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Paul The Super Rugby Oracle's Quarterfinal Tips: Is An All-NZ Semifinals On The Cards?

By Paul Neazor
Lions vs Crusaders

Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.

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Paul continued his stunning late-season charge last week, following up his 9/9 Round 16 with an 8/9 Round 17 – only slipping up on the Jaguares vs Lions result which he tipped before the Lions decided to leave their whole first team in South Africa. Paul’s purple patch brings his season tipping record to 105/135, or 78% – we just about need to put a big old SPOILER ALERT before his quarterfinal tips at this rate.

Brumbies vs Highlanders
The Highlanders have a terrible record in Canberra and have won only two of the last nine matches against the Brumbies. That said, there has been absolutely nothing in recent form to suggest the Brumbies are capable of matching the Highlanders this Friday. The Highlanders got back into their playoff mode last week, made few errors, tackled and rushed the Chiefs to distraction and eventually pulled away to claim a good win that would have been a big one against a less committed defence than the Chiefs offered. The Brumbies have a good driving maul … and that’s about it. Not much imagination, few game-breakers, no speed about their attacks and they can be pressured into error. None of that will have gone unnoticed down Dunedin way, and the visitors will have a game plan all sorted out that should be plenty good enough to win this one. Highlanders easily for me.
Pick: Highlanders (13 and over)

Hurricanes vs Sharks
Although the Sharks are a difficult opponent for the Hurricanes and they won well at Durban earlier this season, I think you can confidently ignore than result. That Sharks team had the du Preez brothers in top form, Patrick Lambie was available and played well, and they didn’t have the whole range of other injuries that have afflicted the team since. The Hurricanes have gone from strength to strength and last week’s performance was one of the year’s best from any team. Throw in the travel and everything else and even allow for a dodgy weather forecast, and the Hurricanes should have far too much for their visitors and should take this one easily.
Pick: Hurricanes (13 and over)

 
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Stormers vs Chiefs
These sides haven’t met this season due to the South Africa 1 conference not getting to play the New Zealand sides, so this might be a shock to the Stormers’ systems. It will, for absolute certain, be a faster, more intense game than they have needed to play all year and if their big pack can’t organise a station-to-station game they’re in for a long and difficult afternoon. Not even the Cape press is expecting anything other than a big Chiefs win – they haven’t started putting pressure on the team as normally happens – and I doubt anyone is going to argue with that call.
Pick: Chiefs (13 and over)

Lions vs Crusaders
This is easily the pick of the quarterfinals, and it will be a test of Johan Ackerman’s decision to keep his top team at home while the Currie Cup side went to Buenos Aires. That may have cost top spot but I’m not sure the coach will be losing too much sleep; he knows he has a good side that’s capable of winning anywhere. The Crusaders got them at Ellis Park earlier this year but since then the Lions have impressed rather more than the Crusaders and they’ve put a string of big wins together. As this competition is normally won by teams with good attacks, the Lions are a good fit to make a strong challenge. The Crusaders are also missing Nemani Nadolo and Joe Moody, which won’t help their chances, but I rather think the Lions had their number anyway and the home side should get up in what promises to be a very interesting match.
Pick: Lions (12 and under)

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finn 9 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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