Super Rugby Pacific playoffs: Permutations and possibilities for each team in final round

TJ Perenara performing the Hurricanes’ haka. Picture: STUFF SPORTS.

It’s the final round of the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific and the top eight to contest the quarterfinals are all but locked in.

The Blues are guaranteed to finish first after Beauden Barrett’s last-gasp drop goal sunk the Brumbies for a dramatic 21-19 win in Canberra on Saturday.

The order of second to eighth will be decided this weekend, with the top four hosting a quarterfinal the following week.

The Blues, Crusaders and Brumbies will be playing their quarterfinals at home and the fight for fourth is between the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Waratahs.

The Reds start the round in seventh but can’t finish higher than fifth.

The Highlanders occupy the last quarterfinal spot but could be pipped to eighth by the Force.

There are four competition points for a win, two for a draw if teams can’t be separated after golden point, and bonus points are awarded for losing by seven points or fewer, or for scoring three tries or more than the opposition.

If teams are level on competition points, the first deciding factor is the team with the most wins, then points difference, then most tries, then tries for and against.

After that, it’s the improbable coin toss.

Finishing as high as possible is key for home advantage throughout the playoffs.

In the semifinals, the two top-ranked teams will be hosts. In the final, the top-ranked team will play at home.

For example, if the table-topping Blues make the final, all of their playoff matches will be at Eden Park.

First, the order of the quarterfinalists needs to be decided. Here are the permutations for each team ahead of the final round of the regular season.

The quarterfinals as it stands: Blues (1st) vs Highlanders (8th), Crusaders (2nd) vs Reds (7th), Brumbies (3rd) vs Waratahs (6th), Chiefs (4th) vs Hurricanes (5th).

Points table (1st to 12th): Blues 54, Crusaders 48, Brumbies 44, Chiefs 41, Hurricanes 38, Waratahs 37, Reds 35, Highlanders 22, Rebels 16, Force* 14, Fijian Drua 11, Moana Pasifika* 6. * Force and Moana Pasifika have played a match fewer than the rest (12 to 13).

1st: Blues (played 13, won 12, lost 1; 54 points, points difference +185)

Waratahs (A) on Saturday, 9:45pm, Leichhardt Oval, Sydney

The Blues will finish the regular season top of the standings and host the team which finishes eighth in the quarterfinals. That will be the Highlanders or the Force.

2nd: Crusaders (played 13, won 10, lost 3; 48 points, points difference +189)

Reds (H) on Friday, 7:35pm, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch

The Crusaders would secure second with a win against the Reds. Even a defeat with a losing bonus point should also be enough because they’re already four points clear of the Brumbies in third with a superior points difference of +81.

If they beat Brad Thorn’s Reds, they will host them again in a Christchurch quarterfinal.

A loss to the Queensland side, with no losing bonus point, would open the door for the Brumbies to knock them down to third.

3rd: Brumbies (played 13, won 10, lost 3; 44 points, points difference +108)

Moana Pasifika (A) on Saturday, 7:05pm, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

The Brumbies can finish as high as second but would need a favour from the Reds on Friday night and then beat Moana Pasifika with a bonus point.

They will be the top-ranked Australian team and host a quarterfinal, but they are likely to come third and would face whichever team finishes sixth.

That could be the Chiefs, Hurricanes, Waratahs or Reds, who will all be keen to avoid a tricky trip to Canberra.

The Brumbies could also finish as low as fourth if they lose to Moana Pasifika and the Chiefs defeat the Fijian Drua.

4th: Chiefs (played 13, won 9, lost 4; 41 points, points difference +104)

Fijian Drua (A) on Saturday, 3pm, Churchill Park, Lautoka

The Chiefs head to Fiji knowing their fate is their own hands, but it will be not an easy task when a loud, passionate home crowd welcomes them for an historic occasion at Lautoka’s Churchill Park – the first Super Rugby match to be played in the Fijian city.

Win, and the Chiefs will finish in the top four and host a quarterfinal in Hamilton.

Lose, and they could be overtaken by the Hurricanes or Waratahs and be on the road in the first week of the playoffs.

They could finish as high as third if they win and the Brumbies lose to Moana Pasifika, but they could fall as low as sixth if they lose and the Hurricanes and Waratahs win.

