Super Rugby playoff picture takes shape
Cape Town - Perhaps the most significant development from this past weekend's Super Rugby results was that the Stormers have secured a home quarter-final.
Having collected maximum points on their tour of Australia, which ended with a 22-3 win over the Force on Saturday, coach Robbie Fleck's men ensured that they will finish top of Africa Conference 1 regardless of what happens in this weekend's clash against the Kings in Cape Town.
The Stormers are likely to rest some big names in that match, and they are guaranteed to finish 3rd on the overall log.
That means that they will be hosting a yet-to-be-determined New Zealand side in the quarter-finals.
The Lions, meanwhile, registered maximum points against the Kings in Johannesburg on Friday night to stay on track to finish on top of the overall log.
They remain a point ahead of the Chiefs going into their final group game against the Jaguares in Argentina this weekend.
That is a tricky assignment, but if the Lions register a win they will surely have done enough to ensure home ground advantage throughout the playoffs.
If the Lions win with 5 points then they will guarantee top spot overall, but if they win with 4 points then it mathematically opens the door for the Chiefs to finish top with a bonus-point win at the Highlanders on Saturday.
In order to do that, the Chiefs would have to move ahead of the Lions on points difference, which seems unlikely.
As it stands, the Chiefs have a points difference of +160 while the Lions sit on +198.
So, a win of any kind for the Lions against the Jaguares should be enough to secure top spot overall.
The wildcard playoff slot in the South African Group looks set to be the Sharks after they battled to a 26-10 win over the Cheetahs.
They are now 2 points ahead of the Bulls going into the final weekend, and a win over the Sunwolves in Durban on Saturday would see the Sharks claim 8th spot on the overall log.
The bad news is that a trip to Johannesburg then looks the likeliest result for the Durbanites.
The Sharks have already lost twice to the Lions this season, convincingly on both occasions, and they will be massive underdogs once more should that quarter-final materialise.