Lions spoil Sharks’ chances of hosting a quarter-final
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)