Lions spoil Sharks’ chances of host­ing a quar­ter-fi­nal

The Witness - Wheels - - SPORT - JOHN BISHOP

THE Lions’ crush­ing week­end win at Loftus has ef­fec­tively ended the Sharks’ chances of win­ning their con­fer­ence and host­ing a quar­ter-fi­nal play­off.

The Sharks are vy­ing with the Lions for top spot in Africa Con­fer­ence 2, but the 56-20 drub­bing handed out to the Bulls by Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s out­fit on Satur­day has opened up a seven-point gap in the pool.

The Lions are on 42 points fol­lowed by the Sharks (35) with three rounds of league play re­main­ing.

The Storm­ers (36) head Africa Con­fer­ence 1 from the Bulls (32).

The two con­fer­ence win­ners host quar­ter-fi­nal play­offs with the team third on the com­bined African log (cur­rently the Sharks) ad­vanc­ing to a last eight play­off Down Un­der.

The Sharks, if they are to over­take Sharks flanker Kee­gan Daniel goes on the charge dur­ing their Su­per Rugby clash against the South­ern Kings at King’s Park. the Lions and win their con­fer­ence, will have to some­how win at El­lis Park in their next game on July 2.

They will then hope that the ram­pant Lions also stum­ble against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. (The Lions’ third game, at home, should be a dod­dle against the lim­ited Kings).

The Sharks meet the Chee­tahs and the Sun­wolves at King’s Park in their fi­nal two games and their most re­al­is­tic chance of reach­ing the play­offs is to hang on to third place on the com­bined log by stay­ing in front of the team com­ing sec­ond — ei­ther the Storm­ers or Bulls — in the other con­fer­ence.

The Storm­ers have a four-point ad­van­tage and they should win their con­fer­ence, but they do have to travel to Aus­tralia to play the Rebels and Force.

The Bulls’ away games to the Jaguares and Chee­tahs sand­wich a Loftus out­ing against the Sun­wolves.

Form sug­gests that the Lions and the Storm­ers will head their re­spec­tive con­fer­ences with the Bulls prob­a­bly hav­ing to win all three of their re­main­ing games to pip the Sharks on the com­bined log to end as the best run­ners-up and earn the fi­nal play­off spot.

But for the next month the fo­cus will be on Test match rugby — and the break from the heavy diet of con­fus­ing Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion will come as some re­lief to many.

Points po­si­tions and fix­tures for the top four SA teams: African Con­fer­ence 1

Storm­ers (36 points): Rebels (away), Western Force (away), Kings (home). Bulls (32 points) - Jaguares (away), Sun­wolves (home), Chee­tahs (away).

African Con­fer­ence 2

Lions (42 points): Sharks (home), Kings (home), Jaguares (away). Sharks (35 points): Lions (away), Chee­tahs (home), Sun­wolves (home)

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