The Crusaders home semi-final has been confirmed following the Sharks’ failure to score four tries and win by 35 points against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
By finishing the season as the competition’s two highest-ranked conference winners, the Waratahs (58 points, 12 wins) and the Crusaders (51 points, 11 wins) have earned the week off and progress straight to the Super Rugby Semi Finals.
The Sharks therefore will host New Zealand franchise the Highlanders next weekend in Durban in the battle between 3rd and 6th place, while the other playoff fixture will see the Brumbies host the 2012 and 2013 champions the Chiefs in Canberra.
Victory in the final round against the Force and Blues respectively has put the two familiar combatants on a post-season collision course in the Australian capital.
Although comprehensively winning the South African Conference, the Sharks finished as the third-ranked conference winner and are subsequently thrust into a home qualifier against the sixth-ranked Highlanders, who go into the Finals Series on the back of successive defeats to the Waratahs and Crusaders; Super Rugby’s two Semi-Finalists.
Interestingly, these match-ups also occurred on the same day of the 2014 regular season with Brumbies defeating the Chiefs 41-23 and the Highlanders upsetting the Sharks 34-18 on the road in Round 11.
Jake White’s Sharks may be left to regret last week’s defeat to the Cheetahs away in Bloemfontein, who were thrashed by the Lions 60-25 on Saturday.
Corey Flynn’s bonus point try for the Crusaders earlier in the day in the end was the difference in deciding the battle between themselves and the Sharks for that second spot, while the Waratahs – who had already secured first place – made it seven wins in a row with their heavy win over the Reds.
Super Rugby Qualifiers, Saturday July 19
Brumbies v Chiefs
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kickoff: 19:40 (local, 7:40 GMT)
Sharks v Highlanders
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kickoff: 17:05 (local, 15:40 GMT)
- Planet Rugby