Four play-off places up for grabs
July 8, 2012
The Crusaders' Kieran Read charges towards the try line during his side's victory over the Chiefs © Getty Images
The final round of the regular season is set to decide the last four places in this year's Super Rugby play-offs with six teams vying to join the Chiefs and Stormers in the title mix.
The Chiefs may have lost to the Crusaders in their latest outing but they are assured of the New Zealand Conference title and their cushion at the top of the overall standings means they will get a bye in the first week of the play-offs and a home semi-final when the title race come down to the final four.
The Stormers are the only other side guaranteed passage to the post-season with a victory over the Cheetahs on Saturday enough to clinch the South African Conference crown. They host the struggling Melbourne Rebels next week and they could still finish top of the overall table and a potential home final if the Chiefs slip up against the Hurricanes.
The Stormers also remain favourites to clinch home advantage in the semi-finals but could yet be pipped to that by the Brumbies who continue to lead the chase for the Australian Conference title following their latest success against the Waratahs. A single point from their clash with the lowly Blues next Saturday will be enough to clinch that prize and the third ranking spot in the play-offs. But the Brumbies could yet fall out of the play-off picture altogether if results do not go their way when the regular season reaches a climax.
Rounding out the play-off places at present are the Crusaders, the Bulls and the Sharks who boast the next three best records in the competition. The seven-time champions Crusaders remain in line for their 12th consecutive appearance in the play-offs and will be hoping to cement their wildcard place when they tackle the Force next time out while the Bulls and the Sharks will have similar aspirations when they play host to the Lions and Cheetahs respectively.
However, all three and the Brumbies remain under threat from the Reds and the Hurricanes ahead of what will be a fascinating final round of matches.
The seventh-placed Reds tackle the Waratahs next weekend knowing that a bonus point victory and a heavy defeat for the Brumbies could see them claim the Australian Conference and keep their title defence very much alive.
Elsewhere, the Hurricanes, who enjoyed a bye this weekend, tackle the play-off bound Chiefs requiring a victory and other results to go their way for their season to extend beyond next weekend.
The first round of the play-offs, the Super Rugby Qualifiers, will see the third placed side take on the side that finishes sixth and the fourth placed side take on that ranked fifth. The winners of those two games will then travel to take on the top two sides in the semi-finals with the top ranked side at the end of the regular season earning the right to host the competition finale.
Tie breaking rules
In the event of two or more teams being equal on competition points for any position on either the Conference or Super Rugby Standings tables, either during or at the end of the season, such position will be decided upon using the following steps until the tie is broken:
(a) Most wins from all matches;
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