How each New Zealand team can qualify for the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final
With just one round remaining in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, all five Kiwi teams still have a chance at qualifying for next Saturday’s final.
New Zealand’s dominance over Australia, reflected by 18 wins from 20 matches throughout the competition, has ensured the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders all have varying degrees of hope to make the cut for the top two.
However, five teams don’t go into two, and with some teams having better or worse records than others, how exactly can each of the five New Zealand franchises qualify for the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final from this week’s final round of action?
Points difference: +109
Final round opposition: Western Force at Eden Park, Auckland
Sitting atop the competition standings with four wins from as many matches and three extra bonus points to boot, the Blues are in pole position to make their first Super Rugby final since 2003.
Sitting one point clear of the Highlanders and Crusaders, another bonus point win over the Force this weekend would all but secure them of a home final at Eden Park on June 19.
Victory without a bonus point would keep the Highlanders and Crusaders within touching distance, but both South Island teams would need bonus point wins and victory margins in excess of at least 30-to-40 points to usurp the Blues in first place.
If both teams can do that, then the unlikely event of the Blues missing the cut entirely would become reality, but given how well the Aucklanders have been operating in this competition, it’s hard to see them dropping points against the Force.
Points difference: +82
Final round opposition: Brumbies at GIO Stadium, Canberra
After picking up a record-breaking 59-23 win over the Waratahs on Saturday, the Highlanders have emerged from nowhere to thrust themselves into Super Rugby Trans-Tasman title contention.
Aided by the Crusaders’ failure to get a bonus point win over the Force and the Hurricanes’ loss to the Brumbies over the weekend, the Dunedin-based franchise has moved into second place leading into the final round of the competition.
As head coach Clarke Dermody made clear in his post-match interview over the weekend, the Highlanders aren’t focusing on the permutations of how they can make the final, but rather on how they can win each game they play.
Do that against the Brumbies in Canberra this weekend, and they will move to 22 points, but would rely on either the Blues to lose or the Crusaders to, at most, win by no more than whatever the Highlanders’ winning margin over the Brumbies is, plus 11 extra points, to stay in the top two.
If they pick up a bonus point win in the Australian capital, the Highlanders would move into first spot and would stay in the top two regardless if the Blues win or not.
However, should the Blues win as expected, the Highlanders’ chances of qualification would hinge on how many points the Crusaders can pile on against the Melbourne Rebels, as their points difference is only 11 points higher than that of the reigning Super Rugby Aotearoa champions.
So, provided the Highlanders can beat the Brumbies in their own backyard, which the Hurricanes showed on Saturday is no easy feat, then all eyes will turn to the Crusaders’ clash with the Rebels at Leichardt Oval.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 6, 2021
Points difference: +71
Final round opposition: Rebels at Leichardt Oval, Sydney
While they were undoubtedly disappointed to be robbed of a potentially crucial bonus point in the dying stages of their win over the Force last week, the Crusaders remain well in the hunt for a place in the final.
Tied with the second-placed Highlanders on points, they only trail their South Island rivals by a points difference of 11, meaning they are certainly within touching distance of the top two.
It also means their permutations are very similar to the Highlanders, as a win over the lowly Rebels in Sydney on Saturday would take them to 22 points.
That could be enough to secure them a place in the final, but Scott Robertson’s men would have to rely on either the Blues losing to the Force or the Highlanders to be kept at bay by the Brumbies, to the point where the southerners lose or have a lower points difference than the Crusaders.
A bonus point win for the Crusaders could mean they qualify for the final irrespective of the Blues result, but that’s dependent on whether the Highlanders are prevented from securing a bonus point win of their own.
Just how much the Crusaders need to outscore the Highlanders by will be clearer after Friday’s match in Canberra, but with the latter side already holding a points difference advantage, the onus is on the Crusaders to run up a score against the Rebels.
Points difference: +73
Final round opposition: Reds at Sky Stadium, Wellington
They headed into the most recent round of action in second place and looked in prime position to qualify for next week’s final, but the Hurricanes are now almost out of title contention following Saturday’s defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra.
The 12-10 loss in the Australian capital leaves Jason Holland’s men in fourth place after both the Highlanders and Crusaders leapfrogged them to go two points clear of the Wellingtonians.
As a result, a few things need to go the Hurricanes’ way if they’re to make the final, but it is still possible, even if Holland has already conceded that his side have blown their chance to clinch their first silverware since 2016.
It basically boils down to this: two of the three teams above them – the Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders – need to lose this weekend.
If two or all of those teams win at all in the final round of matches, a place in the top two will be out of reach for the Hurricanes, who can, at most, finish on 21 points, and that’s only if they can beat the Reds with a bonus point at home on Friday.
While the Brumbies will be tough for the Highlanders to beat in Canberra, the Blues and Crusaders should overcome the Force and Rebels, respectively, meaning the Hurricanes are at very long odds to make next week’s final.
Which lucky loosies will have their names read out later this month when the #AllBlacks name their first squad of 2021?
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) June 7, 2021
Points difference: +26
Final round opposition: Waratahs at Lottoland, Sydney
A loss to the Reds and failure to secure a bonus point against the Rebels in successive weeks makes the Chiefs’ title hopes almost non-existent going into this weekend.
Sitting four points away from a top two spot, Clayton McMillan’s side are in a similar predicament to the Hurricanes in that they need three of the four teams above them to lose in order to stay alive in the competition.
As mentioned above, that much is already considered unlikely, but the Chiefs also can’t afford any two of the Blues, Highlanders or Crusaders to pick up a single bonus point either.
Furthermore, the Chiefs have by far the worst points difference of the Kiwi sides, meaning they would need to post an enormous winning margin against the Waratahs at Lottoland on Saturday.
Given how poorly their winless opponents have fared this year, a big win this weekend isn’t out of the question for the Chiefs, but they would require a miracle run of results to go their way if they are to play in their second final this year.
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