Monday, April 20, 2009

The Run To the Super 14 Playoffs

With 4 rounds to go, 4 Kiwi teams won on the weekend, with the 5th only losing to a fellow Kiwi team. The slow starting NZ teams are now well in the hunt with the Chiefs in a historic table topping position. Currently the Chiefs, Sharks, Bulls and Hurricanes are in the top 4 with the bottom 2 of those teams having the tougher run home.

So, I've been thinking: who will make it and who will miss out. With my Virtual Super 14 season in tatters (thanks to the very suspect Jimungo interface and the odd forgetfulness :)) I thought I'd put my energy into a top 4 prediction. To be fair, its anyone's as the race turns on some critical fixtures that will be make or break.

The first of these is next week - Blues v Chiefs - the stellar performing Chiefs meet the flagging Bulls - soundly spanked in NZ, they redeemed themselves against the dearly departed Waratahs, only to hit the bye on their return to SA. Theyt may be pleased about that after a sapping tour, but NZ teams traditionally perform better in week 2 in SA. So look to the Chiefs to be too good in taking a 3 try win.

The following week in round 12 is a real humdinger - Hurricanes v Blues - its almost too hard to call. I'm picking the Canes to benefit from home advantage for a close win with the Blues picking up a bonus point. Some delicious match ups all over the park - Nonu v Toeava; David Smith v Joe R and some good battles ahead in the loosies as well as the front row.

In a horror run home for the Canes they meet the Chiefs the following week. While the Chiefs may struggle after 3 weeks in SA, you'd have to pick them injuries permitting. A make or break game for the Canes almost certainly.

In the final week, 2 match ups, probably only one is a genuine game of the round and that is Sharks v Bulls. The Sharks to win and the Bulls to drop out of the top 4. As a Blues fan the Blues v Crusaders game will be a great way to end the season and will likely determine whether the Blues scrape in to the top 4. I'm picking the Blues but the Crusaders young guns are improving, just too late to make the top 4 themselves?

So the top 4? Well here it is:


But, if I get it all right to the last round and the Blues lose to the Crusaders, the Crusaders will go through. And if the Canes lose to the Blues they'll be right on the edge as well. So watch for those 2 games in particular. I'm picking the Bulls to sink from sight - to make it they're going to have to beat teams 1 and 2 in the run home - a daunting task. I'm also not picking NSW to win another game - they may yet surprise. All this to say there is every chance we'll have 2 teams in the finals and possibly 3 - now I wouldn't have picked that in the early rounds!