Super Rugby 2015 mid-season analysis

Super Rugby 2015 mid-season analysis
Super Rugby 2015 mid-season analysis
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Our key rugby reporter on all things Kiwi is Scott Donaldson and as we reach the halfway point in the Super Rugby Season he casts his critical eye at the competition.

It is the halfway point of Super Rugby with most teams playing eight or nine out of 16 games, but which teams are hot and which teams are not, halfway through the competition.

Firstly, let me make this clear that the Super Rugby draw needs to be viewed holistically as some teams have had two byes, others one and the Sharks have their first bye this weekend!

Also, some teams have played a lot of away games like the Blues and Stormers have only had three home games, while the Highlanders, Bulls and Sharks have had six home games, although this will change once these three teams go on tour.

The good and bad thing about Super Rugby is that most teams are capable of beating anyone on their day. This is a nightmare for tipsters, but means if a team gets several wins on the trot, then they will rocket up the ladder.

How many points do you need to make the Top Six or win Super Rugby Minor Premiership?

This is the fifth season of Super Rugby with 15 teams. Last year's competition has probably given home to everyone with the lowest score to make the Top Six (Highlanders, 8 wins and 42 points) and the Minor Premiership (Waratahs, 12 wins and 58 points). The other three years to win the Super Rugby title required a team to reach 66 points which depending on bonus points comes from between 12 and 14 wins.

To make the Top Six in previous years the sixth place team had between 54-57 points from either 10 or 11 wins. Usually 10 wins will be enough to ensure a spot in the Top Six.

Can the Crusaders Still Win The Title?

With their stars, they can't be written off. They have won 4 from 9 and have one more bye left which is nicely placed about halfway between now and the end. They need to get at least four more wins to have a shot at the Top Six, but six from seven to guarantee a Top Six position.

They will also have to factor in resting All Blacks. They do have the players and if they can get some confidence from back to back wins then they could be hard to stop.

v Blues (H)
v Hurricanes (A)
v Reds (H)
v Waratahs (A)
v Hurricanes (H)
v Blues (A)
v Brumbies (A)

Assuming they win their home games (no easy feat against the Hurricanes), they need to win at least one away game, but realistically they will have to win at least two more to guarantee a finals spot in Wellington, Auckland, Sydney or Canberra. That is going to be a big ask!

But who will make the Top Six, the semi-finals or the final?

The top three positions must be made up of the top team from each conference, ensuring that each of the three SANZAR partners hosts one playoff game. Unfortunately for the Chiefs and Highlanders this is unlucky since they are in 4th and 5th respectively when they could be better ranked.

Hot - which teams are surpassing expectations in 2015?

Hurricanes - they are the top dogs but they are yet to face some challenging home derby matches. The New Zealand derby games are difficult to win. It has been a great start to the season, but the loss to the Waratahs may have halted the Hurricanes progress. The other issue is that they will have to cope without some of their All Blacks at some stage.

Bulls - The South African conference surprise leaders are the Bulls. They have recorded some great wins although they aren't as daunting as they once were, but they will be difficult to beat at home in the Top Six. They need to survive the Australasian tour.

Highlanders - Many people thought that the Highlanders were a one season wonder last year. Fast forward another yeat and despite a change in a lot of players, the Highlanders are still looking dangerous. They have already played six home games so they will have to win a game or two on the road.

Stormers - The Stormers are sitting pretty really. They are in second place in the South African Conference, two points behind the Bulls, but are set for a string of late home gomes to run them through until the finals.

Lions - I must admit writing the Lions off before the start of the season, but this Lions team surpassed expectations with three wins on their Australasian tour.

Rebels - Most people thought the Rebels would be making up numbers in Super Rugby 2015. Last week they beat the Brumbies and now they sit in 11th place, just behind the Crusaders. Being outside the bottom three is a good performance for the Rebels.

Not - Below expectation

Crusaders - Who would have thought they would be sitting in 10th spot with only 7 games left? Their star-studded team is slightly out of sync at the moment. Can they still make the Top Six?

Waratahs - It is hard to back up from 2014's winning performance, but the Waratahs sit in 2nd place in the Australian conference behind the Brumbies who have got the speed wobbles recently.

Blues - I know that nothing should surprise me about the Blues and that they have plenty of home games left, but given the talent in that squad, they should be doing better. They are paying $61 to make the Top Six now.

Reds - The huge recruiting drive by the Reds in the offseason has done little to lift them to the predicted third spot in the Australian conference. Something seems not quite right in Brisbane.

Force - Given that the Force only just missed the Top Six last season, how can they be languishing in last spot? They don't seem to have the talent or depth at their disposal.

Sharks - From champs to chumps? Well not quite, but most people picked the Sharks to win the South African conference again. Now they have played 10 games and find themselves in 9th spot on the table and they will have to tour still and be without their stars like Bismarck du Plessis, Franc Steyn and Pat Lambie for a while.

As expected

Brumbies - If the Brumbies didn't lose some key players to injury and get the speed wobbles over the last month, then they would be in the "hot" category, but without Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani, the backline depth doesn't seem good enough to see them winning more games. They are still at the top of the Australian conference, but for how much longer?

Chiefs - This may seem harsh given the Chiefs are on 32 points, but many people picked the Chiefs to win t he title at the start of the season. They are unlucky to be in 4th spot technically, when they have the second most points. Their campaign hit a snag with the loss of Aaron Cruden.

Cheetahs - They have a few stars, but were never going to feature in 2015, although with their attack, 12th spot is about right for where they should finish.

So which teams are hot and not in Super Rugby at the moment? Can the Crusaders still win the title?