Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

State of the URC: It’s now win at all costs for Bulls, Stormers, Lions

Only the Sharks of the four SA teams are out of the running to make the quarter-finals this season.

There are four rounds remaining in the United Rugby Championship regular season and three South African teams are in the mix to make the playoffs, with the Sharks out of the running.

The Bulls (fourth), Stormers (sixth) and Lions (11th) are all in the race to finish in the top eight for a place in the quarter-finals in a few weeks’ time, while the Sharks (13th) cannot reach the knockout stages.

But, in the case of the Bulls and Stormers, they’re hunting a top four finish to secure a spot on home turf in the last-eight, while the Lions need to just about win all their remaining games to get into the top eight.

Here we take a look at the situation facing each of the SA teams:

Bulls (fourth, 46 log points)

Their loss at the weekend to Munster hit hard as they now face an uphill battle to finish in the top four.

Their remaining games are against Ospreys (this weekend) at home, Glasgow Warriors, at home, Benetton, at home, and the Sharks, away.

None of the games will be easy. Ospreys are seventh and fighting for a playoff spot, Glasgow are second and desperate to stay there, while Benetton are fifth and also keen to reach the playoffs. The Sharks, in Durban, will always be tough.

Stormers (sixth, 40 log point)

They also suffered a big setback at the weekend when they lost to the Ospreys in Cape Town and, like the Bulls, need to just about win all their remaining games to just make the top eight.

Five teams, up to the Lions in 11th, are just a point off the Stormers’ 40, so there’s no margin for any slip-ups now.

The Stormers host table-toppers Leinster this weekend, and though the Irish side were hammered by the Lions last weekend, will be desperate to bounce back quickly.

Then it’s the Dragons (15th) and Connacht (ninth) away in Europe, which will be tricky encounters on the road, before the Stormers face the Lions in Cape Town in their final match, which could be a top-eight decider for both.

Lions (11th, 39 log points)

They’re one of four teams on 39 points, the others being Edinburgh, Connacht and Ulster – all of them in the race to make the top eight.

Their win at the weekend against Leinster would have been a huge boost, but they have to back that up now with an equally good performance and win, at home, against Munster, who beat the Bulls.

Then they’re up against Cardiff (12th) and Glasgow Warriors (second) before finishing their league campaign away to the Stormers (sixth), who’re also fighting for a quarter-finals place.

Sharks (13th, 18 log points)

The Durban-based side may be out of the running in the URC, but they can still have a say in the competition, even if it’s to help their fellow South Africans have a better chance of making the top eight.

They’re away to the Scarlets (14th) this weekend, with nothing really riding on the result, but the following weekend, the Sharks are at home against Benetton (fifth), who’re very much in the playoff mix.

Cardiff (12th) are then next up in Durban – again a match that will have no impact on the top eight chasers – and in their last match they host the Bulls (fourth). It’ll be interesting to see how that match plays out if the Bulls need to win to secure a top four spot.