The Lions will head into the June break six points ahead of the second-placed Jaguares in the South African conference standings, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Lions edged the Stormers 26-23 at Newlands on Saturday. The result sees them strengthening their position at the top of the South African conference log, and ultimately improving their chances of hosting a playoff.
The Lions sit on 40 log points with two regular season games remaining, against the Sharks (away) and Bulls (home). The Jaguares, following their historic win over the Sharks in Buenos Aires on Friday, have moved up to 34 points.
It’s important to note that the Jaguares have a game in hand. The Argentinians will host the Stormers after the June break, before playing the Bulls and Sharks in South Africa. At the very least, they should do enough to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their history.
The Sharks and Bulls may need a few other results to go their way in order to qualify for the knockout round. At the moment, it appears as if four New Zealand sides – the Crusaders, Hurricanes, Chiefs, and Highlanders – will advance to the knockout stages along with the winner of the Australian conference.
The Rebels have finished round 15 in eighth position on the overall log. If the regular season ended now, the Waratahs as well as the men from Melbourne would advance to the playoffs.
The Sharks will need to win their remaining matches – against the Lions (home), Stormers (away) and Jaguares (home) – to keep their playoff chances alive.
The Bulls failed to claim a single log point in their most recent loss to the Brumbies. They will travel to Asia to tackle the Sunwolves after the June break. More demanding games against the Jaguares (home) and Lions (away) will follow.
The Bulls currently sit at the bottom of the South African conference. They have played one game fewer than the Stormers, though. The Cape side faces a fight to avoid the conference wooden spoon.
Robbie Fleck’s side will play the Jaguares in Argentina before hosting the Sharks at Newlands. The Stormers will have a bye in the final round of the regular season.
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