Can Super Rugby Crusade go on this season?
Nine teams are still in the hunt for the Super Rugby crown. The Crusaders have won seven titles since the competition was formed in 1996 but have never triumphed since it was extended to 15 teams in 2011. RICHARD KNOWLER assesses their chances of making the playoffs with just two rounds to go.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN
1) What's the most competition points the Crusaders can amass?
If they beat the Blues and Highlanders, and also grab two four-try bonus points, they would advance to 52.
2) Will that be enough to win the minor premiership?
Potentially - but it's not likely. They would need the Waratahs to lose both their games and the Sharks to drop one (and not get maximum losing bonus points).
3) What's so great about winning a conference?
It guarantees at least one playoff game at home. Even if the Crusaders finish outside the top two, they will still host a "quarterfinal" if they finish third overall.
4) What's so good about finishing in the top two?
It earns teams a week's rest before hosting a semifinal.
5) Since the competition was extended to 15 teams in 2011 has a team outside the top-two qualifiers won the title?
No. The Reds and Chiefs (twice) both finished inside this bracket.
6) Is there a danger the Crusaders won't make the playoffs?
Absolutely! If they lose to the Blues and Highlanders they could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
7) Who could overtake them?
The Highlanders, Hurricanes, Brumbies, Force, Blues and Chiefs are all in that race. The Waratahs are already safe and the Sharks only need two more points.
8) What if the Crusaders win just one of their final two games?
That should still be enough to make them safe. It would advance them to 46 points (providing they don't get a bonus point). It means they won't catch the Waratahs and the Sharks and Highlanders could overtake them. The Hurricanes, Force, Blues and Chiefs can all equal 46 points but the Crusaders' superior win-loss record would do the business.
9) Why can't the Brumbies equal 46 points?
Because they have the bye.
10) Why are the Crusaders ahead of the Highlanders on the NZ Conference table?
Their win-loss (9-5) record is superior to the Highlanders' (8-6).
11) What happens if teams are equal on competition points at the end of the round robin?
A position will be decided by taking the following steps until the tie is broken: a) Most wins from all matches. b) Highest aggregate points difference from all matches. c) Most tries from all matches. d) Highest aggregate difference of total tries for versus tries. e) Coin toss.