Super Rugby 2012: 4 Teams Guaranteed to Lose in Round 17
There are two weeks left of Super Rugby's round robin.
The Hurricanes (somehow) upset the Crusaders and the Highlanders slipped from the pace, but most other teams kept on rolling.
What we saw last week wasn't nearly as good as most teams will have liked, but most should iron out the faults in their game within the week.
Several teams are hanging around the top six, and a loss this week would be disastrous for a playoff campaign.
I got three predictions right from four, missing the Crusaders' loss. For the season, that's 49 from 64. I've gone for the throat with at least two big picks this week. How will things fare?
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Yes, they lost last week and they will be back with a vengeance.
Crusaders fans will also be thrilled to see the Chiefs have made four changes to their starting lineup from last week.
But the Chiefs are fighting to clinch the minor premiership for the first time in franchise history, which a win with four tries will accomplish.
Usually when players are rested, the rest of the team can take a subconscious message from the coach that they can win without playing their best game (see why the Crusaders lost to the Rebels). In the case of the Chiefs, Sam Cane and Sona Taumalolo are brought in as rotational replacements.
The fancy word for that kind of thing is "depth".
For me, the home ground will clinch this one. And in this case it's the Chiefs. I've been to Waikato Stadium this season and the crowd can make enough noise to push the hosts over the line.
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The Waratahs will host the Brumbies in Sydney on Saturday night while knowing all they can do is wreck the playoff dreams of the Brumbies and Reds next week.
That should be enough to put in a decent performance, and in fairness the team selected is as good as any they've selected.
If the Waratahs weren't coming off a bye and if there hadn't been a three-week break, I'd be very tempted to tip the Waratahs.
But they are, and there has been.
Remember how the Crusaders and Chiefs each played last week? Like they just weren't at their best? Yeah, that's what the Waratahs will be like this weekend while the visitors have the edge in momentum.
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The Cheetahs will host the Stormers in the first game on South African soil this week.
The Stormers need the win if they want to guarantee a run of home games in the playoffs (and can still slip behind the Bulls, for that matter).
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs have mid-table mediocrity to play for.
For that reason, even if both sides are still competing with 10 minutes left, the Stormers should have more energy at the end to come up with the stronger finish.
That, and the Stormers are nigh-unstoppable right now.
The main problem with picking teams that have had a bye is wading through the irrelevant stuff. This was the first in-game picture I could find and was on page 33.
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When the Sharks host the Bulls, both teams have to win.
If the Sharks lose, they are gone. The Crusaders have the Force, the Hurricanes will pick up points from the bye, and the Reds are likely to pick up points at some stage. So that's not an option.
If the Bulls lose, they relieve all pressure on the Stormers and open themselves up to a low ranking in the top six (assuming they win in the final round). So that's not an option.
In this case, the Bulls have an edge for the same reason as the Brumbies: the Sharks have had a month off while the Bulls were able to beat the Cheetahs last week.