The playoff race boiled down

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The Crusaders, Jaguares, Brumbies and Hurricanes are all confirmed to host home quarterfinals, which leaves eight teams battling for the final four playoff spots.

There's plenty that can happen in the final round, so we have taken a look at all the possibilities so you know who to cheer for this weekend.

Firstly, let's remove the four top placed teams as their spots are secure in the quarterfinals. Let’s also remove the Sunwolves, Reds and Blues as those teams are now officially out of the playoff race.

That leaves us with the following teams battling for four spots:

Bulls - 36 points, 7 wins, +20 PD
Lions - 35 points, 8 wins, -56 PD
Stormers - 34 points, 7 wins, -19 PD
Rebels - 34 points, 7 wins, -21 PD
Sharks - 33 points, 6 wins, +5 PD
Chiefs - 31 points, 6 wins, -65 PD
Highlanders - 31 points, 5 wins, +12 PD
Waratahs - 30 points, 6 wins, -11 PD
Here’s what needs to happen for each team to make the top eight:

Highlanders: The Highlanders need to win with a bonus point to go up to 36 points. They will then need the Chiefs to beat the Rebels without a bonus point or the Lions to lose to the Bulls without gaining any competition points to make it into the top 8.

Chiefs: The Chiefs have some breathing room over the Highlanders because they have one extra regular season win which places them above the Highlanders despite the fact they are on the same competition points. A bonus point win would be enough to see the Chiefs into the playoffs. If they win without a bonus point, they can still make it if either of the Highlanders or Waratahs win without a bonus point and the Stormers either win, or lose without a bonus point.

Waratahs: The Waratahs need the most to go their way if they are to make the playoffs. First thing they need to do is win with a bonus point over the Highlanders. They then need the Chiefs to beat the Rebels without a bonus point and without finishing on a better point differential, which means they leapfrog both the Chiefs and Rebels into playoff contention.

Lions: A win, draw or a loss with a bonus point should all see the Lions into the playoffs. Given they have already won eight games, they will sit above any team they finish on equal points with. If the Lions don’t manage to pick up any competition points, then they can still make the top eight provided the Waratahs win or the Chiefs and/or Highlanders win without a bonus point.

Stormers: A win or draw against the Sharks will secure the Stormers a place in the top eight. They can also make it in on the back of a losing bonus point if the Highlanders (or Waratahs) and Chiefs both win without a bonus point.

Rebels: A win or a draw against the Chiefs in Melbourne will confirm the Rebels spot in the playoffs.

Sharks: Win and they are in.

Bulls: The Bulls are all but guaranteed a place in the playoffs.

Defining match-ups
Highlanders V Waratahs
Rebels V Chiefs
Stormers V Sharks
Bulls V Lions
Kiwi Perspective
If you are a New Zealand fan and want as many Kiwi teams in the playoff as possible, this is what you will be cheering for:
• Chiefs and Highlanders to win with bonus points
• Lions to lose to the Bulls without gaining a bonus point
• Stormers to beat the Sharks

Nitty Gritty
Looking ahead to the semifinals, the winners of quarterfinal 1 v 8 and quarterfinal 4 v 5 will meet in semi-final one, while the winners of quarterfinal 2 v 7 and quarterfinal 3 v 6 will meet in semi-final two. What this means for the New Zealand conference is that the Crusaders and Hurricanes are locked on a semi-final collision course should they both keep winning.

If teams are tied on competition points, here’s how it’s decided:

a) Most wins from all matches
b) Greatest points-difference
c) Most tries from all matches
d) Greatest tries-difference
e) Coin toss

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