It’s all up in the air for Sharks as Super Rugby enters crunch time

2011-06-09 00:00

JUST two rounds of Super Rugby league action remain and the permutations are so many and varied that it is still possible for the Sharks to stumble and miss the play-offs, or if the gods smile benignly on them, overtake the Stormers and top the South African conference.

The second scenario is the most unlikely and the Sharks, on 51 points, would have to beat the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday and then Bulls at Loftus a week later.

The Stormers, in turn, would have to implode, losing to both the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday and then the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and stalling on 57 points.

Even the most optimistic Sharks supporter will not be holding his breath. Indeed, even coach John Plumtree is contemplating the real possibility of his team still having to beat the Bulls at Loftus to stay in the top six and advance to the play-offs.

“We can beat the Lions this weekend and still have to win at Loftus to reach the play-offs,” he said.

This would depend on the Bulls beating the second-placed Stormers at Newlands on Saturday. If the Bulls lose, and the Sharks win at Ellis Park, then the Super Rugby champions will be contesting the sixth spot on the log with the Waratahs.

The Sydney-based franchise have a more comfortable closing fortnight with home games in Sydney against the Highlanders and Brumbies, though on the evidence of the past few weeks nothing can be taken for granted.

If the Bulls win at Newlands, then their Loftus battle with the Sharks a week later could well decide which South African team joins the Stormers in the top six.

Plumtree said that even the top teams are under threat, with the log-leading Reds facing away games to the improving Force and Chiefs.

The Stormers are just a point off the pace and victories over the Bulls and Cheetahs will ensure a home semi-final as one of the top two teams.

The Blues, after three successive losses, are under threat in third place with an away game against the Crusaders and a home meeting with the Highlanders.

The Crusaders, in fourth place but now without captain Richie McCaw, host the Blues and Hurricanes.

“With two rounds to go and 10 points available, the whole thing can change again after this week,” said Plumtree. “If we do our job this weekend, it still depends on how other results go in terms of what needs to be done the following week against the Bulls.”

The Sharks will name their team to meet the Lions today and they are waiting anxiously on the fitness of their influential flank Willem Alberts.

Saturday’s match at Ellis Park kicks off at 4.05 pm.

 

Log positions (remaining games in brackets):

Reds 58 (Force away, Chiefs away)

Stormers 57 (Bulls home, Cheetahs away)

Blues 55 (Crusaders away, Highlanders home)

Crusaders 53 (Blues home, Hurricanes home).

Sharks 51 (Lions away, Bulls away).

Bulls 49 (Stormers away, Sharks home).

Waratahs 47 (Highlanders home, Brumbies home).

Highlanders 45 (Waratahs away, Blues away).

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