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13 June 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


There are permutations aplenty and all to play for in what promises to be a pulsating final round of Super Rugby this weekend.

Only the top four teams have already cemented their places in the play-offs – the log-leading, New Zealand Conference-winning Crusaders (58), first-time South African Conference winners, the Jaguares (46), the Australian Conference-clinching Brumbies (43) and the Hurricanes (49).

As things stand going into the weekend, the Bulls (fifth on 36), Lions (sixth on 35) and Stormers (seventh on 34) have one foot in the knockouts, while the Sharks (ninth on 33) still have a chance of finishing in the top eight.

On the other side of the spectrum, only the bottom three teams – the Blues (29), Reds (28) and Sunwolves (12) – are out of the play-off picture, leaving eight teams vying for the four remaining wildcard slots.

The Melbourne Rebels (eighth on 34), Chiefs (10th on 31), Highlanders (11th on 31) and Waratahs (12th on 30) are the other teams in the hunt.

Saturday’s local derbies in Cape Town and Pretoria are essentially do-or-die encounters, although a third draw in a row, or narrow loss, will still see the Bulls advance.

The stage is set for a thrilling final round. See who we’re backing below.

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A must-win for both teams to keep their faint knockout aspirations alive. After allowing the Bulls to fight back and hold them to a draw, I expect an 80-minute performance from the Highlanders here. The Waratahs’ heavy home defeat to the Brumbies, meanwhile, suggests they’ve run their race.

Prediction: Highlanders by seven. (Suggested BET – Highlanders by 1-12 points)

Things can only get better for the Rebels after their 66-0 humiliation in Christchurch last weekend. Back at home and with a chance to claim their place in the play-offs, expect to see a much different Rebels side in terms of focus and intensity.

The Chiefs will be rested after their bye and will still be on a high after their sensational comeback win over the Crusaders last time out. They have an outside chance of making the top eight and are enjoying some good form, so I see them shading it.

Prediction: Chiefs by 3. (Suggested BET – Chiefs by 1-12 points)

The Jaguares will probably rest a few key players ahead of the play-offs, which should keep the margin down somewhat,
but with their enviable depth, they should still storm past the last-placed Sunwolves.

Prediction: Jaguares by 15. (Suggested BET – Jaguares by 13 or more)

The Hurricanes are riding high off the back of their back-to-back wins in South Africa and are assured of a fourth-place finish and home quarterfinal. The Blues, in contrast, are one of just three teams who are out of the play-off picture and haven’t won a single away game this season. ‘Canes all the way.

Prediction: Hurricanes by 10. (Suggested BET –  Hurricanes -4.5)

At first glance, one gets a sense that the Reds, buoyed by their thrilling 29-28 win over the Blues, will be the more motivated of the teams, as the Brumbies secured the Australian Conference trophy and a home play-off last week and could perhaps be complacent. However, the fact that the Reds gave them a 36-14 hiding in Round Six will give the Brumbies the necessary fire to set the record straight.

Prediction: Brumbies by seven. (Suggested BET – Brumbies by 1-12 points)

That this crunch coastal derby will be played at Newlands will suit the Sharks considering they won just three of their eight home games this season and clinched the Currie Cup in Cape Town last year.

Much has changed since then and Super Rugby is a different beast, of course. The Stormers won the sides’ last encounter 16-11 in Durban and managed two wins, a draw and a loss in their last four fixtures, while the Sharks secured just one win in their last four outings.

More than any other match this weekend, selections will have a massive impact. If the Sharks start with Curwin Bosch and Aphelele Fassi at flyhalf and fullback respectively, they’ll have the creativity that could possibly unlock the Stormers’ defence and see them snatch their opponents’ play-off place. If not, it’ll be that much tougher for the Durbanites to get it done. At home, you’d have to give the edge to the Stormers.

Prediction: Stormers by 2. (Suggested BET – Stormers by 1-12 points)

Home ground advantage will be key in this Trans-Jukskei derby. As the Loftus farewell for captain Handre Pollard (Montpellier), Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman, Duane Vermeulen, Jesse Kriel (all Japan), Eli Snyman (Treviso) and Hanro
Liebenberg (Leicester Tigers), emotions will be running high in the Bulls camp.

This will serve as jet fuel for the hosts and should attract one of the bigger crowds of the season. The Bulls have momentum on their side as well, after their back-to-back draws in New Zealand and the Lions’ loss to the Hurricanes, and have an added mental edge, having lashed the Lions 30-12 in their Round Three meeting at Ellis Park.

It should be a tighter game this time around, though, given the high stakes. In the poised Pollard, the Bulls have a general who knows how to dictate play in high-pressure situations and it’s that composure that’ll get the Pretoria side over the

Prediction: Bulls by 5. (Suggested BET – Bulls by 1-12 points)

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Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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