Super Rugby run home: Updated predictions for the closing rounds

Okay, so we may need to tweak our fearless predictions for the Super Rugby playoffs after a couple of upsets last week.

Firstly, apologies to fans of the Brumbies who we neglected to include last week. We had every confidence you'd beat the Hurricanes, really, we did. We're just not as confident about the ACT side's hopes in Hamilton this weekend.

The Brumbies are included in our updated predictions below, with each of the Round 18 games able to affect the make-up of the final eight in some way.

CRUSADERS: 54 points (first NZ Conference, first overall)

Run home: Highlanders (H), Blues (H)

Nothing has changed from last week, aside from the fact the eight-time champions have enjoyed an extra seven days refining their game plan. The Hurricanes' loss to the Brumbies in Canberra means the Crusaders require just a solitary point from their final two games to claim the No.1 seed for the finals.

Injury news: The Crusaders named their team for the return Southern Derby on Wednesday, including one key addition. That is, of course, All Blacks skipper Kieran Read who made a successful return to action in a Mitre 10 Cup trial last week.

Updated predicted finish: 63 points (No.1 seed)

LIONS: 41 points (first in RSA, second overall)

Run home: Bye, Bulls (H)

The Lions were cruising towards a third consecutive South African Conference title, but defeat away to the Sharks could see them surrender top spot to the Jaguares. The Lions have the bye this weekend and will be hoping the injury-hit Bulls can do them a massive favour and prevent the Jaguares from leaving Pretoria with a win. The Lions haven't been the same clinical attacking team of the last few years, and will probably not get the bonus-point victory they need against the Bulls to finish above the Jaguares in the SA conference.

Key injuries: The Lions have welcomed back captain Warren Whiteley and Malcolm Marx, which will give them a much-needed boost for the playoffs. They also have Cyle Brink, Lionel Mapoe, Ross Cronje and Courtnall Skosan back for the business end of the competition.

Predicted finish: 45 points (No.7 seed)

WARATAHS: 39 points (first in Aus, third overall)

Run home: Sunwolves (H), Brumbies (H)

The Lions' slip up on the road in Durban has opened the door for the Waratahs to claim the No.2 seeding for the finals and potentially back-to-back playoff games in Sydney. That tantalising prospect looked dead and buried with 20 minutes to play in Melbourne last week, only for star Wallabies Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale to step up when it mattered. They should have too much class for an improving Sunwolves side this week, meaning second spot will likely go on the line against the Brumbies a week later.

Injury news: The Waratahs reported a clean bill of health from last week's win over the Rebels, a result which adds to the positive environment in Sydney amid Israel Folau's return from suspension.

Updated predicted finish: 48 points (No.2 seed)

HURRICANES: 45 points (Second in NZ, fourth overall)

Run home: Blues (H), Chiefs (A)

What has happened to the Hurricanes? Last week's 24-12 loss to the Brumbies made it three straight defeats, coach Chris Boyd describing his side's second-half effort as "probably their worst 40 minutes in four years". The chance to finish as the No.1 seed overall all but gone, the Canes now find themselves in a fight to avoid a road trip in the first week of the finals. They have the opportunity to steady at home to the lowly Blues in Round 18, potentially leaving a winner-takes-home-ground showdown against the Chiefs seven days later.

Injury news: Without key All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Vaea Fifita and Ardie Savea, and recent England cap Brad Shields, last week, they should be much better for the Hurricanes ahead of Saturday's visit by the Blues. All bar Savea will return at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, the back-rower still a couple of weeks away.

Updated predicted finish: 54 points (No.4 seed)

CHIEFS: 41 (third in NZ, fifth overall)

Run home: Brumbies (H), Hurricanes (H)

Has there been a better 40 minutes of Super Rugby in the conference era, let alone this season, than what the Chiefs produced in Suva last week? The 42-0 first-half rout was brilliant to watch, the Chiefs' old and new brigades working in perfect harmony. That win kept them in the hunt for a home quarterfinal, even if they let a bonus point slip in the second half. There's every chance they'll net maximum back at home to the Brumbies this week; the Australians simply don't have the attack to stay with the Chiefs. The Chiefs do have one problem though, the fact they still have to rest both Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown for one of their final two regular season games.

Injury news: Brodie Retallick remains the Chiefs' chief concern, the world's premier lock still out with a pectoral injury. Both Charlie Ngatai and Toni Pulu are okay, however, after picking up niggles in Suva.

