It looks extremely likely that the two respective winners in South Africa and Europe, and therefore finalists for the Rainbow Cup competition, will only be determined in the last weekend of the competition on 11 and 12 June.
There have been outstanding and also moments of very average rugby played in the four European countries and South Africa, but the competition has been worthwhile and intriguing with all 16 competing sides taking the challenge seriously.
It is of course possible that both this weekend’s penultimate rounds of the Rainbow Cup could provide the finalists, but seems unlikely
In South Africa, the race is still very much on with three sides in line to make the final after four of the six rounds have been played by the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions.
In Europe, the surprise leader is Benetton. They beat Connacht 20-12 on Saturday to remain unbeaten and have a single match, away to the Ospreys, on June 12 to secure their place in the final.
However, they are still involved in a five-way race for the European title and a chance to face the South African winner in the final on 19 June at Treviso, Benetton’s home ground, that has been selected for the final.
Benetton’s only certain way of qualifying for he final is to beat co-contender for the titles, Ospreys, in their last match at the ospreys at Brewery Field on June 12.
Some of the possibilities in the European competition, with some sides still having to play four and others two matches, are the following:
- Benetton (18 log points after four matches) can still be overtaken by Munster (15 points after four matches), who have a rather easy remaining match at home against Zebre
- Glasgow Warriors, who play away against Leinster this weekend, can still reach 20 log points, with the Irish side also still in the running
- The Ospreys, who are eight points behind Benetton but with two matches left to play, are also still very much in the race.
- Leinster, with two matches to play, are nine points behind Benetton, and need bonus point wins against Glasgow and lowly Dragons and also an away loss by Benetton on 11 June against the Ospreys.
But that could put the Ospreys out of Leinster’s reach should the Welsh side beat Benetton!
South African posibilities
In South Africa matters are equally interesting.
The surprise and deserved win by the Lions over the Bulls last weekend has thrown the competition wide open.
- The Bulls could do it with a single win. They have 15 log points and a points difference of 52 that could well come into play, compared to those of the Stormers and the Sharks, 11 log points each with the Stormers’ points difference minus two and that of the Sharks minus 26.
- On Friday night the Bulls are at home at Loftus, where they ‘ve won their last 12 matches under coach Jake White.
They have the most difficult run-in in the competition, having to play the two sides that are hot on their heels, the Stormers (at Loftus) and the Sharks (at Kings Park).
- The Sharks and the Stormers, in turn, both also have the Lions to contend with.
- They are favourites (but not certainties) to bag the log points against the Lions, although a slip-up for these two title chasers cannot be ruled out,
The Lions, after all, lost in the last seconds by a mere two points to the Stormers in Cape Town in the first round.
However, even should the Bulls beat the Stormers, they won’t be home and dry yet unless the Lions, threatening foin the last few rounds, spring a surprise against the Sharks at Ellis Park this weekend.
And the reality is that the Bulls could be upset in Durban, where the Sharks will have their plans of vengeance after their Loftus drubbing of 49-3 three weeks ago.
So, there is a range of the possibilities with only the Lions highly improbable chance to be discarded.
Rainbow Cup Europe
Connacht Rugby vs Ospreys at The Sportsground
Glasgow Warriors vs Leinster Rugby at Scotstoun Stadium
Edinburgh Rugby vs Ulster Rugby at BT Murrayfield Stadium
Cardiff Blues vs Zebre Rugby at Cardiff Arms Park
Zebre Rugby vs Munster Rugby at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Leinster Rugby vs Dragons at RDS
Ospreys vs Benetton Rugby at Brewery Field
Scarlets vs Edinburgh Rugby at Parc Y Scarlets
Rainbow Cup SA
Bulls vs Stormers at Loftus
Lions v Sharks
Stormers v Lions
Sharks v Bulls