SA teams to use next three weeks to prepare for Super Rugby play-offs
With the Springboks seemingly on track after a 3-0 series whitewash over France‚ the unfinished business of Super Rugby comes back into focus this week with only pride to play for.
The Lions and Stormers will have home quarterfinals and the Sharks will travel to face the top NZ team. For those franchises the next three weeks will be about honing their games with an eye to the play-offs – results won’t change the play-off picture. The Lions‚ currently on 54 points‚ can reach a maximum of 64 log points.
That could be enough to secure the most log points across all conferences if the Crusaders (currently on 63 points) lose their final match against the Hurricanes without securing a bonus point.
The prize for either the Lions or Crusaders for finishing with the most points is a home final‚ if they progress that far. The Lions still have matches against the Sunwolves (home) and the Sharks (away) to come.
They should secure maximum points against the Japanese side at Ellis Park‚ but taking away five log points from King’s Park is not guaranteed. At the very least though‚ the Lions will have a home semi-final if they come through their first play off match. The Stormers‚ on 30 points‚ are home and dry because they already have seven wins.
The Bulls‚ on 15 points‚ could in theory reach 30 log points and draw level with the Stormers but can only win a maximum of six matches (they have only won three games this year.) Matches won and lost is the first tie-breaker in separating teams so regardless of the Stormers’ results in their final matches against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this week‚ the Sunwolves at Newlands‚ or at the Bulls in the final round‚ they will top Africa 1. Bok coach Allister Coetzee though still challenged the SA teams and players in his Test squad to continue to strive for excellence.
He said players in the 31-man Bok squad could only play themselves out of the Test team in the coming weeks of Super Rugby‚ while he also noted that an overall Super Rugby win by one of the SA teams would be a boost for the national side. “Last Thursday we had our top doctor (psychologist) working with us knowing we are going our different ways again and will be playing Super Rugby against one another over the next few weeks‚” said Coetzee. “I am sure we will tackle and smoke each other in the derbies‚ but there is something about this team and how much the players enjoy being together.
"I have told them that there are 31 players in the squad and they can play themselves out of the squad. No one’s place is assured. “I am so proud of the fact that we can send the players back to the provinces fitter than they were. We have worked so hard and there have hardly been any injuries.
"That is great because I would really like to see us go to the final and win the competition this year. That would be great for our confidence going into the Rugby Championship.” The Stormers will have a home quarterfinal and will meet a New Zealand team – one of the Hurricanes‚ Chiefs or Highlanders.
They have lost three of their five matches to NZ opposition but they are the only team in the tournament to beat NZ teams this year with victories over the Chiefs and Blues at Newlands.