• Aotearoa permutations: Crusaders favourites to claim title

    With New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament heading into its final two rounds, SARugbymag.co.za looks at which teams are still in contention for the title.

    CRUSADERS

    Currently, the Crusaders are sitting in first place on 24 points with a massive points difference of 61. Their remaining two fixtures are in Christchurch against the Highlanders – currently out of the title race – and away at Eden Park against the second-placed Blues.

    The scenario for Scott Robertson’s side is fairly straightforward. All the Crusaders need to do to claim the Aotearoa title is to win one of their remaining two games.

    One would imagine that the Crusaders would be keen to get the job done this weekend against the Highlanders and avoid what could be a far more tense title shootout with the Blues.

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    BLUES

    The Blues are currently in second place on 22 points, trailing the Crusaders by just two points, with a points difference of 27. Unlike the other two title contenders, the Blues have just one fixture remaining as they head into a bye this weekend before hosting the Crusaders.

    In what could be a frustrating scenario for the Blues, they could watch their title hopes slip away this weekend if the Crusaders go on to beat the Highlanders in Christchurch. However, if the Highlanders do pull of a shock win, they could leave the door open for the Blues to face the Crusaders in what will essentially be an Aotearoa final.

    In a far more unlikely scenario both the Blues and Crusaders will end the season tied on 26 points each – if the Crusaders draw with the Highlanders but lose to the Blues. In that case, the Blues would finish first as they would have won more games than the Crusaders.

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    HURRICANES

    The only other side that could win the tournament, the Hurricanes are currently in third place on 16 points with a differential of -7.  The Hurricanes’ remaining two fixtures are against the winless Chiefs in Wellington, before they travel to Dunedin to face the Highlanders.

    However, the Hurricanes will virtually need a miracle in order to win the title. Not only would they need to beat both the Chiefs and Highlanders with a bonus point, but they would also hope that the Crusaders lose their final two games and that the Blues don’t beat the Crusaders with a bonus point.

    Unfortunately, even though the Hurricanes have found form in the latter stages of the tournament, this is highly unlikely as they have yet to pick up a single bonus point in any of their six fixtures to date.

    Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

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    Dylan Jack