The Vodacom Bulls booked a place in the top eight in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with the DHL Stormers, while the Sharks did enough to be in pole position to remain in playoff contention after round 17 of the competition.
Unfortunately, the Lions’ hopes of sneaking into the quarter-finals were dashed late in their match at Ellis Park on Saturday, when Leinster fought back to win in a thrilling 39-36 result for the men from Dublin.
The Sharks beat Benetton – the only team that can still pip them to a spot in the top eight – in the first match of the penultimate pool round by 43-33 in Durban on Friday, before the Bulls added to the excitement as they outclassed Zebre Parma 78-12 in Johannesburg.
But the momentum swung against the South African sides as the Lions lost to the Irish giants, while the Stormers managed to score a late try to secure two bonus points as they went down 26-24 against Munster in Cape Town.
These results saw the defending champions, the Stormers, drop to third place on the log – one point behind the second placed Ulster – which means although they hold onto their home quarter-final, they will only know after their final pool match next week if they are still in line for a possible home semi-final.
The victories for the Bulls and Sharks also ensured that they remained in the top eight, with the Pretoria side in seventh place with 48 points, while the Durbanites are one spot down in eighth place with 46 points – five above the ninth-placed Benetton and with a points difference advantage of 83 points.
In other results, Glasgow Warriors edged Scarlets 12-9, Connacht proved too good for Cardiff (38-19), while there were big wins for Ulster and Edinburgh against Dragons (40-19) and Ospreys (45-21), respectively.
Looking ahead to the final round of pool action, Benetton, who need a big win to possibly force their way into the top eight, travel to Stellenbosch to face the Stormers on Friday (6:30pm), followed by another Gauteng double-header on Saturday afternoon when the Lions take on Zebre (1pm) and the Bulls host Leinster at Loftus Versfeld (4pm).
The last local match is in Durban (6:15pm), where the Sharks will know exactly what they need to do against Munster to book their place in the quarter-finals.