It’s do or die for the Stormers, Vodacom Bulls and Sharks this week as the countdown to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoffs gets into the single digits.
Crucially for South Africa’s title hopes, the second-placed Stormers host Edinburgh while four plays five when the Vodacom Bulls and Sharks do battle at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
In the other two quarter-finals, log-leaders Leinster – who were beaten by La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup final on Saturday – take on Glasgow Warriors, and Ulster host Munster on Friday in an all-Ireland playoff.
In a pulsating final round of league matches, the Stormers clinched second place with a Ruhan Nel bonus-point try in the dying seconds of a 26-21 win over Scarlets in Llanelli. The Stormers’ victory secured them the South African Shield.
Cornal Hendricks scored a second-half hat-trick to help steer the Bulls to a superb 38-31 victory over Ospreys for a valuable win in Swansea to leap into fourth position on the table, overtaking the Sharks after the Durbanites were beaten 24-21 by Ulster in Belfast.
The Sharks scored 21 points to 14 by Ulster in the second half, compliments of three converted tries, but their efforts were too little, too late in the crucial encounter, and they only managed to walk away with a losing bonus point.
Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok finished the league phase of the competition as the top points-scorer with 148, followed by SA-born Rhyno Smith of Benetton (142), Sharks playmaker Curwin Bosch (126), Bulls No 10 Chris Smith (123) and Lions pivot Jordan Hendrikse (117).
The top three try-scorers are all from SA teams – Leolin Zas of the Stormers tops the list on 11, while his teammate Seabelo Senatla and Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee scored nine each.
Ulster vs Munster
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast (8:35pm)
Bulls vs Sharks
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria (1:45pm)
Leinster vs Glasgow Warriors
RDS Arena, Dublin (4:15pm)
Stormers vs Edinburgh
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town (7pm)