3 weeks to go

It's incredible. Just 3 weeks ago it seemed impossible that anyone could put Blues and Sharks out of the semifinals and the only question was which of the 'tahs, the Hurricanes or the West Force could grab the fourth place.

Now, only the Crusaders have maintained their pace and lead ahead of everyone while Stormers, 'tahs and Chiefs have proved the real powers of this part of the tournament. The 'tahs are happily second and it seems difficult that a miracle could prevent them from playing a semifinal. The Chiefs have won 5 in a row (franchise record) and tie with Sharks (unbelievable, right?) with the promise of a last heartbreaker game in Durban in week 14. The Stormers also keep winning and winning and tie with the Hurricanes 5-6 just a point behind Sharks and Chiefs.

But three more teams could also be in the semifinals provided they manage to bonus-point win their three games: Brumbies, non-resilient Blues and even the Force.

This is the schedule for the last three weeks. In red I have coloured the key games (the ones I would expect to be decissive).

Week 12:
Crusaders-Sharks (a hard game for the Sharks, as the Crusaders seek a home semifinal)
Reds - Blues (nothing less thatn 5 points is expected from a talented but agonising Blues side)
Hurricanes - Lions (another side who should pick a bonus point, the Hurricanes have the lightest schedule for the last three weeks)
Force - Chiefs (a must win for the two sides but the Force does not look good enough to stop the hot Chiefs)
Bulls - Waratahs (the 'tahs should win here as the Bulls fight for very little right now)
Stormers - Brumbies (another must wind for the two sides, could rule either side out of the semifinals but expect the Brumbies to lose here)

Week 13:
Hurricanes - Force (only if the Force has still any chance by week 13, it can be tough for the Hurricanes)
Bulls - Brumbies (I expect this match to mean nothing by the time it is played)
Highlanders - Blues (the key match for the Blues. They need another bonus point and it will be really hard to beat the Highlanders at Dunedin)
Reds - Crusaders (the revenge of the pre-season game and nothing else)
Sharks - Cheetahs (no matter what will have happened in week 12, this will be a win for the Durban franchise)
Lions - Chiefs (the only easy game for Laulala and co)
Stormers - Waratahs (the Stormers have it difficult to get to the semifinals, and here they will miss Burger a lot, but I cannot foresee what will happen)

Week 14:
Blues - Hurricanes (the end of the dream for one (or even both) of the two NZ franchises. I wish the Hurricanes will win)
Crusaders - Highlanders (if the Crusaders have lost any of the two previous games, this one will put them into the home semifinal)
Reds - Waratahs (a must win for the 'tahs)
Lions - Stormers (5 points for the Stormers)
Sharks - Chiefs (this will rule one of the two sides definately out of the semifinals)

My prediction:

Crusaders, Waratahs, Hurricanes and Chiefs. The Chiefs could be replaced by the Stormers depending on the outcome of the week 14.

It is such a close call, such a close call...


Anonymous said...

Those three NZ sides would also be my picks.
I wanted it to be an all NZ semifinal but I'll settle for a repeat of last year but with two NZ sides.

sesenta y cuatro said...

But, in the end, your call was so close to the reality. Only a far underperforming Blues side and an impressive Waratahs side seem to have escaped your crystal ball