Nostradamus couldn’t predict this season’s four Super 14 semi-finalists after another weekend of snakes and ladders for the competition’s nine remaining contenders.
Darren Walton writes in The Advertiser that below the table-topping Crusaders, the NSW Waratahs soared to second place, the Sharks slipped to third, the Chiefs rose to fourth, the Hurricanes advanced to fifth, the Stormers won but slid two spots to sixth, the Brumbies climbed to seventh and the Blues continued their freefall to eighth.
Western Force received nothing for the bye but are somehow still alive as just eight points separates the teams occupying between third and ninth position entering the final three rounds of the regular season.
“Anything’s possible,” acknowledged NSW coach Ewen McKenzie after the Waratahs completed a perfect home campaign with a 25-10 bonus-point victory over the Sharks at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night. “It’s going to go down to the wire.”
The Waratahs’ record-equalling fifth straight win propelled the Sydneysiders four points clear of the third-placed Sharks, but skipper Phil Waugh was taking nothing for granted ahead of a gruelling three-game road trip that will take his team to Pretoria, Cape Town and Brisbane for showdowns with the Bulls, Stormers and Queensland Reds.
“The nature of this competition is that, if you slacken off, you lose games,” Waugh said.
“So we’re not getting too carried away. We’re not thinking about home semi-finals or anything like that. We’re just thinking about getting to Pretoria next week and just trying to maintain the momentum we’ve got at the moment.
“We’re sitting on 36 points. I don’t know how many you need to get to the semis, but we know we need more than that.”
The Crusaders are the only side virtually assured of a playoff berth.
The six-times Super champions opened up a seven-point break over the Waratahs with a thrilling 26-22 win over the Blues in Christchurch on Friday night.
The Crusaders will have the opportunity to clinch a top-two spot and, with it, a home semi-final when they host the faltering Sharks on Friday night. A third successive defeat for the Sharks, after they opened with seven straight wins, would oust the Durban outfit from the top four.
The Chiefs enhanced their prospects with a 32-20 bonus-point win over the Reds in Hamilton on Saturday night, the Waikato side’s fifth consecutive triumph just the tonic ahead of three testing away games against the Force, Lions and Sharks.Tweet