Sydney – The Stormers clinched the South African conference to join the Chiefs in the Super Rugby finals, with six other teams vying for the remaining four playoff spots after this weekend's penultimate round.
The Stormers ground out a 13-6 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein to seal top spot in the South African league ahead of next weekend's final round of the southern hemisphere provincial championship.
The Chiefs stumbled to a 28-21 loss to the Crusaders in Hamilton but their losing bonus point kept the Kiwis ahead of the Stormers in top spot on the overall standings.
The Brumbies, Crusaders, Bulls, Sharks, defending champions Reds and Hurricanes are vying for the last four playoff spots.
The Brumbies need one point from next Saturday's home game with the lowly Auckland Blues to clinch the Australian conference and the third ranking spot in the playoffs.
Jake White's Brumbies tipped out the Waratahs 19-15 in Sydney to edge closer to the Australian title.
The seven-time champions Crusaders kept in the hunt for their 12th consecutive season of finals with their win over the Chiefs and can clinch a playoff place against the struggling Western Force at home next weekend.
The Sharks enhanced their playoff hopes with a 32-10 win over the Bulls and can squeeze into the playoffs with a bonus-point victory over the Cheetahs in Durban next Saturday.
The Reds ended the Highlanders' season with a gripping 19-13 win and now may have to claim a bonus-point win over fierce Australian rivals the Waratahs at home next weekend.
The Hurricanes, who had a bye this weekend, will have to win big over the Chiefs at home next Friday to leapfrog their rivals into the top six.
At Hamilton, the Crusaders, with their season on the line, dominated in the forwards to score three tries to two against the Chiefs.
Returning All Blacks stars Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Kieran Read were pivotal for the Crusaders after the previous week's shock 23-22 loss to the Hurricanes.
The Stormers made sure of winning the South African conference with their 13th win this season over the Cheetahs, but the Western Cape team have failed to secure a bonus point for scoring four tries in any of their 15 games.
The Stormers host the struggling Melbourne Rebels next week and they could still finish top of the log, with a potential home final, if the Chiefs slip up against the Hurricanes.
The Brumbies maintained their five-point lead over the Reds at the top of the Australian group with their first win in Sydney for a decade and their fifth consecutive away victory.
The Waratahs hit the front 15-9 with just over 30 minutes left in a grinding Australian derby, only for the Brumbies to come home the stronger.
In Durban, the Sharks had to win to have any hope of finishing among the top six and laid their victory foundations over the Bulls during the opening half.
The Durban franchise led by 22 points before the three-time champion Bulls cut the deficit to 25-10.
The home team had to withstand waves of attacks before scoring the bonus-point fourth try two minutes from time.
In Brisbane, the Reds had to defend desperately in the final minutes as the Highlanders tried to find an opening.
But as Otago skipper and prop Jamie Mackintosh wrestled his way close to the try-line blindside flanker Jake Schatz won a crucial turnover to protect Queensland's lead and keep them alive for the playoffs with their fifth straight win.
In this weekend's other games, the Auckland Blues had a 32-9
bonus point win over Western Force at Eden Park and the Golden Lions downed the Melbourne Rebels 37-32 in Johannesburg. – Sapa-AFP