There are variables aplenty if the Chiefs are on the end of a shock defeat, but a victory would remove all doubt in their aim of hosting a quarterfinal.

5th: Hurricanes (played 13, won 8, lost 5; 38 points, points difference +116)

Force (A) on Sunday, 12:00am, HBF Park, Perth

The Hurricanes need a favour from the Drua to sneak into the top four and will know if that’s possible when they kick off against the Force in Perth.

If the Chiefs beat the Drua, the Canes can’t host a quarterfinal in Wellington and would finish between fifth and seventh.

If the Chiefs lose and the sixth-placed Waratahs fail to beat the Blues, the Canes will just need to beat the Force to make the top four.

The Canes are one point above the Waratahs with a superior points difference of +65 that could be decisive in finishing above them.

They could drop to seventh if they lose to the Force and both the Waratahs and Reds beat the Blues and Crusaders respectively.

6th: Waratahs (played 13, won 8, lost 5; 37 points, points difference +51)

Blues (H) on Saturday, 9:45pm, Leichhardt Oval, Sydney

The Waratahs have an outside chance of pinching fourth but would need to beat the Blues with a bonus point and hope the Chiefs and Hurricanes slip up against the Drua and Force respectively.

If the Chiefs beat the Drua, the Waratahs can only finish as high as fifth and can’t host a quarterfinal in Sydney.

Even if the Chiefs were to lose in Fiji, if they gained a losing bonus point, the Waratahs couldn’t finish above them unless there was an improbable swing in points difference.

They will finish higher than the Hurricanes if they better their result, but there are many permutations to be decided before their final position is clear and bonus points will be in the equation.

7th: Reds (played 13, won 8, lost 5; 35 points, points difference +28)

Crusaders (A) on Friday, 7:35pm, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch

The Reds are not in the top-four race but can climb to fifth if they beat the Crusaders and the Hurricanes and Waratahs lose to the Force and Blues respectively.

An unlikely win on Friday night would muddle the maths for Saturday’s more decisive fixtures for playoff positions.

A defeat would guarantee seventh and a quarterfinal rematch with the Crusaders in Christchurch the following week.

8th: Highlanders (played 13, won 4, lost 9; 22 points, points difference +4)

Rebels (A) on Sunday, 4pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne

The Highlanders will know if they need a result against the Rebels when they kick off in Melbourne.

They’re three points clear of the Force, who have given themselves a chance after Tuesday night’s bonus-point win (48-28) over Moana Pasifika in Auckland.

For the Highlanders, a win against the Rebels would guarantee eighth and a quarterfinal with the Blues in Auckland.

If the Force beat the Hurricanes, and the Highlanders lose to the Rebels, Tony Brown’s side would potentially be knocked out of the last playoff spot, although they could be saved by a losing bonus point and their superior points difference.

The Highlanders would make the quarterfinals if the Force lose to the Hurricanes.

9th: Force (played 13, won 3, lost 10; 19 points, points difference -122)

Hurricanes (H) on Sunday, 12:00am, HBF Park, Perth

The Force need to win and better the Highlanders’ result.

If the Force beat the Hurricanes and the Rebels upset the Highlanders, they could make the eight.

However, bonus points would likely come into the equation.

Lose, and their playoff hopes are finished. Win, and the Force will be cheering for the Rebels on Sunday.

The Force would have to buck their trend of losing to Kiwi sides. They ended a 25-match losing streak against New Zealand-based teams with Tuesday’s bonus-point win over newcomers Moana Pasifika.

However, they have not beaten any of the five established Kiwi teams since a 2014 victory over the Chiefs in Perth.

10th: Rebels (played 13, won 3, lost 10; 16 points, points difference -150)

Highlanders (H) on Sunday, 4pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne

The Rebels can’t make the quarterfinals after their 45-22 defeat to the Hurricanes last Saturday.

11th: Fijian Drua (played 13, won 2, lost 11; 11 points, points difference -256)

Chiefs (H) on Saturday, 3pm, Churchill Park, Lautoka

The Drua can’t make the quarterfinals in their first season after losing four of their five matches against Kiwi opposition.

12th: Moana Pasifika (played 13, won 1, lost 12; 6 points, points difference -257)

Brumbies (H) on Saturday, 7:05pm, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Moana Pasifika can’t make the quarterfinals in their first season after losing their last nine matches.

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