Super 14 Rugby

Stormers & Sharks boosted by Blues win

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South Africa’s Super 14 semifinal hopes were significantly boosted on Friday when the Hurricanes were upstaged by the Blues in the first of this weekend’s final round of Super 14 league matches.


The Hurricanes’ 19-17 defeat in Friday’s clash means that both the Stormers and the Sharks have a realistic chance of securing a semifinal place, even though the Hurricanes picked up a bonus point for losing by less than seven points.


The victory propels the Blues into third slot on the latest log, but like the Hurricanes, they will have to wait until the final match (Sharks versus Chiefs) of the weekend to know their fate.


After the New Zealand derby on Friday the leading log positions are as follows: 1 Crusaders (52 points), 2 Hurricanes (41), 3 Blues (40), 4 Waratahs (39), 5 Stormers (37), 6 Sharks (37), 7 Chiefs (34).


The situation could have been slightly different if the Blues had had better luck against the Hurricanes.


Three times in the second half the NZ referee Bryce Lawrence had to call on the television match official to make calls on Blues tries, and each time the tries were disallowed.


Had at least two of the three tries been awarded the Blues would have bagged a bonus point, and the Hurricanes would not have picked the bonus point, for losing by seven or less points.


If the Stormers and the Sharks record wins on Saturday, with or without a bonus point, they could rely on a superior points difference to edge out both the Hurricanes and the Blues in the play-off zone.


However, if both Stormers and Sharks collect bonus points wins they will finish in the top four. Friday’s other clash, an all-Australian affair between the Western Force and the Brumbies in Perth, will not have a bearing on the jostle for semifinals places.


However, the next match of great significance to SA Super 14 hopes will be Saturday’s Reds versus Waratahs fixture in Brisbane.


There South African sides will be wishing for a Reds victory and if that materializes the scramble for semifinals places will be blown wide open.


At best, it could raise realistic hopes of one SA team securing a home semifinal, or even a Stormers – Sharks semifinal in South Africa.


Should the Waratahs win, the SA sides could be challenging for the remaining two semifinal berths but whatever the outcome the two local sides will at least have the benefit of a clearer picture by the time the match ends at about 13:100 on Saturday.


If the Waratahs lose, they be joining the list of teams alongside the Blues and Hurricanes who no longer have a say in their 2008 Super 14 destiny. They’ll be glued to their TV sets for the later Stormers and Sharks fixtures, making for a most intriguing end to the final round of league matches.


Log-leaders Crusaders have already secured a home semifinal berth.

 

And until the Reds-Waratahs affair plays itself out there is still a huge air of uncertainty in the Stormers camp ahead of their fixture against the Lions (kick-off 15:00) in Johannesburg on Saturday.

“This week, we might have a contiki (a social get-together) after the game for the final time this season,” said Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus, which will be the worst case scenario for the Cape side in the event they suffer an unlikely defeat at Ellis Park.


“We might be on a plane the next day to play a match in Sydney (Waratahs).Or we might go to Christchurch (Crusaders), or we might even fly to Wellington (Hurricanes).


“There’s also a chance that we might fly back home to play a semifinal at Newlands. Then there’s also the possibility that we might fly to Durban. There are just too many permutations at this stage.”


In the mind-boggling exercise of trying to fathom all the possibilities, Erasmus forget to mention that Auckland (Blues) and Hamilton (Chiefs) were also likely destinations.


“There are all the logistical problems and stuff that’s around because we have to be ready for ready for several possibilities,” said Erasmus. “It’s very trying as one’s attention is focused on preparing for the match.


Stuff like that makes you think. “I’m trying to put our energy into the facets we need to get right to win us the game. “We just have to try and beat the Lions. It’s gonna be a tough challenge playing over there at high altitude.


“We’re obviously going to try and score four tries, that’s our purpose at the end of the day. “But the first challenge is to try and beat them.”


Sapa – Super14.com

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