Super Rugby playoff picture: SA sides scrambling!

    2018-05-28 10:08

    Cape Town - Time is running out for those Super Rugby sides who have not yet managed to get themselves into the playoff mix. 

    There are just a few weeks of action left, and with attention now turning to the Springboks for the whole of June, this is a good time to take stock of where we are. 

    Remember, the three Conference winners qualify for the playoffs while the next five teams on the overall log (positions 4-8) also secure a quarter-final spot. 

    As things stand, the Lions are still clinging onto top spot in the SA Conference, though Argentina's Jaguares are not far behind. 

    For the rest of the South African teams, things are not looking so good. 

    Here, we examine the playoff chances of every team in the South African Conference at this stage of the season. 

    1. Lions (2nd overall)

    Played: 14

    Points: 40

    Remaining fixtures: Sharks (a), Bulls (h)

    While the Lions are not the side they were in 2017, they have done enough to lead the charge in the Conference so far. The Jaguares, though, are not far behind and if the Lions do not secure a home quarter-final, they will be disappointed. They have a tough trip to Durban after the June internationals before finishing their regular season at home to the Bulls. You would expect Swys de Bruin's men to win at least one, if not both of those matches. The Lions will be in the playoffs, but how deep they can go into the competition remains to be seen. 

    2. Jaguares (7th overall)

    Played: 13 

    Points: 34

    Remaining fixtures: Stormers (h), Bulls (a), Sharks (a)

    The Jags have been the surprise package of the tournament so far, and their win over the Sharks on Friday night was their sixth in a row. As things stand, they are in the playoff positions, but they have three matches against South African sides remaining. They host the Stormers after the international break in what they will consider a must-win match before travelling to SA for trips to Loftus and a potentially make-or-break playoff decider against the Sharks in Durban. Where the other South African sides have struggled to find consistency, the Jaguares have and it would be harsh on them if they missed out on the playoffs from here. 

    3. Sharks (9th overall)

    Played: 13

    Points: 28

    Remaining fixtures: Lions (h), Stormers (a), Jaguares (h)

    The Rebels currently occupy 8th on the Combined log and the final playoff spot, two points ahead of the Sharks having played a game less. The Durbanites have been nowhere near consistent enough this season and that is what has hurt them most. Their loss in Argentina this past Friday hurt their chances badly, and they have three tough fixtures remaining. The Sharks are out of chances now and, if they are to secure a spot in the playoffs, they cannot lose again. They must the Lions at home after the international break to get the ball rolling. Defeat there will make qualifying unlikely.

    4. Stormers (10th overall)

    Played: 14

    Points: 25

    Remaining fixtures: Jaguares (a), Sharks (h)

    It's been a woeful season for the Stormers, and their chances of making the playoffs from here are slim, to none. It is still mathematically possible, though. The most the Stormers can finish on is 35 points, and if the Jaguares and Rebels struggle then they could sneak in. It is completely out of their hands, though, and in truth the Stormers have not done enough to deserve a place in the quarter-finals. A trip to Buenos Aires after the international break is up next, and on current form the Jaguares will be expected to win that match in what would be the final nail in a forgettable Stormers season. 

    5. Bulls (11th overall)

    Played: 13

    Points: 24

    Remaining fixtures: Sunwolves (a), Jaguares (h), Lions (a)

    The Bulls have flirted with getting it right this season on a number of occasions but, like the Sharks, consistency has let them down. With one more game in hand than the Stormers, the Bulls can potentially finish on 39 points which would throw them straight into the playoff mix once more. They are also out of time, though, and another loss would make things incredibly difficult for them. A maximum haul of five points away to the Sunwolves is an absolute must after the international break. The playoffs might not happen for the Bulls in 2018, but the plan in Pretoria is a long-term plan. 

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