Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The
SA conference is a good old muddle at present … but many South Africans,
nevertheless, wouldn’t turn up their noses at the idea of playoffs places in
Super Rugby 2019 being settled at the halfway mark of ordinary season rather
than the completed programme.
because if you closed the books right now, as many as four of the five group sides
– ironically only excluding last year’s beaten finalists the Lions – would make
the eight-team cut for the finals series.
seem strange, given that all SA conference sides barring leading lights the
Bulls (five wins) sport decidedly chequered records of four victories and four
defeats each at “halfway house”, but that is the way the playoffs cookie would
The whole competition
is notably volatile this year, save for the ominous overall mastery already of
the legendary Crusaders, and without suggesting exactly how many SA conference
outfits will crack the playoffs – still too hard to tell – here is my forecast
of the order of finish in the group itself.
My choice of
winners, at least on the formula adopted for this exercise, may shock a few
BULLS (current conference leaders, 23
resting Duane Vermeulen and with Schalk Brits still suspended, there was lots to
like about their comfortable home triumph over the Reds at the weekend; a
renewed vibrancy was discernible.
from injury of players like RG Snyman, Warrick Gelant and Marco van Staden made
a big difference, and the Bulls should make the playoffs, albeit with a
reasonably low seeding: that late, four-leg overseas trek shapes as a serious
obstacle for a team who traditionally don’t travel long-haul well.
Remaining fixtures, with predictions: Stormers away: defeat with losing BP;
Waratahs home: win, no BP; Crusaders home: defeat, losing BP; Rebels away: defeat,
losing BP; Brumbies away: win, no BP; Blues away: defeat, losing BP;
Highlanders away: defeat, no BP; Lions home: win, no BP.
log points: 39 … and THIRD in completed conference
SHARKS (currently second, 21 pts):
into the playoffs could be a very tenuous, ding-dong affair from here for one
of the tournament’s most enigmatic teams, so imperious in Johannesburg and then
so abject in Saturday’s Durban fiasco against the Jaguares just eight days
It seems to
tell you something’s missing either mentally or even in squad harmony terms,
and if they crash again to the modest Reds over Easter weekend, many will
understandably be writing them off already for the finals series – though I
believe they will eke out a stabilising victory in that one.
looming Antipodean tour’s a stinker, but at least comprises only three rather
than four matches.
Remaining fixtures, with predictions: Reds home: win, no BP; Waratahs
away: defeat, losing BP; Crusaders away: defeat, no BP; Chiefs away: defeat,
losing BP; Lions home: win, no BP; Hurricanes home: win, no BP; Jaguares away: defeat,
no BP; Stormers away: defeat, losing BP.
log points: 36 … and FOURTH in completed conference
JAGUARES (currently third, 19 pts):
Wow, what a
productive (latest) mini-tour of South Africa by the Argentineans: how many
experts would really have anticipated their banking successive wins at Loftus
and Kings Park?
results have done is seriously ignite their chances of a maiden conference
triumph … and when I did the predictive “maths” below, you will see that, yes,
they pull it off by a whisker.
still some potholes ahead, of course, including what is effectively their third
overseas tour (this time the unforgiving Australasian part, too) toward the end
of the roster when time-zone fatigue will be a real threat to them.
might also be on the cusp of something special towards the end of it, and it
will power them to the odd showing driven by that demonic passion of theirs.
game against the Stormers, not far off the radar, could be enormous in tilting
the group …
Remaining fixtures, with predictions: Brumbies home: win, no BP; Stormers
home: win, no BP; Highlanders away: defeat, no BP; Hurricanes away: defeat, no
BP; Waratahs away: defeat, losing BP; Reds away: win, no BP; Sharks home: win,
no BP; Sunwolves home: win, with BP.
log points: 41 … and FIRST in completed conference
STORMERS (currently fourth, 18 pts):
pivotal might that late, reviving tour triumph over the Rebels prove to be?
right back at the conference races … especially being the side with easily the
best run-in (or at least read: generous sequence of home fixtures) to the
alone must make them genuine contenders still for top-placed finishers in the
group, and their brains trust will be praying the worst of the injury-related
(and other factors) absenteeism is over very shortly.
Remaining fixtures, with predictions: Brumbies home: win, no BP; Bulls
home: win, no BP; Jaguares away: defeat, no BP; Crusaders home: defeat, no BP;
Highlanders home: win, no BP; Lions away: defeat, losing BP; Sunwolves home: win,
with BP; Sharks home: win, no BP.
log points: 40 … and SECOND in completed conference
LIONS (currently fifth, 18 pts):
signs for their season flashed in Canberra at the weekend, where they were
ultimately well beaten by the Brumbies – so a second game on the trot without a
single log point to show, and further signs that their engine room is falling
short for real grunt and go-forward qualities.
the upcoming games against the Chiefs and Crusaders in New Zealand offer very
little hope, as things stand, of any fresh win curve being established in the
may well return to SA climes with just too much to do, and instead recede into
non-qualification for the finals series, bringing to an abrupt end their three
years as commendable tournament runners-up.
their enduring “gees” should still ensure some strong, group
pecking-order-influencing performances against derby foes once back on home
Remaining fixtures, with predictions: Chiefs away: defeat, no BP;
Crusaders away: defeat, no BP; Waratahs home: win, no BP; Highlanders home: win,
no BP; Sharks away: defeat, losing BP; Stormers home: win, no BP; Hurricanes
home: defeat, losing BP; Bulls away: defeat, losing BP.
log points: 33 … and FIFTH in completed conference.
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