The Lions secured a ninth successive win of the season, while the Stormers and Sharks bounced back to clinch much-needed victories in round 13 of Super Rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Lions’ hopes of catching the runaway Crusaders remain alive and well. In recent weeks, the Saders have highlighted their class in overcoming top New Zealand opposition in the form of the Hurricanes and Chiefs.
It means the Crusaders continue to lead the way in terms of the overall points tally, but the Lions continue to snap at the heels of the seven-time champs.
On Saturday night, the Lions ensured it was a case of mission accomplished as they effectively wrapped up a bonus-point win over the Bulls before the break (after establishing an unassailable 39-14 lead), and comfortably collected the full five log points from there.
It means just three points separate the Lions and Crusaders as the battle to win the rights to potentially host a final continues to hot up.
Both teams should collect bonus-point wins win next weekend as they come up against the Kings and Rebels respectively, but the Saders then need to negotiate a tricky fixture against the Highlanders before the June international break.
This past weekend was also a good one for the Sharks, and although they certainly didn’t have it all their own way against the Sunwolves in Singapore, the Durban-based side finished emphatically to secure a crucial bonus-point win.
The Sharks have been comfortably holding down a qualifying berth in the Africa 2 conference, but with the Jaguares having a bye this past weekend, the South African side has opened up a handy 14-point advantage over the Argentinians.
In the Africa 1 conference, no one can catch the Stormers. Friday night’s crucial win over the Blues – coupled with the Bulls’ heavy loss to the Lions – now sees the Cape-based side boasting a 15-point advantage in their group.
Having said that, Friday’s win was a lot more about ending a four-match losing streak and rediscovering some form, which the Stormers managed to achieve in a committed second-half performance.
For the Kings, an impressive three-match winning run came to a disappointing end on Saturday night as the Brumbies displayed superior composure and class to battle back for a 19-10 win.
Meanwhile, a nightmare season for the Cheetahs went from bad to worse as they slumped to a 61-7 defeat against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images