Jon Cardinelli

Lions peak, Bulls burn

Ross Cronjé breaches the Sharks defence Ross Cronjé breaches the Sharks defence

The Lions finished the regular season at the top of the overall standings, while the Bulls ended their campaign at the bottom of the South African pile, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Lions beat the Sharks 27-10 on Saturday to finish the regular season with 14 wins and 65 log points (two more than the second-placed Crusaders, who also won 14 matches). They will host a quarter-final against the Sharks next week, and possibly a semi-final and final thereafter.

The Hurricanes did the Lions a massive favour when they downed the Crusaders in Wellington earlier on Saturday. The result marked the end of the Crusaders' unbeaten run in the 2017 tournament. It also allowed the Lions to overtake the Crusaders at the top of the log.

Scott Robertson's side will host the Highlanders in Christchurch in the quarter-finals. Following their win over the Crusaders in Wellington, the Hurricanes have ensured a stay in Australasia for at least another week. Chris Boyd's charges will face the Brumbies in Canberra, while the Chiefs will be forced to travel to South Africa over the next few days ahead of their knockout fixture against the Stormers.

It's hard to say whether the Chiefs will be favourites or underdogs in that match. The Stormers beat the Chiefs earlier this season, but lost to the same side in a quarter-final at Newlands last year. The Stormers have never beaten a New Zealand side in a playoff match.

The Brumbies will be playing for more than a semi-final place next week. Australia's franchises have lost a total of 25 matches against Kiwi opposition in 2017, and are yet to register a single win.

The Cheetahs finished their season on a relative high when they beat the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Friday. That result ensured that they finished the conference stage with four wins in 15 matches and more log points than the Bulls.

Nollis Marais' side went down to the Stormers in Pretoria on Saturday to finish their season with a 4-11 record (the Cheetahs obtained the same number of wins but more bonus points over the course of the tournament and thus finished one log point ahead of the Bulls). 

The Kings finished ahead of the Cheetahs and Bulls in the South African group. Two wins for the Jaguares in Australia, however, allowed the Argentinian side to finish ahead of the Kings in the Africa 2 conference. The Eastern Cape side finished fourth in that division.

Super Rugby quarter-finals:

Lions vs Sharks (Johannesburg)
Crusaders vs Highlanders (Christchurch)
Stormers vs Chiefs (Cape Town)
Brumbies vs Hurricanes (Canberra)

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Image

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