The Stormers scored a monumental win over the Chiefs while the Bulls suffered a potentially season-wrecking loss to the Sunwolves in round seven of the Super Rugby tournament, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Stormers will be thrilled with the results in Cape Town and Tokyo. They are now 17 log points clear of the next best side in the Africa 1 conference (the Cheetahs). They must be favourites to win their conference and finish in the top two in the South African group.
The result at Newlands has boosted the Stormers to the top of the South African pile. The Lions did not play in round seven, and are three log points behind the Stormers. Both of these teams have played six games.
The next clash at Newlands should reveal how strong the Stormers are in relation to the Lions. The Stormers will be buzzing after their four-try performance against the Chiefs. The Lions were the best South African side in 2016, and collected four Kiwi scalps en route to the final.
The Stormers need to maintain the momentum ahead of their three-game tour to New Zealand. Indeed, a win against the Lions would ease the pressure ahead of difficult encounters against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes.
At the moment, it appears as if the Sharks and Jaguares will contest for the third qualifying position in the South African group. The Sharks beat the Jaguares in Durban to finish round seven in this qualifying position.
The Jaguares are only three log points behind the Sharks, though, and have a game in hand. They may overtake the Sharks (who have a bye) in round eight when they play a battling Bulls side in Pretoria. The Argentinians will face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein thereafter.
The Bulls have lost five from six in 2017. They trail the Stormers by 20 log points in the Africa 1 conference, and are 16 points behind the Sharks (in the third qualifying spot) on the South African group log.
The Cheetahs are unlikely to improve their situation when they face the Chiefs. Dave Rennie's side will be keen to prove a point after losing to the Stormers in Cape Town.
The Kings went down to the Force on Sunday. While they scored six tries in that fixture, they may enjoy less attacking success in their upcoming tour matches against the Reds and Waratahs. Both of those Aussie teams desperately need to win to keep their playoff chances alive.
The Stormers and the Crusaders are the only unbeaten teams in the tournament after seven rounds. The Crusaders should add a seventh-straight win to their tally when they host the Sunwolves in round eight.
Interestingly, all four New Zealand teams in qualifying positions boast more log points than the best Australian side (the Brumbies). The Blues (the fifth-placed New Zealand team) have matched the Brumbies for wins (three) and log points (16) to date.
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