Another round of Super 15 Rugby means another round of high-quality rugby played all over the league. With Round 20 representing the final week before the playoffs in Round 21, this will be the last opportunity for teams to snag some points and make a final impression on the season.
The Central Cheetahs are the only team that won't be active in the round, so nearly every team will be in on the action. Here's a look at the complete schedule for the action along with a more in-depth look at some of the biggest matchups in the round.
|Date||Matchup||Arena||Time (ET)||Time (BST)|
|July 12||Crusaders vs. Hurricanes||AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand||3:45 a.m.||8:45 a.m.|
|July 12||Rebels vs. Highlanders||AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia||5:40 a.m.||10:45 a.m.|
|July 13||Blues vs. Chiefs||Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand||3:45 a.m.||8:45 a.m.|
|July 13||Waratahs vs. Reds||ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia||5:40 a.m.||10:40 a.m.|
|July 13||Force vs. Brumbies||NIB Stadium, Perth Australia||7:45 a.m.||12:45 p.m.|
|July 13||Shark vs. Kings||Kings Park, Durban, South Africa||11:05 a.m.||4:05 p.m.|
|July 13||Stormers vs. Bulls||Newsland Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa||1:10 p.m.||6:10 p.m.|
Fixtures to Watch
Auckland Blues vs. Waikato Chiefs
As far as how well these two sides match up, this isn't close. The Chiefs should be considered the odds-on favorite to beat the Blues rather handily.
But both teams have something to fight for. The Chiefs still have an outside chance to leap the Blue Bulls for the top spot on the table if they are able to beat the Blues and the Bulls are upset in their match against the Western Stormers.
The Chiefs pulled off a close 23-16 victory when they met the Blues in March, but that doesn't mean this is a guaranteed win. The Chiefs are coming off a stunning 43-16 loss to the lowly Crusaders and will have to find a way to get back on track against a Blues team that is trying to find some positives to take into next year.
Queensland Reds vs. New South Wales Waratahs
This match won't have much impact on the final table—the Reds already have wrapped up a spot in the playoffs, and the Waratahs have already confirmed that they will just miss making the cut.
However, few matches are closer on paper.
As SuperXV.com reports, James Horwill and Will Genia have been ruled out of the clash due to injuries as they try to get healthy before the playoffs. That's not good news for a Reds squad that only won one more game than its opponent.
A win for the Reds would give them a shot at passing the Canterbury Crusaders for the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, but a loss could potentially see them move to No. 6. That should be all the motivation they need to overcome the injuries and earn their fifth straight win over the Waratahs.
Western Stormers vs. Blue Bulls
This may be the game of the week. The result has direct control over who gets home-field advantage for the playoffs.
The Bulls are in the driver's seat with a two-point lead atop the table. But a loss here would open up the door for both the Chiefs and ACT Brumbies to leapfrog the current leader and force the Bulls to finish third.
Considering the team has lost its last three matches in South Africa but has a nine-match win streak in its home country, getting the No. 1 seed has to be priority No. 1.
The Stormers are a solid team. They'll likely finish as the highest-scoring team not to make the playoffs, so they should be looking to leave with the moral victory of beating a top team. This should be a good game that goes down to the wire.