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20 June 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


After 180 games, the elite eight have emerged to the Super Rugby quarter-finals and will lay it all on the line in this weekend.

A New Zealand derby kicks off the play-offs. The table table-topping Crusaders and Highlanders collide in Christchurch on Friday.

First up on Saturday is the historic clash in Buenos Aires, where first-time South African Conference winners, the Jaguares, take on the Chiefs.

Then it’s the South African teams’ turn. The Bulls will battle the Hurricanes in Wellington and the Sharks square off against the Australian Conference-clinching Brumbies in Canberra.

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The defending-champion Crusaders have been dominant once again this season, while the Highlanders just about snuck into the play-offs with a win over the Waratahs. The other weekend results went their way to.

The ‘Saders have never, I repeat – never – lost a knockout match in Christchurch. They boast an 89% success rate in all matches that they host. Their win rate at home against fellow Kiwi sides hovers around a less imposing 75%. They did lash the ‘Landers 43-17 in their last meeting at AMI Stadium in Round Nine. So that’s of little comfort for the Otago outfit, who last won on ‘Saders soil in 2015.

The hosts could be slow out of the gate coming off a bye, but there’s little doubt that they’ll march into the semis.

Prediction: Crusaders by 12. (Suggested BET – Crusaders -8.5)

What a season these two teams have had! After taking a few years to find their feet, the Jaguares have taken Super Rugby by storm in 2019, earning their first-ever South African Conference title and home play-off.

The Chiefs looked like also-rans after losing their first four fixtures only to rally back remarkably and finish in the top eight. They’ve won four of their last five, the highlight being the stunning 40-27 victory over the Crusaders.

The Jaguares have gone one better and are on a five-match winning streak, however, in the teams’ meeting earlier this year – at the same venue coincidently – it was the Chiefs who came out on top thanks to a late try, making this the toughest game to call.

If you were to back an underdog this weekend, the Chiefs would be a good choice, although the Argentinians will probably pip it.

Prediction: Jaguares by three. (Suggested BET – Jaguares by 1-12 points)

The farcical conference system has handed the Bulls a real uphill battle against the second-most successful team in this year’s tournament. The men from Pretoria have hit their straps at the perfect time, following up their back-to-back draws in New Zealand with a brilliant win over the Lions to secure a play-off berth for the first time since 2013.

That last weekend’s 48-27 triumph came in a fast-paced, free-flowing game will give them further confidence considering that’s what they can expect come Saturday.

The ‘Canes are faster and more fluid foes. It’ll take a special effort from the Bulls pack and key man Handre Pollard to pull off an upset. Having to fly back to the Land of the Long White Cloud after only one week at home will take its toll. It will likely see the ‘Canes leave the Bulls behind in the final stretch.

Prediction: Hurricanes by eight. (Suggested BET – Hurricanes -7.5)

After snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a last-gasp try in Cape Town last weekend to qualify, the Sharks have a Cinderella feel to them and are considered to have the most favourable away assignment of the four wildcard qualifiers.

The Brumbies will take exception to that. They are the form team of the competition going into the knockout stage. They have racked up six wins in a row, and have lost just once at home this season, to the Rebels all the way back in Round One. The Sharks, in contrast, have been a picture of inconsistency in 2019.

This will be a distinctly different duel than the other quarter-finals as it’s set to be a titanic forwards battle. The Brumbies have steamrolled many sides with their well-structured driving maul this season. The Sharks can certainly expect some rolling thunder Down Under. It should be a close, Test-like arm-wrestle in which Australia’s sole finalists eke out the win.

Prediction: Brumbies by five. (Suggested BET – Brumbies 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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