Three rounds to go, chaps and the permutations are mind-boggling. One thing’s for sure – with my Sharks hat on (as always) it would be really, really good if the Cheetahs could find some way to roll the Bulls this weekend.
Looking at form right now, you’ve got to say that the Sharks have a pretty awesome look to them. WP are also in pretty good nick, although they didn’t really face credible opposition last weekend. The Bulls and Lions are both rolling on and will be difficult to stop, while right now the Cheetahs seem to be in a bit of a slump and might be in real danger of missing out.
It’s those self-same Cheetahs that I’d fancy another crack at in the semis, if I were the Sharks. Right now, we’re looking like we’re on a collision course with Western Province in the semis and even though I think we have a better all-round team than they do, I’d rather not put that theory to the test if we don’t have to. So, sorry, Province fans, but my master plan involves you guys missing out this year. AGAIN.
The Sharks are virtually gauranteed first spot, provided they get the required bonus points against the Valke (duh) and Griquas (at home in the final round, so also duh) and then manage any sort of win over the Lions. That should see them top the log with 56 or 57 points. The most the Bulls can manage at this stage is 55 and it’s only really the Cheetahs who stand any chance of toppling them at this stage. Home games against Griquas and the hapless Valke are the only other things standing in the way of a top two finish for our favourite cretins in blue. An upset win in Bloem, though, would really knock the Bulls right back into the chasing pack and depending on how other results go, could even see them lose out on second spot altogether.
The big winners, if such a scenario were to eventuate, would be the Lions, although they would then find themselves really needing to topple the Sharks (and score a bonus point) to ensure they hang onto second spot going into the last round. Sanity would suggest that although a win might not be out of the question, a bonus point certainly does seem to be stretching the fabric of reality just a little too far. I guess the smart money at this stage is going to be on the Lions finishing third, but pushing hard and really keen to have another crack at the Bulls at Loftus.
Looking at it from that perspective, then, tomorrow’s game in Bloemfontein really comes down to deciding fourth spot. The Cheetahs are now on 32, whereas Province have 27. Province already know that they need another 15 points to end on 42 if they are to have any hope whatsoever of qualifying and although the only real stumbling-block for them at this stage is a bonus point victory against the Lions in the final round, their destiny is still very much in their hands as far as that score is concerned. So, the challenge for both the Lions and Free State then becomes securing that vital 43rd log point, to keep Province out. The Lions will go some way towards achieving that this week, with a five-point haul against Boland. That leaves them needing a single bonus point from their two games against the Sharks and Province, which really shouldn’t be too tough an ask.
No, whichever way you look at it, it’s the Cheetahs who are most vulnerable at this stage, needing 11 points from a possible 15 to get to 43 and see off Province. With two easy games to come, there real challenge is to ensure that they pick up at least a bonus point tomorrow. A win would open up all sorts of possibilities for them, as they could then realistically look at finishing third.
If I were to put money on it, though, I’d bet as follows:
Bulls to get 5 against Free State, Free State to get nothing
Sharks to get 4 against Lions, Lions to get one
Province to get 4 against Lions, Lions to get one
And five-pointers for the big teams in every other game.
That would see it end up as follows:
1 Sharks 56
2 Bulls 55
3 Lions 43
4 Cheetahs 42
5 WP 41
What do you guys think?Tweet