Tyler Paul of the Cell C Sharks. File Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Tyler Paul of the Cell C Sharks. File Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Given Super Rugby’s convoluted structure‚ predicting its quarterfinal line-ups requires a leap into the unknown.

The most significant areas of dispute in the last two rounds of the league stages involve the Rebels and Sharks, who are contesting eighth spot‚ while whoever of the Hurricanes and Chiefs gets the highest ranking may yet have a profound effect.

Unless the unthinkable happens‚ the Crusaders will top the points table‚ while 10 sides can still mathematically make the quarterfinals. The Brumbies‚ however‚ who are 10th‚ need a few miracles to sneak in.

The top eight as it stands look most likely to qualify.

The Sharks, with games against the Stormers at Newlands and the Jaguares at King’s Park‚ can still sneak in providing the Rebels slip up in their remaining matches, against the Reds in Brisbane and the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The second match will require a gargantuan effort, so they had better win in Brisbane this weekend.

While the basement of the top eight is still in dispute‚ the Crusaders pretty much have the league stages wrapped.

Who will occupy the next few places is less clear, especially as Sanzaar has decreed that the top team in both the Australian and South African conferences is guaranteed a home quarterfinal. The teams currently with the fourth and sixth most points are therefore actually second and third.

The Lions’ defeat at King’s Park last week may yet prove costly as the Jaguares are now capable of overhauling them.

There may, however, be merit in the Lions finishing further down the points table‚ only if they end up drawing in the quarterfinals the Waratahs‚ a team whom they beat in Sydney earlier in 2018. The Waratahs may have the sixth most points but as Australian conference winners they are likely to be elevated to second.

The Jaguares look favourites to win the South African conference, which means they will be elevated to third if they have fewer points than the Tahs.

Playing the Waratahs in the quarters may have long-term benefits for any team having to cross the time zones to get to Sydney. That team would not have to acclimatise for the semifinal or indeed the final should it qualify. Of course‚ that is providing the Jaguares do not upend the apple cart.

The battle for hosting rights in the other quarterfinal is likely to be fascinating. The Hurricanes lead the Chiefs by four points but that can be wiped out when the teams clash in Hamilton next weekend.

In a another quirk of the competition draw‚ whoever wins that quarterfinal is likely to travel to Christchurch to face the Crusaders, who will probably meet either the Rebels or Sharks in their quarterfinal.