Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Round 18 of the 2018 Super Rugby competition:
1. No stopping the Crusaders in 2018
The Crusaders sealed top spot on the Super Rugby ladder when they comfortably beat the Highlanders 45-22 on Friday.
It means the men from Christchurch will have home ground advantage all the way to the final if they make it that far.
And if you’re a betting man I’ll advise you to back the Crusaders - they rarely lose at home and have been a class apart from the chasing pack in 2018.
A ninth Super Rugby crown beckons...
2. Bulls do their neighbours a favour
The Bulls showed some grit when the overturned a 19-0 deficit to defeat the Jaguares 43-34 at Loftus Versfeld.
They also did their trans-Jukskei rivals the Lions a favour as a Jaguares victory would have catapulted the Argentines to top spot in the SA Conference.
The Lions and the Bulls square off in this weekend’s final phase of league action in Johannesburg and a win for the home side will secure top spot in the conference.
The Bulls were under pressure after a poor loss to the Sunwolves the previous week and not many would have backed them to stage a comeback after 20 minutes this past weekend.
However, the Bulls deserve credit for the manner in which they fought back, scoring six tries in the process.
Their rush defence, in particular, proved a thorn in the side of the Jaguares.
3. Rookie flyhalf steps up at Newlands
Flyhalf Josh Stander was a late addition to the Stormers line-up after Jean-Luc du Plessis pulled out injured.
Stander stepped up on his run-on debut with a composed performance as the Stormers shocked the Sharks 27-16 at Newlands.
The 24-year-old, who was recruited from the Bulls in the off-season, impressed with his game management.
Stander’s excellent pass led to the Stormers’ first try, he made some strong hits and kicked well out of hand.
He appears a welcome addition to the Cape side’s flyhalf stocks.
4. Inconsistent Sharks no title contenders
The Sharks’ inconsistency again reared its ugly head at Newlands on Saturday.
The Durbanites went into the game with everything to play for, yet appeared lacklustre against a Stormers outfit already out of playoffs contention.
The ninth-placed Sharks can still sneak into the playoffs if they beat the Jaguares at home - and the Rebels lose to the Highlanders in Dunedin - but don’t expect the Sharks to go much further as a clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch may lie in wait...
5. Stormers fans deserve more
There was a decent crowd at Newlands for the Stormers’ final game of the season.
It was a crowd they hardly deserved following a disastrous season which saw them fail to win away from home.
The Stormers produced a performance one would have expected of a team attempting to reach the knockout phases.
This win - and their home success over the Bulls earlier in the season - were about the only two shining lights in a gloomy season that saw the Stormers win only six of 16 games.
It may also have been the last Super Rugby game to be played at Newlands, and while the send-off was fitting from a Stormers perspective, it should not take attention away from another mediocre season.