Play-off chase: Beware a draw and conceding bonus points

Play-off chase: Beware a draw and conceding bonus points

After a last weekend where the first five matches included only two where the results could have an influence on the quarterfinals, the four South Africa franchises will ensure a huge climax to the regular Super Rugby season.

The Stormers and Sharks play the penultimate match at Newlands and the Bulls and Lions bring down the Super Rugby curtain as far as the regular matches go - and the last quarterfinalists could well be determined in the final minutes of the season.

The two winners should progress to the play-offs, and perhaps even the loser at Loftus although there is, of course, also the possibility of a draw and bonus points that can certainly play a part.

Stormers vs Sharks

At 15:05 the Stormers and Sharks are in a winner takes-all match. The winner will go through, the loser probably not.

The Stormers, unbeaten at home this season, are favourites despite their recent spate of injuries. There is also uncertainty, and reportedly unhappiness because of team selections, in the Sharks camp, and they too had to change their team due to injuries. The Sharks have also lost their last two matches.

It won’t be easy, but the Stormers should win a very close match and make it to the quarterfinals.

Bulls vs Lions

The Jukskei derby is the last match in the regular season.

The Bulls have Springboks Duane Vermeulen and Warrick Gelant as well as Blitzbok Roskoe Specman back from injury but have lost Schalk Brits and Jason Jenkins.

The Lions have their share of injuries with Kwagga Smith the most serious loss in recent weeks – and they have gambled with Elton Jantjies at inside centre.

There has been something missing in the Lions mix all season, and one must back the Bulls – currently fifth on the combined standings and the leading SA side – to win this match, perhaps by more than one score.

Australasia and Argentina

The Highlanders on Friday emphatically did all they still could to keep their outside chance of a play-off place alive when they beat the Waratahs 49-12 in Dunedin. They now have to wait to see what their position is, hoping that many permutations in the Saturday derbies in South Africa go their way.

The Waratahs were out of play-off contention before the kick-off.

♦ The Chiefs thrashed the Rebels 59-9, kept their hopes alive and have moved into sixth position ahead of the Lions (currently seventh, with a match in hand) and the Highlanders (eighth) with only point difference separating the two New Zealand sides.

The Jaguares confirmed their second place with another hammering of the Sunwolves, 52-10 on Friday night.

♦ On Saturday morning the Hurricanes, already assured of fourth place and a home match in the play-offs, came from a halftime-deficit of 12-24 to beat the Blues 29-24 in a match where neither side had anything to gain from the result.

The Blues did not win a single game away from home this season.

♦ In the third last match before the season comes to the end of the regular features with the two SA derbies, the Brumbies, already assured of third spot by virtue of their winning the Australian conference, played the Reds in a match that could have no effect on the play-off places.