Super Rugby transtasman: How the finalists will be found in final round

The Highlanders' big win over the Waratahs Saturday night has given them every chance of making...
The Highlanders' big win over the Waratahs Saturday night has given them every chance of making the Super Rugby transtasman finals. Photo: Getty Images
The Highlanders have stormed back into contention for the Sky Super Rugby transtasman competition, with a spot in the final in their sights.

The southern side have gone from all but out of the running to well and truly in the title hunt over the past couple of weeks, with fellow Kiwi teams being beaten and some not earning bonus points.

The Crusaders, Blues, Highlanders and Hurricanes all remain in the hunt for a spot on the grand stage with one round to play.

The Blues, leading the pack on 19 points, can afford to only take four of the possible five points when they host the Force next weekend. The Crusaders and Highlanders, tied on 18 points, will be in direct competition. Should both teams get a bonus point win, the Crusaders would need to improve their points differential by 12 points to surpass the Highlanders.

The Hurricanes remain a mathematical chance of making the final, though are heavily reliant on results to go their way. On 16 points, they would need to beat the Reds next weekend and hope two of the Force, Rebels and Brumbies beat the Blues, Crusaders and Highlanders respectively.

With the Hurricanes losing to the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday night, and both the Crusaders and Blues failing to secure a bonus point, the Highlanders jumped to second in the standings with their 59-23 win over the Waratahs.

"All we can do now is keep trying to give ourselves that chance," Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said.

"We'll still probably need a bit of help from other teams, but it's not something we've honestly talked about as a team. We're just trying to win every game putting ourselves in positions where we can get those bonus points and it was pleasing to get it this time and not let it slip like the last couple of weeks."

Given the short, sharp format of the competition, there's every chance the of one of the three unbeaten teams in the hunt for the final will miss out without losing a game. Dermody said it was something he was aware of, but not something he was spending too many thought on.

"We've given ourselves a chance to execute every game and we'll have to learn from that, I suppose. We've missed a couple of opportunities to get those bonus points that would put destiny in our own hands. But, again, we haven't really talked about that 'what if?', it's now just about trying to execute each week.

"This puts us just above the Crusaders, but we know what they're going to be like next week as well."

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