Updated predicted finish: 46 points (No.5 seed)

HIGHLANDERS: 40 points (fourth in NZ, sixth overall)

Run home: Crusaders (A), Rebels (H)

It took little more than two minutes for Highlanders fans to curse their club's decision to pick up and head for Suva. While it was yet another great event for the people of the Pacific, the result may well have been different, or at least alive at halftime, had they been under the roof in Dunedin. The assignment only gets tougher this week, too, as the Highlanders head north for the return Southern Derby against a red-hot and rested Crusaders. A loss in Christchurch will put paid to their wafer-thin hopes of a home final, potentially putting added pressure on the Highlanders' final home game against the Rebels.

Injury news: The Highlanders have bracketed All Blacks back-rower Liam Squire with Elliot Dixon, with Squire nearing a return from a shoulder injury. The Dunedin-based side are otherwise in good health.

Updated predicted finish: 45 points (No.6 seed)

JAGUARES: 38 points (second in RSA, seventh overall)

Run home: Bulls (A), Sharks (A)

The Jaguares will finish top of the South African conference if they win both their remaining matches against the Bulls and Sharks away in South Africa. The Argentinian side have won seven matches in a row and are riding a nice wave of momentum into the playoffs. They took advantage of the Lions' defeat to the Sharks in Round 17, leaving them the sole masters of their South African conference destiny. All things being equal, they should beat the Bulls in Pretoria this weekend before a massive clash against the Sharks in Durban. They will back themselves to win both games -- and possibly earn a bonus point against the Bulls -- to be right in the hunt for the No.2 seeding.

Injury news: Julian Montoya and Marcos Kremer are fit and have been included in the Jaguares' 28-man squad for their two-week trip to Pretoria and Durban.

Updated predicted finish: 47 points (No.3 seed)

REBELS: 35 points (second in Aus, eighth overall)

Run home: Reds (A), Highlanders (A)

Within striking distance of the Australian conference lead with a quarter to play last Friday, the Rebels now find themselves in a scrap to reach a first ever finals series. Just how costly that closing period against the Waratahs turns out to be remains to be seen, but the Rebels can take a giant step toward the playoffs with a win on the road in Brisbane on Friday. They beat a 14-man Reds way back in Round 1, but the Suncorp Stadium meeting will be a far sterner test despite the Queenslanders missing captain Samu Kerevi. A win over the Reds and defeats for the Sharks and Brumbies in R18 will see the Rebels claim a maiden finals spot.

Injury news: A late withdrawal ahead of the loss to the Waratahs, star Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete returns to the Rebels starting side this week. He is joined by Tetera Faulkner, but the news isn't so good for Adam Coleman who remains sidelined by an adductor injury. As reported last week, Will Genia's Super Rugby season is over.

Predicted finish: 39 points (No.8 seed)

SHARKS: 32 points (third in RSA, ninth overall)

Run home: Stormers (A), Jaguares (H)

The Sharks need a big favour from the Bulls this weekend and hope the hapless Reds can conjure up some sort of miracle to beat the Rebels. The Sharks meet the Jaguares in their final match of the regular season, but will be kicking themselves that their destiny is not in their own hands. The Sharks have played well against New Zealand opposition, but have been inconsistent against South African and Australian outfits. They need a top performance against the Stormers this weekend and hope results go their way in the other matches.

Injury update: The loss of influential flank Jean-Luc du Preez is going to make their task of making the playoffs a lot harder.

Predicted finish: 37 points (ninth)

BRUMBIES: 29 points (third in Aus, 10th overall)

Run home: Chiefs (A), Waratahs (A)

The Brumbies were a mathematical chance of making the playoffs ahead of last week's win over the Hurricanes and the equation largely remains the same as they head off to Hamilton. While they receive a break in the possible resting of Damian McKenzie and/or Anton Lienert-Brown, it's still hard to see them upsetting Colin Cooper's side at Waikato Stadium. A defeat will absolutely put paid to the Brumbies' playoff hopes, leaving them nothing more than agitators of the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday week. Should they jag an upset win in Hamilton, it will very much be game-on, particularly if the Rebels and Sharks fail to win their Round 18 games.

Injury news: Skipper Sam Carter and Wallabies prop Allan Alaalatoa are nearing a return but a final decision on their availability to face the Chiefs will be made on Thursday.

Updated predicted finish: 30 points. (10th)