Playoff race intensifies
2 June, 2023, 1:40 pm
Moana Pasifika is the only team that can’t make the playoffs heading into the final round of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season.
The Highlanders, Fijian Drua, and Rebels were all ranked 9th to 11th last week and won in round 14 to revive their top eight prospects. The Chiefs have secured the top spot after a convincing victory against the Brumbies.
The Crusaders are likely to finish second while only five points separate third and fifth.
Round 14 Matches (Home team listed first) Friday, 7:05pm (NZT): Blues v Highlanders Friday, 7:35pm (AEST): ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels Saturday, 4:35pm (FJST): Fijian Drua v Queensland Reds Saturday, 7:05pm (NZT): Hurricanes v Crusaders Saturday, 7:35pm (AEST): NSW Waratahs v Moana Pasifika Saturday: 7:00pm (AWST): Western Force v Chiefs
The Reds led for over an hour against the Highlanders, but a last-play Folau Fakatava try gave the Southerners their second consecutive victory and a place in the eight at the end of the round.
The Reds bonus point means all they have to do is win in Suva to guarantee their playoff spot. If the Highlanders can upset the Blues at Eden Park, they will likely foil the challenges beneath them.
The Rebels have lost seven games by 10 points or less in 2023 but finally had some fortune thrashing the Western Force in Melbourne with their best display of the season.
If the Rebels can repeat that form, they could make the eight but that’s dependent on other results. Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika produced one of the matches of the season though the Drua will be annoyed to have surrendered a bonus point.
The Waratahs four match winning streak came to a grinding halt against the Crusaders who have outscored opponents 146-41 in their last four matches. The Crusaders only concern appears to be their tumbling props. The Crusaders fielded 39-yearold former All Black John Afoa on Saturday.
He only returned from France on Thursday. Four tries by magnetic Mark Telea saw the Blues palm off the Hurricanes 36- 25 at Eden Park.
The Blues led the whole way, and a similar effort will likely be too much for the Highlanders to handle. The Brumbies had plenty of possession against the Chiefs but were unable to break down the leaders’ resolute defence.
So, who do I support this weekend?
Chiefs supporters: The Chiefs only have to worry about their own with the top seed already secured.
Crusaders supporters: A losing bonus point will be enough to secure second. Failing that a Blues loss to the Highlanders would also guarantee second.
Blues supporters: A massive Hurricanes win against the Crusaders and a bonus point win against the Highlanders could see the Blues climb to second but it’s unlikely. A Brumbies loss will likely see the Blues stay third regardless of what happens at Eden Park on Saturday night.
ACT Brumbies supporters: If the Blues were to slip, the Brumbies could move up to third with a win over the Rebels. Hurricanes supporters: A bonus point win against the Crusaders and losses by the Blues and the Brumbies could see the Hurricanes rise to third.
NSW Waratahs supporters: The Waratahs will finish sixth regardless of what happens this weekend. A win against Moana Pasifika will help with momentum heading into the playoffs.
Queensland Reds supporters: Beat the Fijian Drua in Suva and the Reds are in the playoffs. A Highlanders defeat would likely confirm seventh. An eighth-place finish would mean another crack at the Chiefs in Hamilton. The Reds are the only team to beat the chart toppers this season.
Highlanders supporters: Winning at Eden Park against the Blues will be tough, but the Highlanders can still secure eighth if the Force, Drua, and Rebels all lose.
Western Force supporters: With first place guaranteed the Chiefs may rest some heavy artillery for their Perth trip. The Force have won all five games at home this season, but they need the Reds and Highlanders to slip up and ideally the Drua and Rebels too.
Drua supporters: A win over the Reds could possibly secure a historic playoff berth for the Drua whose preference would be for the Highlanders, Force, and Rebels to lose. Melbourne Rebels supporters: Need to beat the Brumbies and hope the Reds beat the Drua and teams 8 to 10 lose.
Moana Pasifika supporters: Cheer for your team to get its first ‘W’ in 2023 against the NSW Waratahs! If teams are tied on competition points, here’s how it’s decided:
a) Most wins from all matches;
b) Greatest points difference;
c) Most tries from all matches;
d) Greatest tries difference; and
e) Coin toss.