The winners of the derby in Johannesburg this Saturday will strengthen their bid for a place in the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Jaguares remain on course for the South African conference title, and more importantly, a home playoff. The Argentinian side beat the Waratahs last Saturday and are expected to beat the Reds in Brisbane. Thereafter, they should win the remaining two fixtures in Buenos Aires.
The Vodacom Bulls blew a golden opportunity in Canberra last Friday. Not much will be expected of them when they travel to the Blues and Highlanders in the coming weeks, and they may – as suggested by former Bok coach Nick Mallett – end the season near the bottom of the South African standings.
The Sharks beat the Lions in Durban last Saturday to claim four much-needed log points. With three rounds to play, Rob du Preez’s side are three points behind the Jaguares and have a realistic chance of topping the local division.
Can the Sharks beat the Hurricanes this Saturday? John Plumtree – a former Sharks mentor who is now coaching the Hurricanes – will be gearing his side up for a big performance at Kings Park. The Hurricanes need a couple more wins to clinch a home playoff.
Two South African losses in Auckland and Durban will suit the Lions as well as the Stormers, who are at fourth and fifth respectively in the local conference.
If the Bulls and Sharks lose their respective fixtures by eight points or more, the winners of the derby in Johannesburg will move up to second place in the South African standings – and into a wildcard place. The Stormers would be well placed to qualify thereafter.
The Cape franchise will host the Sunwolves in round 17 and the Sharks thereafter. Two or three wins from their remaining matches may propel them into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
The Lions have featured in the last three Super Rugby finals. There’s a chance, however, that they will miss out on the 2019 playoffs completely.
A win against the Stormers will increase the likelihood of the Lions qualifying for the knockouts. They will host the Hurricanes in round 17 before travelling to Loftus Versfeld to battle the Bulls in their last regular-season game.
Given the number of upsets we’ve witnessed over the past season, it might not surprise many to see the Jaguares losing to the Reds and the Sharks beating the Hurricanes this weekend.
These results would boost the Sharks to the top of the South African log, and instil a sense of confidence ahead of a potential conference decider in Buenos Aires next week.
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