DURBAN – It has all come down to the final game of the season for the Sharks.
The prize has been for a large portion of the Super Rugby season, since the Lions started making themselves comfortable at the top, to finish in the top eight.
They are in the hunt despite losing to the Stormers at the weekend, but they do not have full control of their destiny. A win against the Jaguares on Saturday at Kings Park is a must, but their fate may be decided earlier on Saturday. Their quarter-final hopes now hinge on the outcome of the Highlanders and Rebels match as the Kiwis welcome the Melbourne side to Dunedin.
The Australians have the 8th spot to themselves as things stand, but are only 3 points ahead of the Sharks meaning that if the Highlanders beat them, the door is open.
It is not a situation the Sharks would like to find themselves in, having to hope for other teams to put up desirable results, but all they can do is go out on Saturday and look to win, as that is the second piece of the puzzle.
The expectation is that the Highlanders should be good enough to take down the Rebels, but it will all be for nothing if the Sharks fail in their final match of the group stages. The Jaguares have proven they are a real threat, and could still even top the African conference, but there has been a recent gap in their armour.
The Bulls did both the Lions and the Sharks a big favour last weekend when they managed a come-from-behind win against the Argentinian side, putting an end to their seven-game winning streak. Not only did it help the other two SA sides stay in the hunt, it also dented the Jaguares’ confidence.
The Argentinians have been much better value this year, winning at home as well as on the road - even in New Zealand and Australia. However, they have still shown their vulnerability when teams start matching them in key areas, such as up front.