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NZ conference does down to the wire

NZN 15/07/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

New Zealand's four teams still in Super Rugby contention aren't wasting time with calculators or crystal balls entering the final round of matches.

The Chiefs, Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders are all guaranteed quarter-final berths but won't know where they are or who they play until the round concludes in Buenos Aires on Sunday morning (NZT).

The result between the competition-leading Lions and the Jaguares will complete the play-off picture.

Only the New Zealand conference winners will host a home quarter-final, which is what the teams will effectively play for in two intriguing derbies on Saturday night.

The conference-leading Chiefs are in the box seat, playing the third-ranked Highlanders in Dunedin shortly after the second-placed Crusaders meet the Hurricanes in Christchurch.

A win over the defending champions will guarantee the Chiefs top spot. Any other result and it's a dogfight, with the three points separating the four teams who have all enjoyed excellent campaigns.

The Hurricanes need the most to go their way and captain Dane Coles says his team won't fear travel - whether to South Africa, Australia or elsewhere in New Zealand.

Teams forced to travel in the play-offs, particularly the long haul between New Zealand and South Africa, have struggled in the competition's first 20 years.

"If we have to come to that, we'll just deal with it," Coles said.

"Things are there to be broken and whatever happens, happens. We'd rather not travel but that's just the way it is."

Coach Chris Boyd says playing first up on Saturday is a disadvantage for them and the Crusaders but says the tight nature of the ladder is good news for fans wanting a bright spectacle.

"Both sides will probably be looking to secure a bonus point. I would imagine it will be a pretty enterprising sort of game."

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