The next few weeks are going to be crucial to the campaigns of both the Sharks and the Stormers for semi-final places. It’s time for the coastal flag-bearers of SA Rugby to help each other out.
The Sharks need a point against the Brumbies to stay secure in second place. Should they fail in this quest, they could find themselves in fourth come the end of the weekend, with both the Hurricanes and the Waratahs able to overtake them. Both of these sides are currently on 26 and a bonus-point win would elevate them to 31, the same total as the Sharks. The Hurricaness currently have a better points difference, while the Tahs would need to beat the Lions by 30 or more to overtake the Sharks, which is unfortunately a realistic prospect, unless the Lions play a lot better than they have of late.
The Stormers could well find themselves in the top four should they manage to down the Hurricanes, though and the Sharks will be encouraging them every step of the way as they aim to secure a little more breathing space between themselves and the chasing pack. The Brumbies themselves are only three points worse off than the Stormers so, should the worst case scenario come to fruition and both SA teams lose, the Sharks could end up clinging to fourth spot with the Stormers further down in 8th or 9th, with a semi-final all but out of the question.
As much as the Sharks need the Stormers to win this week, the Stormers need the Sharks to beat the Waratahs even more desperately. The Cape side will fancy their chances of a bonus pint win over the Highlanders and assuming they pick up full points this weekend, a Sharks win over the Tahs could see them as high as third place, with three games left to play (of which two will be at home).
Playing into the hands of the Stormers is the fact that two of the teams currently above them, the Chiefs and the Blues are almost certain to drop points in the coming weeks as they face the rampant Crusaders. Should either of these sides pull off a shock win, though, it could play nicely into the Sharks hands and give them just that little extra motivation to claim the Crusaders’ scalp themselves when they meet in a fortnight.
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