With only two rounds left in the thrilling New Zealand-only competition, the Hurricanes and Blues are still in the title hunt – but will need a favour from the Highlanders this weekend.
We’ve run through the permutations to let you know how the next two weeks could shake out for our three contenders.
Points: 24 (first on ladder)
Games left: 2
Maximum points available: 34
Equation: The equation can’t be much simpler for the Crusaders. Win one of their last two games against the Highlanders this Sunday or the Blues in round 10 and the title is theirs. If the Crusaders lose both games but pick up losing bonus points, they will end up on 26 points. That, along with an unlikely draw in either game, may also be enough to claim the title as they have a handy point differential advantage over the Blues and Hurricanes (+61 compared to +27 for the Blues and +10 for the Hurricanes) who could also end on 26 points.
Points: 22 (second on ladder)
Games left: 1
Maximum points available: 27
Equation: The first thing the Blues need to happen is out of their control. They need the Highlanders to knock over the Crusaders in Christchurch this Sunday to set-up a virtual final at Eden Park in round 10. If that happens, then it will all be in the Blues court to overcome the Crusaders and pick up their first Super Rugby title since 2003.
Points: 16 (third on ladder)
Games left: 2
Maximum points available: 26
Equation: You might have to get your calculator out to follow this one. Firstly, the Hurricanes need the Highlanders to beat the Crusaders this Sunday. Now comes the even harder part. The Hurricanes need to pick up bonus point wins over the Chiefs this week and the Highlanders in round 10 to have any chance. That will put them on 26 points. If the Hurricanes can do that, then everything hinges on the final game between the Blues and Crusaders. If the Blues beat the Crusaders without a bonus point they will go to 26 points. In which case it will come down to points differential between the Blues and Hurricanes (and potentially the Crusaders who could end on 26 points with two losing bonus points in their final two games).
Hurricanes v Chiefs, Saturday 8 August, 7.05pm, Sky Stadium
Crusaders v Highlanders, Sunday 9 August, 3.35pm, Orangetheory Stadium
Highlanders v Hurricanes, Saturday 15 August, 7.05pm, Forsyth-Barr Stadium
Blues v Crusaders, Sunday 16 August, 3.35pm, Eden Park