SR playoff picture: Bulls in trouble
Cape Town - For most of the season the playoff race in the South African Group of Super Rugby has been tight.
But results this weekend have made that picture a lot clearer, and we can now start looking ahead to the playoffs with a much better understanding of what to expect.
The Stormers and the Lions stretched their leads at the top of their respective Conferences significantly with wins over the weekend, while the Bulls and Sharks fell further behind in their endeavors to finish top of their Conferences.
The Bulls, who were out-muscled by the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, are now a mammoth 9 points behind the Stormers in Africa Conference 1 with two rounds of fixtures remaining.
The Sharks, meanwhile, fell 12 points behind the Lions in Africa Conference 2 when they were battered by Johan Ackermann's men in Johannesburg.
It means that the Lions have secured top spot in that Conference and a home quarter-final.
The Stormers need just two more points do the same in their Conference and with fixtures against the Force and Kings remaining for them, that is all but certain already.
So, there will be Super Rugby quarter-finals in Johannesburg and Cape Town this year while the Sharks and Bulls will battle it out for the third and final playoff spot in the SA Group.
At this stage, it is the Durbanites who are in pole position.
Gary Gold's men sit on 35 points while the Bulls are on 32.
Both sides have fixtures against the Cheetahs and Sunwolves remaining.
If the Sharks win their last two fixtures - both are in Durban - then they will book their spot in the knockouts.
The Cheetahs await this weekend and then the Sharks host the Sunwolves on the final weekend, while the Bulls host the Sunwolves this weekend and then travel to Bloemfontein to take on the Cheetahs in the last round.
It is looking increasingly like the Bulls are set to miss out.
After the Sharks were thumped by the Lions, the Bulls could have moved ahead of them with a win over the Jaguares.
But it was not to be, and now the only hope for Nollis Marais and his charges is that the Cheetahs pull off something special in Durban.
If that doesn't happen, then it could be curtains for he men in blue.
Africa Conference 1:
1. Stormers (P13, Pts 41)
2. Bulls (P13, Pts 32)
Africa Conference 2
1. Lions (P13, Pts 47)
2. Sharks (P13, Pts 35)