United Rugby Championship

Stormers in home quarters catbird seat after Sharks blow it in Belfast, Bulls lurking

Sean Everitt. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Sean Everitt. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
  • The Sharks' loss to Ulster in Belfast has opened the door for a handful of teams to still grab the three home quarter-final slots behind URC log leaders Leinster.
  • The Stormers, who face Scarlets, are in a prime position to get a home playoff if they win on Saturday, so too do Munster.
  • Sharks coach Sean Everitt was bitterly disappointed with the defeat, which took their fate out of their hands.

The Sharks' loss to Ulster in Belfast has opened the door for a handful of teams to still grab the three home quarter-final slots behind United Rugby Champions (URC) log leaders Leinster.

The men from Durban clung onto fourth by virtue of their losing bonus point in the 24-21 defeat but were leapfrogged by Ulster (2nd) and the Bulls (3rd).

However, two more teams could have a say in the final standings on Saturday: the Stormers (6th), who face Scarlets at the Parc y Scarlets and Munster (5th), who clash with Leinster.

VIEW LOG | United Rugby Championship

Both Munster and the Stormers are on 56 points and could get to 61 points with winning bonus points or 60 with normal victories and go above Ulster and the Bulls.

It means that the Sharks, despite coming into the final round as the leading SA Shield team, could drop as far as sixth from third before the matches started. The Bulls could also drop out top four should the Stormers and Munster win.

Teams that can't be separated on log points will go to matches won, then points difference, before tries scored and then points scored become the deciding factor.

By losing on Friday night, the Sharks have left themselves vulnerable to facing one of the strong Irish sides, Ulster or Munster in Europe, in the quarter-finals, where South African teams have been on the rough end of refereeing decisions.

"We're very disappointed with the loss," said Sharks head coach Sean Everitt. "The boys prepared really well for the game, and there was a lot of energy on the field.

"They played their hearts out, left nothing out there, and the way they fought back at the end justifies this view.

"The first half wasn't the great start for us. Maybe defensively, we weren't sharp enough at times, so we allowed them to get over the line on two occasions for tries that they didn't really have to work for.

"In saying that, we had our opportunities, played some good rugby, and put ourselves in a good field position, but we lost the breakdown battle.

"Ulster put a lot of pressure on us at the breakdown and defended really well.

"Credit must go to our bench, who came on and made a huge impact, and that's exactly what we needed.

"Ulster are a big and physical team, which is what we expected and we needed our full complement to get over the line.

"But we learnt big lessons."

AS IT HAPPENED | Ulster vs Sharks


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