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Each Australian side's playoff chances with one round of Super Rugby Pacific left

By AAP
Reds celebrate a Suliasi Vunivalu try after the final siren during the round nine Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium, on April 19, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Led by the benchmark ACT Brumbies, Australia have their best chance in a decade of winning the Super Rugby Pacific title after finally bridging the gap on New Zealand’s trans-Tasman juggernauts.

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With the final round to play this weekend, the Brumbies, Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels are all guaranteed play-off berths and could be joined by the Western Force on the back of some favourable results.

While the ninth-placed Force must topple the third-placed Brumbies on Saturday to have a hope of scraping into the finals, Stephen Larkham’s ACT outfit could even snatch the minor premiership with victory in Perth.

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They’d need both the table-topping Blues and the Hurricanes to lose but an all-important top-two spot beckons if at least one of the Kiwi teams slip up against the Chiefs and Highlanders respectively.

A top-two finish would earn the Brumbies a home quarter-final and, should they win that, also guarantee a semi-final in Canberra as they bid to become the first Aussie side since the NSW Waratahs in 2014 to win the Super Rugby crown.

Despite being certain of finishing fifth and facing the Chiefs in a knockout quarter-final in Waikato, the Reds also loom as title contenders after a watershed campaign featuring three wins over trans-Tasman rivals for the first time in more than a decade.

The Reds will fancy their chances of emulating their hoodoo-busting win last year over the Chiefs away after also conquering the defending champion Crusaders in Christchurch for the first time this century and shutting out the Highlanders.

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The vast strides made are a far cry from a six-from-30 return by Australian sides over New Zealand opposition in 2023.

Brumbies coach Larkham says it’s great to see Australian sides showing they can match it with their Kiwi counterparts are being dogged by years of inconsistency.

“It’s always a challenge playing against New Zealand sides,” he said on Thursday.

“The Reds have had a really good record against New Zealand sides this year. We’ve had a couple of wins against New Zealand sides as well. The Force and the Rebels, they’ve been really good in patches throughout the year.

“I guess that’s the challenge for rugby in Australia at the moment – you can go back to results from last year with the Wallabies.

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“It’s been an OK year for Australian teams, but we know that we need to be way more consistent.”

The seventh-placed Rebels will be contesting their maiden finals series, but it’s anything but a fairytale after learning on Thursday that the club will be cut from the competition next year.

NSW Waratahs coach Darren Coleman, whose side are guaranteed the wooden spoon, suspects the Rebels will use their axing as motivation for the finals.

“I reckon they’ll draw on that bit of emotion,” he said.

“It might even be a bit of ‘Up you’ to the decision makers on that as well.

“I’m not sure how they’ll use that, but they’ll use it well.”

How Australia’s sides are faring entering the final round of Super Rugby Pacific:

ACT Brumbies

Current ladder position: 3rd

Final round: AWAY v Western Force, Saturday 7.35pm AEST

Best possible finish: 1st

Worst possible finish: 3rd

Can snatch the minor premiership with a win and last-round losses for the Blues and Hurricanes, or at least an all-important top-two finish with victory and one loss from their two New Zealand rivals.

Queensland Reds

Current ladder position: 5th

Final round: AWAY vs NSW Waratahs, Friday, 7.35pm AEST

Best possible finish: 5th

Worst possible finish: 5th

Certain to finish fifth but will fancy their chances of repeating their hoodoo-busting win in New Zealand last year over the Chiefs in a guaranteed quarter-final in Waikato.

Melbourne Rebels

Current ladder position: 7th

Final round: AWAY vs Fijian Drua, Saturday, 1205pm AEST

Best possible finish: 6th

Worst possible finish: 8th

In a fairytale turned nightmare, the Rebels head to Lautoka with their future fate doomed despite qualifying for the finals for the first time in the club’s 14-year history.

Western Force

Current ladder position: 9th

Final round: HOME vs ACT Brumbies, Saturday 735pm AEST

Best possible finish: 8th

Worst possible finish: 10th

Facing a simple scenario of needing to beat the Brumbies and praying the Fijian Drua slip up at home against the Rebels to scrape into the playoffs.

NSW Waratahs

Current ladder position: 12th

Final round: HOME vs Queensland Reds, Friday 735pm AEST

Best possible finish: 12th

Worst possible finish: 12th

Their fate sealed, the wooden spooners are playing for little more than pride and outgoing coach Darren Coleman in a derby with their arch rivals that will have no bearing on the competition table.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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