Monday 11 May 2009

The Super 14 Finals Equation 2009

So with one week left in the Super 14 Regular Season - the Final Four is still far from decided. In fact with five of the seven Week 14 Games having a direct impact on the makeup of the Finals - this weekend promises to be one of the most interesting in Super 14 history. The table as it stands now at the completion of 12 Weeks in 2009: 1. BULLS 42pts +66 Differential. 2. CHIEFS 41pts +99 Diff. 3. HURRICANES 39pts +92 Diff. 4. CRUSADERS 37pts +31 Diff. 5. BRUMBIES 37pts +09 Diff. 6. SHARKS 36pts +44 Diff. 7. WARATAHS 36pts +24 Diff. As it stands only the Bulls look like they would make it with a loss but even that isn't guaranteed. The matchups for this weekend are: CHIEFS v BRUMBIES @ Hamilton LIONS v WARATAHS @ Johannesburg BLUES v CRUSADERS @ Auckland REDS v HURRICANES @ Brisbane FORCE v HIGHLANDERS @ Perth CHEETAHS v STORMERS @ Bloemfontein SHARKS v BULLS @ Durban Now there appears to be two games where a team in Finals contention should win. That is the Waratahs to beat the Lions (away) and the Hurricanes to account for the depleted Reds (also away). If you give both teams a bonus point win - more likely for the Hurricanes than the offensively challenged Waratahs but give them the benefit of the doubt here - the Waratahs can finish on 41 points and the Hurricanes 44. That revises the table to: HURRICANES 44, BULLS 42, CHIEFS 41, WARATAHS 41, CRUSADERS 37, BRUMBIES 37, SHARKS 36. So the Hurricanes are safe regardless of other results if they win their game and win with a bonus point. The Waratahs have squeezed into 4th place but are way behind the Chiefs on differential so can't finish any higher than 4th if they make the Finals. The next result to have a bearing is the Chiefs v Brumbies in Hamilton. Given the Brumbies unloaded on the Blues in Canberra last Saturday Night they gave themselves some hope of a Finals birth but have to win here. Now the Chiefs have turned it all around in the last two thirds of the season and are a genuine force in the competition and are playing at home - so they should win here but with the Brumbies playing for their lives - a bonus point may not eventuate. With a Chiefs win - we'll say under 7 points leaves the table like this: CHIEFS 45, HURRICANES 44, BULLS 42, WARATAHS 41, BRUMBIES 38, CRUSADERS 37, SHARKS 36. The Waratahs hold onto 4th spot but the Chiefs leapfrog the Hurricanes and take pole position. The Brumbies are finished - 3 points adrift of the Waratahs and are the first team eliminated. On Saturday Night in Auckland, New Zealand the Crusaders will be looking to finish their season with a flurry against the Blues who fell out of Finals contention last week. Although the Crusaders showed some good signs in their 20 point win over the Reds - it was the Reds - so don't expect a blowout here. But that doesn't mean the Crusaders don't have 4 tries in them. I give the Crusaders the win in a high scoring game in Auckland as the Blues turn on the style in a losing cause. Crusaders bonus point win leaves the table as such: CHIEFS 45, HURRICANES 44, BULLS 42, CRUSADERS 42, WARATAHS 41, BRUMBIES 38, SHARKS 36. So it is goodnight Irene for the Waratahs who could stay in the race if they get a bonus point win and the Crusaders only take the regulation 4 points from their game and the Tahs make up the differential by winning their game by at least 15-20 points. Not impossible but the Crusaders have points in them and the Blues will be playing open Rugby. That's the end of the Tahs for 2009 despite having the best defence in the competition. These results leave just one match to play on Saturday Night - South African time - and if the Crusaders take a bonus point win away from Auckland - this game no longer has any Finals relevance for the Sharks. Losing at home to the Waratahs last weekend and the Cheetahs a month or so back will haunt the Sharks who had the team to win the title in 2009. But no amount of bonus points can save them if the Crusaders win with a BP. That being said I still give them a big chance at home to beat the Bulls. The Bulls might be a little complacent knowing they are in the Finals and the Sharks will be hurting from having their destiny decided without their input - well this week at least. I like the Sharks in a close on - which gives the Bulls a BP for losing by less than 7 points. Which leaves the FINAL TABLE as such: CHIEFS 45, HURRICANES 44, BULLS 43, CRUSADERS 42, WARATAHS 41, SHARKS 40, BRUMBIES 38. Follow all that? This would make the Semi Finals: #1 CHIEFS v #4 CRUSADERS in Hamilton. #2 HURRICANES v #3 BULLS in Wellington. Having somewhat seriously predicted the Hurricanes to win the title this year - check out the Season Preview Video located in the February Archive of to verify - a matchup with the Bulls is preferable to facing their nemesis in the Finals - the Crusaders. Well at least for a week. I'm tipping the Crusaders to beat the Chiefs and the Hurricanes to beat the Bulls to setup another Super 14 Final where a New Zealand team takes the silverware. Hope that helped make some sense of the Super 14 Finals Equation - feel free to post your predictions below in the comments section.