Cape Town - Sport24's Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Week 16 of the 2019 Super Rugby competition:
1. Bulls show heart in Auckland
The Bulls escaped with a 22-all draw in their match against the Blues at Eden Park after the home side's flyhalf Harry Plummer missed a last-gasp penalty from close to the touchline.
The draw didn't help the Bulls greatly in their overall cause in the South African Conference - they’re currently seven points behind the log-leading Jaguares in third position - but the men from Pretoria will take heart for emerging with two points from a game in which they trailed for large parts.
For me, right winger and try-scorer Cornal Hendricks was a standout and his star continues to shine after a comeback from a heart ailment.
2. Jaguares title contenders?
The Jaguares' 34-23 win over the Reds was their third overseas win on the trot. The result also helped them end the weekend with a six point lead over the Lions atop the SA Conference.
They now have two matches at home - against the inconsistent Sharks and hapless Sunwolves - and are clear favourites to top the conference and claim second spot on the overall log.
It is certainly not unconceivable to pronounce the Jaguares as title contenders. They'll be tough to beat at home in a playoff and, who knows, may even threaten the Crusaders away.
Recent Crusaders performances have exposed a few cracks in the defending champions' armour, with draws against the Sharks, Stormers and this past weekend's 40-27 loss to the Chiefs in Fiji proving that the men from Christchurch are perhaps not as invincible as many have believed.
3. Sharks go down in ill-tempered affair
The Sharks' inconsistent season continued when they were beaten 30-17 by the Hurricanes at Kings Park on Saturday.
Quite alarmingly, five of the Sharks' seven losses this season have come at home.
Kings Park is clearly not a fortress in 2019 for the Sharks and Saturday's match was also an ill-tempered affair.
In studio SuperSport pundit Nick Mallett summed it up well when he said rival captains and scrumhalves TJ Perenara and Louis Schreuder set "a bad example through constant chirping."
The match also ended badly with Vaea Fifita red carded five minutes from time for a late, dangerous tackle on rival loose forward Daniel du Preez, while there was also a mini-brawl as the match drew to a close.
The Sharks were matched physically by the Hurricanes and once that happens you can bet money on a defeat for the Durbanites...
4. Kwagga steals the show at Ellis Park
Lions flank Kwagga Smith scored two tries in an all-round excellent performance as his side downed the Stormers 41-22.
The former Blitzboks star was omnipresent at Ellis Park on Saturday night and would surely have caught the eye of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus.
Statistics derived from the match indicate that Smith made 71m on attack, 11 carries, beat four defenders, completed 12 tackles and made three turnovers.
5. Stormers woes mount
The Stormers' poor away form continued after their comprehensive loss to the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Capetonians gave their fans some hope with a draw against the Crusaders and a victory over the Highlanders at Newlands in recent weeks, but looked a different team away from home on Saturday.
The Stormers remain rooted to the bottom of the SA Conference, and while they still have an outside chance of sneaking into the playoffs, it's hard to envision them winning in the road in case they get that far.
To make matter worse, they're set to be without another star player after lock Eben Etzebeth broke his hand in the defeat to the Lions.
The Stormers will also be without inspirational skipper Siya Kolisi for the remainder of the tournament, and are sweating on injuries to a host of other key players, including Pieter-Steph du Toit, Cobus Wiese and Kobus van Dyk.
Their race is run for 2019.