19 Jun 2015

OPINION: Who will win Super Rugby race?

5:30 pm on 19 June 2015

The Hurricanes can sit back and enjoy watching the first round of the Super Rugby playoffs, a privilege that comes with being top qualifiers.

2013 Chiefs Super Rugby winning coaches Wayne Smith, Andrew Strawbridge, Tom Coventry and Dave Rennie.

2013 Chiefs Super Rugby winning coaches Wayne Smith, Andrew Strawbridge, Tom Coventry and Dave Rennie. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

While there are two other New Zealand teams in the playoffs (the Highlanders and Chiefs), history shows that being top qualifiers and having home field advantage, as the Hurricanes do, certainly helps a team's chances of success.

Of the 19 competitions so far, 13 teams that have finished the regular season in first place have gone on to win the title.

Teams finishing second have won it five times, while only one team, the 1999 Crusaders, won it after finishing fourth.

Since 2011 when the current format was introduced with four teams in the qualifiers, the best a team has done was in 2012 when the Chiefs picked up their first title from second place.

More often than not defence has been the key to success.

The Brumbies were the most miserly team in conceding points this season, just ahead of the Hurricanes who scored the most points this season.

The final six - how they stack up

Hurricanes:

Deserve their week off, have been the dominant team this season and shown remarkable consistency and depth within their squad.

Only two losses, both to last year's finalists, the Waratahs and the Crusaders.

They will probably need their top team on the park to win, especially Beauden Barrett at first five.

Beauden Barrett with veteran Hurricanes and All Blacks team-mate Ma'a Nonu

Beauden Barrett with veteran Hurricanes and All Blacks team-mate Ma'a Nonu Photo: Photosport

New South Wales Waratahs:

Started slowly, but are showing the signs that made them champions last year.

Big, strong, clever side that managed to work over the Hurricanes in their regular season game.

Coming into form and are a good prospect to defend their title.

The Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu scores a try.

The Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu scores a try. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Stormers:

Will be hard to beat at home, although they won't have Springbok loosie and captain Duane Vermeulen for their play-off game.

If they win this weekend they will then find it tough to win on the road in either Australia or New Zealand.

Stormers rugby player Gerbrandt Grobler.

Stormers rugby player Gerbrandt Grobler. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Highlanders:

For the second straight year the Highlanders have exceeded my expectations.

What is it about Jamie Joseph who can get so much out of players that are hardly household names?

They need their three All Blacks playing at their best to win. They will enjoy their first home playoff match in 16 years and can continue to upset.

The Highlanders fullback and captain Ben Smith celebrates a try with his team-mates.

The Highlanders fullback and captain Ben Smith celebrates a try with his team-mates. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Chiefs:

Have been a bit inconsistent this season, that could be because of injuries, most notably the loss of Aaron Cruden.

An impressive coaching staff and team that haven't had much luck go their way this year and may need it to beat the Highlanders.

Augustine Pulu dives in for a try for the Chiefs.

Augustine Pulu dives in for a try for the Chiefs. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

ACT Brumbies:

Started the season strongly and appeared to be the top side in Australia, however lost a few key matches that could have sealed them top spot in their conference.

Have to travel to South Africa to take on the Stormers and if successful have the long trip to Wellington the following week, that will make it tough for them.

The Brumbies and Wallabies winger Henry Speight in Super Rugby action.

The Brumbies and Wallabies winger Henry Speight in Super Rugby action. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Playoff matches

  • Saturday 20 June, Dunedin, 7:35pm (NZ time), Highlanders vs Chiefs
  • Sunday 21 June, Cape Town, 3:05am (NZ time), Stormers v Brumbies
  • Saturday 27 June, Wellington, 7:35pm (NZ time), Hurricanes vs lowest qualifier.
  • Saturday 27 June, Sydney, 9:30pm (NZ time), Waratahs vs highest qualifier.
    • Super Rugby winners and where they finished in the regular season

      • 1996 - Blues, 2nd
      • 1997 - Blues, 1st
      • 1998 - Crusaders, 2nd
      • 1999 - Crusaders, 4th
      • 2000 - Crusaders, 2nd
      • 2001 - Brumbies, 1st
      • 2002 - Crusaders, 1st
      • 2003 - Blues, 1st
      • 2004 - Brumbies, 1st
      • 2005 - Crusaders, 1st
      • 2006 - Crusaders, 1st
      • 2007 - Bulls, 2nd
      • 2008 - Crusaders, 1st
      • 2009 - Bulls, 1st
      • 2010 -Bulls, 1st
      • 2011 - Reds, 1st
      • 2012 - Chiefs, 2nd
      • 2013 - Chiefs, 1st
      • 2014 - Waratahs, 1st

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