Lions limp into semis

The Lions needed a late penalty goal to book their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals, while the Stormers were knocked out by a more accurate Chiefs side at home, writes JON CARDINELLI.

Earlier this week, many people tipped the Hurricanes to thrash the Brumbies in Canberra, the Lions to thump the Sharks in Johannesburg, and the Chiefs to cut the Stormers to shreds in Cape Town. Those quarter-finals didn't go according to script, though, with the Brumbies rattling the Hurricanes in the first half, and the Lions and Chiefs winning their matches by two and six points respectively.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was the scoreline of the New Zealand derby in Christchurch. Despite the wet conditions, the Crusaders still managed to beat the Highlanders 17-0.

The Crusaders will host the Chiefs in another all-New Zealand playoff next week. The Chiefs will face the additional challenge of travelling from Cape Town back to New Zealand over the next few days.

REPORT: Combrinck kick rescues Lions

The Stormers missed a couple of kicks on goal and conceded a try in the 76th minute of the quarter-final against the Chiefs. If not for those errors, Robbie Fleck's side may have been boarding a plane for Christchurch on Sunday.

The Sharks should also be lamenting a narrow loss to the Lions. If Ruan Combrinck had missed that long-range penalty goal in the 78th minute, the Sharks would have progressed to the semi-finals and faced the Hurricanes in Wellington.

That kick may cost the Hurricanes dearly in the long run. Chris Boyd's side will travel to Johannesburg for their semi-final. Victory against the Lions will earn them the right to play one of the Crusaders or Chiefs in a decider in New Zealand.

REPORT: Chiefs knockout Stormers

The Chiefs should be cheering on their New Zealand counterparts this coming weekend. As crazy as it sounds, the Chiefs, who finished lower than the Hurricanes in the standings, may remain in New Zealand for the next two weeks if both semi-final results go their way. But that's the Super Rugby format for you.

The Hurricanes could host the final if they beat the Lions and the Chiefs then down the Crusaders. The Chiefs won't mind playing the Hurricanes in Wellington, though, especially after Boyd's side have made another taxing journey across the Indian Ocean.

The Lions still hold all the cards, despite a poor performance against the Sharks. A win against the Hurricanes in their semi-final will ensure that the decider is played in Johannesburg for the first time.

The Crusaders or Chiefs would be underdogs in that scenario. In the history of the tournament, no side has crossed the Indian Ocean for a Super Rugby final and won.

Of course, the Lions will need to get past the Hurricanes first. Johan Ackermann's side has not faced a New Zealand side in 2017 as yet.

Super Rugby semi-finals:

Crusaders vs Chiefs, Christchurch
Lions vs Hurricanes, Johannesburg

Photo: Anne Laing

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Jon Cardinelli