SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 11: Francois Hougaard of the Bulls celebrates scoring a try during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Bulls at Allianz Stadium on May 11, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

ALL three of South Africa’s top Super Rugby sides won last weekend, putting them in a position to finish the competition inside the top six and be involved in the play-offs. That situation alone is encouraging, but more satisfying is the fact that the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks are playing with passion and hunger, and that bodes well for the Springboks.

The Cheetahs, too, are a side who’re playing with desire and fight and no-one ever gets an easy ride against them. Sadly, the Lions seem not only to have lost their game, they’ve also lost their spirit and pride.

The Bulls deservedly lead the way in the competition and all credit to the players, coaching staff and administration. It’s been said before but it’s worth mentioning again ... this is a team which lost several veteran Springboks at the end of last year – basically the whole core of the side – yet they’re as powerful as ever and should they continue to dig deep, as they did this last weekend, they’ll be favourites to go all the way later this season.

The Stormers may not be scoring too many tries but their defence remains as strong as ever, as does their desire to keep on winning. Not too many teams would have been able to keep out the Cheetahs as well as the Stormers did at Newlands and that’s proof of Allister Coetzee’s team’s hunger to win this competition.

But credit, too, to the Cheetahs. Naka Drotske’s men went into the game with only a slim chance of staying in the race for the play-offs, yet, unlike the Lions, they played with desire, pride and passion and nearly stole an unlikely win. And even though they lost, you can be sure they will continue to fight hard, making life as difficult as possible for whoever they come up against. It’s just the way they play the game ... the phrase ‘giving up’ just doesn’t apply to them.

The Lions, though, seem to have accepted their fate ... whatever they believe that to be. They haven’t won since week one and haven’t come close to changing that in recent weeks. The fight has gone out of them and opposing teams will be banking on collecting five log points from them as the competition draws to a close.

More encouraging, though, was the Sharks’ win on Saturday. They finally put it together for 80 minutes and, with the confidence up, could now become a real force. Maintaining the intensity and desire they displayed at the weekend will be crucial, but right now they’re in the play-off mix and that will only make them more dangerous going forward.

South Africa is sitting pretty right now, but the run-in will determine who has the desire to go all the way. As the saying goes, ‘No guts, no glory’.