After a weekend of topsy-turvy results, the Bulls and Sharks are both amazingly still alive in the Vodacom Super 14.
Their respective chances, however, rest in the hands of the rugby gods and not their own, but stranger things have happened in this game. Several certainties are required if a South African side is to sneak into the play-offs past the Brumbies.
First the Brumbies must lose by more than seven points against the Crusaders in Christchurch and not score four tries. If the Canberra-based team get a single point from the game on Friday morning (SA time), then the Bulls and Sharks haven’t a hope.
If the Brumbies lose, the Bulls and Sharks must win convincingly – with a bonus point – and hope the margin of victory is great enough to take them ahead of the Brumbies.
The Crusaders, Waratahs and Hurricanes are certain of qualifying although none have secured a home match just yet. The Brumbies lie in fourth place on 38 points with a points difference of +87, followed by the Sharks (33 points, +48 points difference) and Bulls (33 points, +32).
So, for example, if the Brumbies lose by 10 points – which is a good possibility, their points difference will drop to 77, which means the Sharks must beat the Force by 30 points and the Bulls must defeat the Stormers by 46 points. The greater the margin of defeat for the Brumbies, the easier the task is for SA’s two remaining hopes.
Now 46 points might seem like a mountain to climb for the Bulls, but stranger things have happened. Remember last year the Bulls demolished the Stormers 75-14. A similar result coupled with a Brumbies loss without a bonus point would be enough to see Heyneke Meyer’s team home.
The Sharks are probably the betting man’s choice, especially considering they are playing the worst team in the competition – the Force. A win by 30 or more points would not be completely unforseen.
Ultimately though by midday on Friday both Meyer and Sharks coach Dick Muir will know exactly what is required of them to progress. It’s a long shot, but’s a shot nontheless.
By Andrew Hollely