Gentlemen – start your engines!
by Tracey Nelson
15 May 2009
There are seven sides in with a chance of making the semi-finals as the last round of the 2009 Super 14 kicks off this season as we come down to the closest ever finish to the round robin competition. Unbelievably, only the top placed side is guaranteed on making the semis with just six points separating first and seventh place. Finishing on 42 points at the end of the round robin will guarantee you a spot in the semi-finals. Finish on 41 and you are in with a chance but only depending on other results – so watch out! Three New Zealand, two South African and two Australian sides are vying for spots, so who are the contenders and what are their chances?
BULLS (play the Sharks in Durban)
Currently sitting in 1st place with 42 pts and a point differential of +66. They will travel to Durban to play the Sharks this weekend, and with this game being the last game of the round they will have the benefit of knowing what they need to do to finish in first place. If they win and score the bonus point fourth try they will finish top which will give them a home semi final and, should they win that, a home final. If they win without a bonus point they will still have a home semi. But if they lose, and the Chiefs and Hurricanes win their games, they may slip to third (or even fourth should they lose badly to the Sharks and the Crusaders have a huge bonus point win over the Blues).
CHIEFS (play the Brumbies in Hamilton)
Currently in 2nd place on 41 pts and a points differential of +99. A bonus point win over the Brumbies could see them finish in 1st place should the Bulls have a close win over the Sharks without scoring a bonus point (as they have a better points differential), or if the Bulls lose or draw with four tries. A win against the Brumbies without a bonus point should still secure the Chiefs a home semi. Losing, but within seven points of the Brumbies, would still see the Chiefs make the semis but not have home advantage. Could miss out completely if they lose without a bonus point and allow the Brumbies to score four tries, and the Hurricanes win their game (with or without bonus point) and the Crusaders win with a bonus point.
HURRICANES (play the Reds in Brisbane)
Currently 3rd on 39 pts and a points differential of +92. A win without a bonus point will see them in the semis. A bonus point win could see them get a home semi if either one the Chiefs or the Bulls lose or draw their games. But should the Hurricanes lose to the Reds, even with a bonus point for a close loss could mean missing out on the semi finals should both the Crusaders and Brumbies win. A loss without a bonus point would make it even harder as it would add the Sharks or Waratahs to that list if they win their games.
CRUSADERS(play the Blues in Auckland)
Currently 4th on 37 pts and a points differential of +31. A bonus point win will see them make the semifinals unless the Brumbies beat the Chiefs by a very large margin to make up the points differential. If the Chiefs beat the Brumbies then the Crusaders simply need to win to make the semis although they would have to watch the Sharks and Waratahs should they have big wins over the Bulls and Lions respectively which would see them finish on the same points and then points differentials would enter into it. There is even a possibility of the Crusaders getting a home semi final if the Chiefs and Hurricanes both lose and fail to get bonus points, and the Crusaders get a bonus point win over the Blues. Will miss out on semis if they lose plus one of the Brumbies, Sharks or Waratahs win their games.
BRUMBIES(play the Chiefs in Hamilton)
Currently 5th on 37 pts and a points differential of +9. They will need a bonus point win with a very big margin to see them into the semis. Could also make it with just a win if either the Crusaders draw or lose, or the Hurricanes lose.
SHARKS (play the Bulls in Durban)
Currently 6th on 36 pts with points differential of +44. Need other results to go their way and then to beat the Bulls to have any chance. Could potentially make it in with a draw if both the Brumbies and Crusaders lose without getting a bonus point. Will have the advantage of knowing all other results before their game kicks off.
WARATAHS(play the Lions in Johannesburg)
Currently in 7th on 36 pts and a points differential of +24. Will need both the Brumbies, Crusaders and Sharks to preferably lose or draw, and have a big bonus point win over the Lions. Could finish as high as 3rd should the four teams above them come to grief.by