Best of the Weekend: Stormers clinch top spot in SA
With just one round of the Super Rugby season remaining, the Stormers confirmed their place at the top of the South African conference, but couldn’t quite catch the Chiefs overall.
Stormers home but not dry
The Stormers’ 13-6 victory over the Cheetahs in horrendous conditions was enough to clinch first position in the South African conference with 62 points. The Bulls are now too far behind on 54 points to catch them, having lost to the Sharks in Durban.
The wet and cold at Free State Stadium was not conducive to running rugby, and the Stormers did not manage to score the bonus-point tries that would have taken them ahead of the Chiefs on the overall table, and so they remain in 2nd place.
However, the Cape Town side has a home tie with the erratic Rebels next weekend, whilst the Chiefs face a tough test away at the Hurricanes, and they’ll be hopeful of finishing top to secure a home semi-final and home final.
Sharks defeat Bulls to keep playoff hopes alive
This was a must-win fixture for the Sharks to maintain a mathematical possibility of qualifying for the knockout stages, and the Sharks’ victory puts the two teams level on the log with 54 points.
Both teams face relatively benign fixtures next week, with the Sharks at home to the Cheetahs and the Bulls hosting the Lions and bonus-point wins would see both teams qualify for the knockout stages.
The performances by South African teams over the season means that they deserve to be represented by three teams in the final stages of the season, whilst two New Zealand teams and one Aussie team make up the other places.
Calculators come out for final round permutations
The 15-team Super Rugby format is not simple, but let me try to explain. Six teams qualify for the playoffs, with the top two earning a bye to a home semi-final, whilst the four teams in 3rd to 6th battle it out for the other two semi-final places.
The teams that win each of the three conferences qualify regardless of their total number of log points. The other three places go to the teams with the highest number of log points, regardless of which conference they play in.
As things stand, the Stormers and Chiefs are guaranteed to win their respective conferences, and it’s likely they’ll be the top two teams overall.
The Brumbies are currently leading the Australian conference, and will qualify unless they fail to pick up a point at home to the Blues and the Reds win with a bonus point over the Waratahs.
The Crusaders, Bulls, Sharks, Reds and Hurricanes are all battling for the other three places, and there will be an extra edge to next week’s fixtures – the table to the right shows how the top 8 teams stand.
A tribute to Ben Coles
As of last week, Ben has left his role as The Rugby Blog’s editor, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his efforts over the last couple of years.
Ben has taken the site to new heights, with more content, analysis and debate than ever before, and he will be sorely missed. We hope that he’ll continue to contribute on a less regular basis, but I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing him all the best as he moves onwards and upwards in the world of sports journalism.
The site will be a little quieter over the next few weeks with not too much going on, but then we’ll be back with a bang after the Olympics with a new editor and all the usual articles and features.