The Sharks have leapfrogged the Stormers and Bulls in the South African conference standings following their big win over the Highlanders, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Sharks will be the happiest of the South African teams following the results of the past weekend. Robert du Preez’s side scored an impressive 38-12 bonus-point win over the Highlanders on Saturday to move up to third position in the South African standings.
Earlier on Saturday, the Stormers thumped the Bulls 29-17 to strengthen their own position in the standings. The subsequent result in Durban, however, has seen the Stormers dropping down to fourth place – and out of that playoff qualification spot.
The Bulls have finished round 12 at the foot of the South African table.
Nobody paid the Jaguares much notice in the pre-season. Yet here we are, 12 rounds into the tournament, and the Argentinians are at second in the South African conference standings and on track for a first quarter-final appearance.
The Jaguares beat the Chiefs in Rotorua on Friday to record their fourth straight win in Australasia. They are well placed ahead of a bye, and may fancy their chances in subsequent fixtures against the Bulls and Sharks in Buenos Aires.
What’s more, they are not too far off the South African conference leaders. The Lions suffered their second straight loss on tour when they went down 28-19 to the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday. They are seven log points ahead of the second-placed Jaguares at this stage.
Can the Lions bounce back in Dunedin next week? The Highlanders have to fly back to New Zealand, and may not be at their best. That said, they will have something to prove after a poor showing against the Sharks.
The Lions will host the Brumbies in the following round before facing the Stormers away. The Cape side has not lost at Newlands this season.
The Lions could well be overtaken before the June break. Swys de Bruin’s charges need to respond, and quickly, to ensure that they maintain their grip on the top spot.
Of course, the Lions are in a far more comfortable position than most. The Stormers have to beat the Chiefs, the Sunwolves and the Lions in the coming rounds to keep their playoff qualification hopes alive.
The Bulls are coming off losses to the Highlanders and the Stormers. They have to beat the Sharks in Pretoria next week, although going by the Durban-based side’s recent performance, that may be easier said than done.
The Sharks face a tough run into the June break. The trip to Loftus will be followed by a clash at home against the Chiefs. Thereafter, they will travel to Buenos Aires with the aim of claiming four points – at least – and denying the Jaguares a higher position on the log.
At this stage, the Sharks are in third position in the South African conference and in line for a playoff berth. That could all change in the next round, though, if the Stormers beat the Chiefs and the Bulls beat the Sharks at Loftus.
On the other hand, a win for the Sharks at Loftus could see Robert du Preez’s men overtaking the Jaguares and possibly narrowing the gap on the Lions.
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