Southern Steel’s playoff destiny still in its own hands

If there was ever a time the energy of fortress Invercargill was needed, this is it.

The Southern Steel returns home this weekend for a double-header, its third and fourth games in eight days, that will go a long way to deciding its season.

It is far from out of playoff contention and its destiny does remain in its own hands.

Win four of its remaining five, get a bonus point in the loss and make sure it wins both matches against the Northern Stars.

Or just win all five.

Either would secure the Steel a spot in the top three — although that is certainly easier said than done.

The six-point gap between the Steel and the top three is somewhat deceiving.

It comes as a product of the games missed due to Covid-19.

This weekend it can make that up.

It faces the Central Pulse tomorrow afternoon, before backing up less than 24 hours later against the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Sunday.

Two wins would take it to 22 points.

Just as significantly, it would hold the Pulse — which is tied with the Northern Stars in second and third — on 22 points.

If the Steel can win its remaining three matches after that, it can reach a maximum of 31 points.

However, 29 points will potentially be enough.

The Pulse has a lighter run in, with two games against the Mainland Tactix and a game against the Northern Mystics — who may be without star shooter Grace Nweke — to come.

It would not be a surprise for the Pulse to win all three of those, taking it to 31 points, even if the Steel wins tomorrow.

The Stars are in a similar position.

They meet the Steel next weekend in Invercargill, a chance for the home team to again take three points off one of its direct competitors.

The two teams then meet again in a rescheduled match a week later.

Both will have a significant bearing on the playoff race.

If the Steel was to drop one of those matches, the equation becomes significantly harder — to the point it will rely on the Stars dropping points elsewhere.

The Stars' other remaining matches are against the Mystics, a result that, like the Pulse's, could rest of Nweke's availability, and the Magic.

If it wins those two, and loses both to the Steel, it would end up on 28 points.

On top of that, the Steel has another match against the Magic to go.

That is very winnable — although the Magic is still stacked with quality.

All are important, though.

The Steel is notoriously tough to beat in the deep south.

What a place to begin the run home.


ANZ Premiership table


                             P                           W                            L                               Pts

Mystics                12                           9                            3                               30

Pulse                    11                           6                            5                               22

Stars                     11                           7                            4                               22

Steel                     10                          5                            5                               16

Tactix                    11                          4                             7                               13

Magic                    11                          2                             9                                9


- Jeff Cheshire


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