The Bulls, Cheetahs and Kings all lost, while the Stormers and Lions had the weekend off.
There was also a shake-up elsewhere as the Highlanders beat the rampant Chiefs, while the Crusaders’ bonus-point win against the Reds left the multiple-champions from Canterbury well in charge of the New Zealand conference.
The highlight of the weekend though belonged to Gary Gold and his Sharks. Having won once and lost twice on their overseas tour it looked as if the men from Durban were going to fall out of the running in their conference. But an inspired performance by Gold’s men saw them send out a clear message to their local rivals, and those in other territories: the Sharks are not done yet.
A superb all-round showing saw the Sharks move to within one point of the Lions in the Africa 2 conference, having now won five out of 10 matches, but the Lions have a game in hand. The race is now well and truly on to top that conference.
The Jaguares and Kings - also in Africa 2 - are out of the running. The men from Port Elizabeth have had a tough season and on Saturday went down to the Blues, leaving them with one win from nine games. They’ll be kicking themselves somewhat today as they had their chances against the Blues, but poor decisions and some bad handling at times cost them an opportunity to knock over New Zealand opposition.
Like in the Africa 2 conference, Africa 1 is a two-horse race between the Stormers and Bulls; with the Cheetahs and Sunwolves out of the mix. With the Capetonians enjoying a bye the Bulls had a golden opportunity to top the log when they came up against the erratic Brumbies in Canberra, but Nollis Marais’ men were completely outplayed as they crashed to just their second defeat of the campaign.
They remain one point behind the Stormers, with both having played nine games.
In the Australasian group, New Zealand teams continue to set the standard, with the Crusaders, Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes all currently in the play-off places.
The biggest result there was the Highlanders’ surprise win over the Chiefs that keeps the defending champions right up there, while the Crusaders’ impressive display in putting away the Reds must make them favourites to top their group.
While the Brumbies lead the way for Australia, the Waratahs and Rebels are right on their heels and a tight tussle awaits to see who of that country’s teams makes it into the play-offs.
There are some big games this weekend; with the Highlanders’ clash with the Crusaders sure to be a cracker.
Kings 18, Blues 34; Sharks 32, Hurricanes 15; Waratahs 21, Cheetahs 6; Chiefs 13, Highlanders 26; Sunwolves 22, Force 40; Brumbies 23, Bulls 6; Crusaders 38, Reds 5
Friday: Highlanders v Crusaders; Rebels v Brumbies Saturday: Hurricanes v Reds; Waratahs v Bulls; Sunwolves v Stormers; Cheetahs v Kings; Lions v Blues; Jaguares v Sharks - The Star
Original source: Sharks saves SA’s blushes