This is for Ice, mostly… let’s look at exactly the sequence of events that will need to unfold this weekend to allow the Sharks to sneak into the semis via the back door.
We will start the weekend in 6th position, on 36 points. That’s ahead of the Waratahs on points difference – ours is 44 to their 24.
The first game is the Chiefs (2nd on 41 points) against the Brumbies (5th on 37 points). The result in this game absolutely has to go to the Chiefs – it doesn’t really matter by how much or how many tries either team scores. So long as the Brumbies end up with at most two points from this game, a non-bonus point victory over the Bulls will see us able to pass them. Since their points difference is only 9, even if they draw with the Chiefs and get a bonus point, we will still move ahead of them, assuming we win. So, step one is simple… the Brumbies must not win. Should they win, yet fail to get a bonus point and provided they don’t rack up a huge score (unlikely since they won’t be getting a bonus point) we can still catch them provided we score a fifth point against the Bulls.
Game two is Lions v Tahs and this game holds all sorts of peril for the Sharks, since the Tahs themselves have more-or-less the same permutations at hand as we do. Assuming they beat the Lions, with a bonus point, we will need to score a bonus point victory over the Bulls to keep them at bay. They will need to beat the Lions by 20 points more than our winning margin against the Bulls. It’s a tough ask for them, but the Lions don’t really tackle, so who knows? Ideal result here is a Lions win, but a Tahs victory without a bonus point and by less than 20 will also do just fine.
Blues v Crusaders is the game where we need another massive favour. The permutations for this one are similar to the Brumbies game – we need the Crusaders to get at most 2 points from this game. A bonus-point draw for them will probably see them through ahead of us, since they have a healthy points difference. Let’s just keep things simple here and say that for us to stay alive after game three, the Blues must find a way to win this game.
Hurricanes-Reds is next and it would make our lives a lot easier if the Reds were to win. It’s a nice-to-have and might even see us possibly end 3rd if it does happen, but this result is not one of those that we really need to go our way. Force v Highlanders is also a dead rubber, as neither team can overtake us.
The Bloemfontein derby will be interesting from a Last Man Standing point of view only, with all but one of the remaining punters needing a Cheetahs victory to stay alive. The real decider will, of course, be the Sharks-Bulls match in Durban straight afterwards.
Assuming we’ve had the happy path all along, which is that the Brumbies and Crusaders have lost, while the Tahs haven’t picked up a bonus point or won by more than 20, all we’ll need to do is beat the Bulls to go through fourth. If the Tahs pick up a bonus point, then we will need to also. If the Brumbies win and provided the Chiefs score no bonus points, we’ll need to score a BP win over the Bulls and make sure that we haul in the Chiefs on points difference – there’s is currently 99!
If the Crusaders win, then we’re out of it, no matter what else happens.
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