Log leaders, the Stormers, face the Bulls in Pretoria in their final match before the “test break.” After this, they play the Lions at home, the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and the Rebels at home.
The Bulls have the one home game, mentioned above, before the break, followed by matches against the Cheetahs (home), Sharks (away) and the Lions (home).
The Sharks play the Lions (away), then have a bye at the resumption, the Bulls (home) and Cheetahs (home).
For all practical purposes, the Cheetahs and Lions are out of the running at this stage, but can still upset the apple cart by defeating one of the current conference leaders.
The remaining matches between the three top contenders will be extremely tough. If one looks at home ground advantage, the Sharks have a decidedly better draw than the Stormers, who have difficult away games. The Bulls, too, have only one away game that may go against them.
We said at the end of week five that bonus points may just play a significant role in the final placings, and here the Stormers may just rue their bare cupboard in this department. We know only too well how, in the past, they buckled under the “must get four tries” yoke. They have possibly penciled this is in in terms of when they play the Cheetahs and Rebels, but a win or two before then will remove a lot of pressure.
The Sharks, too, will want to put some money in the bank before facing the Bulls and Cheetahs in their last two matches. Their bye effectively means that they are currently one point behind the Stormers, and one ahead of the Bulls, but they have played one match more.
This makes the outcome of the weekend’s game between the Bulls and Stormers such a vital one for both sides.
The Bulls still have a massive away game against the Sharks, and a fairly certain five pointer to finish the knock-out stage.
Then there is the test series, and possible injuries that could affect every team’s chances in the final game. There is also the Junior RWC which kicks off in Cape Town and Stellenbosch next Monday.
And unfortunate little old me will have to walk all of 500 metres to the Danie Craven stadium to watch SA play Ireland.
The things I have to put up with because I love the game, just sometimes seem so unfair. But I will soldier on, regardless.