now vs the Stormers. Think the Stormers might do them in the backs though.

Combrinck really asking the question this year for a Spring Bok call up. I like the Lions personally, good to see them doing well this season, they play some good rugby.
 

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It is certainly a worry, however one of the key factors to why SA is doing so badly is our mass migration of talent overseas. Ever since Heineke Meyer decided to pick overseas players our Super Rugby franchises have suffered and will continue to suffer, it doesn't necessarily mean the that the Springboks will suffer.

Ultimately we need to face facts and realize South Africa's domestic future is in Europe whatever those consequences may be. Money talks, and South Africa can't compete. It's not necessarily the worst thing that could happen. Brazil and Argentina occasionally manage to field great football teams despite there local leagues being nothing more than "feeders".


But SA wont win the thing unless they select their best players and id put guys that they wont select like Bakkies in that group. Matfield simply isnt as effective without this guy on the field.

I dont care what anyone says about Botha he was and still is a very good lock. Looks like he's on the verge of retirement though.
 

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But SA wont win the thing unless they select their best players and id put guys that they wont select like Bakkies in that group. Matfield simply isnt as effective without this guy on the field.

I dont care what anyone says about Botha he was and still is a very good lock. Looks like he's on the verge of retirement though.

Bakkies has retired from international rugby, so he's not in contention.

Matfield has been playing some good rugby this year, and with the other good locks all injured and only coming back now, he kind of has to be picked. Pieter-steph Du Toit is nearly back from recovery, and I think he won't be risked in the Super Rugby, so he'll probably feature in the RC. Etzebeth is playing well too and Lood De Jager is now also fit. Then we have Jacques Du Plessis, who has been playing flank and lock so he's a good option too, as well as Flip van der Merwe.

I'm interested to see who of the overseas based players HM will pick. My guess would be:
Francois Louw
Bryan Habana
Ruan Pienaar
Fourie Du Preez
Schalk Brits
Zane Kirchner
Francois Goosen/Morne Steyn
 
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