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Super Rugby - Round 18
Chasing pack eye play-off spots
ESPN Staff
July 12, 2012
The Stormers' Bryan Habana goes on the charge, Highlanders v Stormers, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand, April 7, 2012
The Stormers will hope that Bryan Habana propels them to the top of the Super Rugby standings © Getty Images
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The battle for the Super Rugby play-offs is set to reach a dramatic climax this weekend with six teams vying for the remaining four play-offs spots.

The Chiefs and the Stormers have already won the New Zealand and South African conferences respectively and barring a miracle, the Brumbies should take the Australian title. The Reds are currently five points off Jake White's side and would require a bonus point win over the Waratahs and a point-less defeat for their rivals against the lowly Blues to pip them to the conference crown and keep their title defence alive.

If that were to happen, then the Brumbies could drop out of the play-off reckoning altogether with the Reds' superior number of victories handing them the domestic honours while the Crusaders, Bulls and Sharks are all well-placed to usurp them in the overall table.

The odds are stacked against the Reds surpassing the Brumbies, so the reigning champions will probably have their eyes set on a top six finish that will carry them into the first round of play-off matches but they face some stiff competition.

The Crusaders cannot catch the Chiefs at the top of the standings but with 56 points to their name and a final match against the Western Force in Christchurch, they look to be favourites to secure a home tie next weekend. Two points behind them are the Bulls and the Sharks. Both of them have home matches this weekend with the Pretoria-based Bulls entertaining the Lions while the Sharks host the Cheetahs.

Those three sides are firmly in the driving seat so the teams below them - the Reds and Hurricanes - will be hoping for some of the travelling teams to cause some upsets. The Hurricanes finish their season with a home clash against the Chiefs with their play-off bound opponents sure to have one eye on the overall standings.

The Chiefs are currently one point ahead of the Stormers with this weekend also set to decide top seeding for the play-offs and with it potential home advantage in the final. With the Stormers hosting the Melbourne Rebels, they seem to be the favourites but the Chiefs will be smarting from last weekend's loss to the Crusaders and will no doubt be out to make amends.

"With just one round to play, there are still eight teams in contention and the Australian Conference winner's trophy up for grabs, meaning there is everything left to play for," said SANZAR CEO Greg Peters. "There are literally hundreds of permutations that could occur considering just three competition points separate the fourth placed franchise in the Crusaders and the eighth placed franchise in the Hurricanes.

"All of the seven matches in Round 18 feature a team vying for a Super Rugby Finals Series position, and we won't know the final makeup of the top six until the Bulls and Lions play in the final match of the regular season."

Position Team Conference Points
1. Chiefs New Zealand Conference 63
2. Stormers South African Conference 62
3. Brumbies Australian Conference 58
4. Crusaders 56
5. Bulls 54
6. Sharks 54
7. Reds 53
8. Hurricanes 53
9. Highlanders 46
10. Cheetahs 38
11. Waratahs 35
12. Rebels 31
13. Blues 28
14. Western Force 27
15. Lions 25

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; (b) Highest aggregate points difference from all matches; (c) Most tries from all matches; (d) Highest aggregate difference of total tries for versus tries scored against from all matches; (e) Coin toss.

Play-off schedule:

Week 1:
Rank 4 v Rank 5
Rank 3 v Rank 6

Week 2:
Rank 2 v Rank 4/Rank5
Rank 1 v Rank 3/Rank 6

Week 3:
Winner of semi-final with highest ranking v other winning semi-finalist

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