Well well well.
Just when you thought you could tell who would be in the top 4... WEEK 8 happens.
These results for me throw the last spot (and maybe even two spots) wide open.
Let's do an analysis shall we...
The Brumbies are in. They just need a win over the Hurricanes or the Chiefs or the Waratahs to go to 34 points which will be plenty.
The Sharks are also in. You can put your mortgage on wins over the Chiefs and Reds in Durban to see them through
The Cats are out. Not enough points.
The Reds are out. Ditto.
But after that it gets interesting.
The Stormers are on 23 points and are 50/50 to make the top 4. They scrapped a win against the Reds, and need just two more wins in four games to make it... they've got the Blues, the Crusaders, the Chiefs and then the Sharks. They won't beat the Crusaders, and the game against the Sharks is anyone's guess. I think the loser of the Blues/Stormers match will kiss their season goodbye.
The Crusaders are on 20 points and are very likely to be in. Despite that loss to the Sharks, they have 4 reasonably easy games to go. They should account for the Cats, and one would suspect they'll be far too strong for the Stormers and Bulls at Jade Stadium. However if they don't win all three of these games it will come down to their last game against the Hurricanes; a match they should also win.
The Chiefs are on 18 points and are pretty much no chance. That loss against the Cats hurts. A lot. If they can't even knock over that rabble, they'll have big problems against the Sharks. With their tail between their legs coming back on the plane they could knock over the Bulls and Stormers but surely won't be able to hold the Brumbies. The Brumbies always crap on the Chiefs.
The Bulls are on 18 points and are a small chance. They got killed by the Blues and such a hiding is never a good way to start a trip to the antipodes for the Jappies. If they can get over it mentally then they could well knock over the Reds and Chiefs. That would leave them with the task of beating the Cats. And they'd be in. Can't see it though... such a pasting as the Blues dished out is not easily reversed on tour.
The Blues are on 17 points and are a good chance of performing a miricle revival. One more loss will kill them though. The way they accounted for the Bulls would suggest they'll be too strong for the Stormers. If they can manage that then they need to go to South Africa. Tough, but if any team can do it then I think the Blues might be the ones to beat the Sharks at home. The Highlanders in the last round may be more problematic than one expects.
The Hurricanes are on 17 points and are a better chance than you think of making the top 4. I still have hope. The Waratahs and Highlanders hardly strike fear into the heart like they would have earlier in the year. They'll need bonus points and if they can manage that then they could sneak an upset against the Brumbies. The trouble is that all of these games are away from home. No matter! A game against the Crusaders at the caketin is the final round robin match for us. If we're out of contention by then, I'll settle for a win here and declare a pretty good season.
The Waratahs are on 17 points and would be a chance if they didn't have typical NSW season. Honestly it's the ultimate stereotype NSW are developing - 3 wins, top of the table, then capitulate to lose the next 4. They still need to play the Reds who they never beat and the mighty Brumbies and hopeful Hurricanes. They won't make it - BUT if they beat the Reds I doubt if Barge will be TOO unhappy!
The Highlanders are on 17 points and an icebergs' chance in hell. They used to lose in the last few minutes, now they lose much sooner. Copped a hiding by the Brumbies who they usually do alright against. They've only got the three games to go instead of the four games most of the contenders have... theoretically they could get 15 points from those games and end up on 32, but I can't see it happening - their opponents are the Hurricanes, Waratahs and Blues.
So my picks? Here we go...
Brumbies ..... (boo! hiss!)
Sharks ........ (raise an eyebrow in surprise)
Crusaders .... (go the sheep shaggers I guess)
Blues .......... (not those blimmin Aucklanders again)