The June International window allows teams to have a month off, although it is difficult to know whether the rest outweighs the benefits of momentum which teams have built up over the previous 16 rounds. There are still three games left for approximately half the teams in the competition with the South African teams having a bye in Super Rugby Round 17 and teams in contention like the Brumbies and Hurricanes having a week off in the home straight.
It is always difficult to get those vital wins when the pressure is on. That is often when teams who are out of contention like the Stormers, Lions, Reds and Blues secure upset wins.
My picks would see the Waratahs finish the season as top qualifiers ahead of the Crusaders and Sharks. The Highlanders will fly over to South Africa to play the Sharks, while the Brumbies and Force would play each other two weeks in a row in the 4th vs 5th place match.
The Waratahs could easily host a Super Rugby final against the Crusaders.
Who are you picking to win Super 15 Rugby 2014?
1 Sharks – My pick 3rd place – 50 points
The Sharks are sitting on the top of the table and will win the South African conference. The Sharks lost to the Stormers in Super 15 Round 16 and have only two games left which are both away against the Stormers and Cheetahs. These are far from easy matches for the Sharks and they could easily find themselves losing host rights for the semi finals and finals. My pick – Sharks to finish third.
2 Waratahs – My pick 1st place – 52 points
The Waratahs have been impressive recently in Super Rugby 2014 and are second favourites, yet I think they will finish top dog in Super Rugby 2014. They have two home games against the Brumbies and Highlanders, while they finish in Brisbane against the Reds. They are only two points behind the Sharks and should win at least two out of three games which should be enough to finish top.
3 Crusaders – My pick 2nd place – 51 points
It is funny how many people were writing the Crusaders off earlier in the season, but the juggernaut has started rolling. They are away to the dangerous Hurricanes before finishing with two home games against the Blues and Highlanders. They should grab at least two wins from their last three games, but will probably not catch the Waratahs.
4 Brumbies – My pick 4th place – 45 points
The Brumbies will be left to rue their poor performances in South Africa which saw them lose two games and fall from the top of the Australian conference. They have a tough draw with two Australian derbies left. They are away to the Waratahs, then they have the bye followed by a crucial home match with the Force which could decide which of the two teams make the finals.
5 Highlanders – My pick 6th place – 43 points
Speaking of tough run ins. The Highlanders have the advantage of having three games left, but they host the defending champion Chiefs and then are away to two of the best teams in the competition in the Waratahs and Crusaders. Don’t expect the Crusaders to do them any favours in Round 19, even though the result of that game could decide their fate. The Highlanders should win one of their remaining games only.
6 Hurricanes – My pick 7th place – 42 points
The Hurricanes have only two games left and they host the Crusaders and are away to the Chiefs. They definitely have a chance at winning one of those games which would probably leave them just outside the Top Six.
7 Force – My pick 5th place – 45 points
Currently sitting in 7th spot, the Force have one of the better runs into the finals. They host two winnable matches against the Reds and Blues, while they are away to the Brumbies in the final round. Expect them to win two of their remaining games. This is, of course, easier said than done!
8 Chiefs – My pick 8th place – 40 points
The Chiefs face a tough final three derby matches. There are two away games against the Highlanders and Blues, while the Chiefs host the Hurricanes. The Highlanders and Hurricanes games are crucial as these teams are also in the running, while the Blues are tough to beat at home. The Chiefs will do well to win two games, but may only win one or no further matches.
9 Bulls – My pick 9th place – 38 points
The Bulls have only two games left and includes an away game against the Stormers and a home match against the Rebels. They should win at least one of these games, but it will take more than that to make the Top Six.
Super Rugby 2014 Standings after Round 16
Pos. Team P Bye Pts
1 Sharks SAC Leader 14 2 45
2 Waratahs AC Leader 13 2 43
3 Crusaders NZC Leader 13 2 41
4 Brumbies Wildcard 14 1 40
5 Highlanders Wildcard 13 2 38
6 Hurricanes Wildcard 14 1 37
7 Force 13 2 36
8 Chiefs 13 2 35
9 Bulls 14 2 33
10 Blues 13 2 31
11 Stormers 14 2 28
12 Reds 13 2 23
13 Lions 14 2 22
14 Rebels 13 2 21
15 Cheetahs 14 2 20