Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 22 News List

The Blues need a win and some luck in Super 12 rugby

AP , WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

Defending champions Auckland are among six teams whose Super 12 rugby semifinal chances depend on the outcome of their matches and other results in the final round of the regular season this weekend.

The Blues, whose semifinal chances have improved after wins in the past two weeks in South Africa, need five points from tomorrow's match against the Otago Highlanders to retain a chance of defending their title.

Two teams, the first-place ACT Brumbies and four-time champions the Canterbury Crusaders, in second place, have booked semifinal places. The remaining two playoff spots will be contested by six teams which have at least mathematical chances of qualification, several of which must depend on the results of matches other than their own.

The Waikato Chiefs and South Africa's Stormers are third and fourth on the table.

The Stormers, who have played their last four matches on the road, will be away from home again when they play the Sharks at Durban Saturday.

The Sharks, with 26 points and a home advantage, will mount a long-range challenge for the playoffs from eighth place on a congested table.

The Chiefs play the Brumbies at Hamilton on Saturday. The Brumbies might already be looking towards the playoffs and could be keen to avoid injuries and other disruptions as the semis approach.

The Chiefs have never reached the semifinals and were not given a chance this season but have shown unshakable nerve in recent games and a perennial ability to surprise.

"We've come down to the last game and we've got something to play for, which has happened in the past," Michael Collins said.

The Stormers, whose fourth place and 28 points make their semifinal challenge particularly brittle, have signaled a policy of all-out attack in their match with the enterprising Sharks.

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