The eight teams are seeded with finishers 1-4 on the league table getting home quarter-finals. All times are GMT, with all prices from William Hill. Here are the Super Rugby 2018 quarter-final fixtures (home team first):
The 4th and 5th seeds both have 11-5 win-loss records. The two teams met last weekend at the Chiefs, who won 28-24 having been 21-0 up at half time. That second half rally ensured home advantage is with the Hurricanes in this game, finishing two points higher than the Chiefs after 16 games.
The winner here is likely to have the dubious honour of a trip to reigning champions and number one seeds the Crusaders in the semi-finals.
A close match is in prospect but of course home advantage is reversed which accounts for the points spread of -5 Hurricanes at 10/11. Both teams rested players last week. My preference is for the Hurricanes to win but -5 feels toppy, so the Chiefs +5 is the bet.
The Crusaders go into the play-offs as odds-on favourites to retain their title and number one seeds. Resting players, they enter the play-offs on the back of a 54-17 win against the Blues. They only lost two games all season.
The Sharks beat the Rebels to the 8th and final play-off spot by virtue of beating the Jaguares 20-10 on the last weekend at home whilst the Rebels lost to the Highlanders.
This should be a one-sided contest, and the Crusaders are the biggest bankers of the quarter-finals at -17 at 10/11. Ordinarily I would think they are more likely to cover than not, but it’s a play-off game, so no bet at the prices.
The Waratahs won the Australian conference and are seeded 3rd as the conference winner with the worst record. The Waratahs aren’t in great form they lost 31-40 at home to the Brumbies to close out the regular season and finished with a 10-5-1 record.
The Highlanders had a 10-6 record, only good for fourth in the powerful New Zealand conference and the sixth seed. They warmed up for this match beating the Rebels 43-37.
At the prices, with the Highlanders only -2 at 10/11 they are favoured.
Last season’s finalists the Lions won the South African conference to earn the number 2 seed, a home draw here and for the semi-final if they win, to face the Waratahs or Highlanders.
They face Argentina’s Los Jaguares, who in their third season in Super Rugby are making their first play-off appearance, a feat achieved due to a strong run of form in the second half of the season, which has tailed off a bit in the last couple of weeks.
The Lions have to be favourites here and I regard them as more likely to cover -8 at 10/11 than not.