Super Rugby

Super Rugby race for play off home advantage is on

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The race for home advantage in the Super Rugby play offs is well and truly on and from a New Zealand point of view it almost could not be better.

Four out of five New Zealand teams (Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes) have qualified for the play offs and they will play each other in the final round.

Every New Zealand team can finish first or last but one in the final eight.

The draw in the final round of Super Rugby’s regular season will have fans waiting until the final match to find out where the play off will be played.

Four New Zealand teams have qualified, as well as two from South Africa (Lions and Stormers), one from Australia – either the Brumbies or the Waratahs and then either the Sharks or the Bulls will make up the final eight.

While 6 places have already been confirmed four teams – the Waratahs, Brumbies, Sharks and Bulls – are still in the running for the final two places.

The other six teams will be battling it out for home advantage and the results over the weekend could determine their fate.

Home advantage will be crucial given how tight the standings are and it should not be forgotten that no Super Rugby team has ever managed to win three away play off matches.

The Lions lead the overall standings but they have a tricky trip to Argentina ahead where they will face the Jaguares.

The Chiefs are second but they also face a tricky trip to Dunedin to face Super Rugby champions the Highlanders (in 6th place) who have earned bonus point wins in their last two matches.

The Stormers in third have arguably the easiest task as they face the Southern Kings who are 17th in the standings.

In fourth place the Brumbies are at home in Canberra and they have a match against the lowest ranked Australian side the Western Force. This means that the Waratahs who are outside of the top eight will have to beat the Blues in Auckland with a bonus point and hope that the Brumbies slip up at home.

The Waratahs will be hoping that the Brumbies either lose or fail to earn the bonus point – but that will only matter if they do manage to upset a resurgent Blues side.

The Crusaders (in 5th place) are in a tricky position as well as they host the Hurricanes (in sixth place) in Christchurch.

The Sharks occupy the 8th and final play off place and they are at home in Durban where they will play the Sunwolves who are in 18th place.

Match timings will be crucial

In 2007 the Bulls beat the Reds 92-7 in the final round as they played the last match in the final round of the regular season. The Bulls ran in 13 tries in that match as they had been able to calculate exactly how many points they needed to get home advantage over the Crusaders in the Semi-final.

The Bulls tactics clearly worked as they beat the Crusaders 27-12 in their Semi-final and went on to win the title.

This year the draw will no doubt be key in where teams finish.

– By the time the Brumbies kick off the Brumbies will know what they have to do to stay ahead of the Waratahs.

– The Highlanders and Chiefs will also know what they have to do to get ahead of the Crusaders and Hurricanes.

– The Bulls will know if they can still make the play offs when there match kicks off against the Cheetahs.

– And lastly the Lions play in the last match of the round. If one of the teams has overtaken them they will know exactly what will be needed to reclaim the top spot.

Round 17 Fixtures

Blues v Waratahs
Reds v Rebels
Sharks v Sunwolves
Crusaders v Hurricanes
Highlanders v Chiefs
Brumbies v Force
Stormers v Kings
Cheetahs v Bulls
Jaguares v Lions

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