Super Rugby 2016: Who Will Make the Knockout Stage?

We take a look at the final round of Super Rugby action before the knockout stage commences.

Current log-leaders, the Lions, face a tricky task on Saturday when they take on the spirited yet underwhelming Jaguares in Buenos Aires in their quest to finish in the overall top spot of thenSuper Rugby standings.

As things currently stand, the Joburg side are just one point in front of the Chiefs, who are leading a pack of New Zealand sides still in contention for places in the playoffs.

A bonus point win will guarantee the Lions (52 points) first spot on the overall log and with that the privilege of home ground advantage throughout the playoffs. The Chiefs (51) could make a move for the overall top position with a bonus-point over the Highlanders, however, Johan Ackermann’s side have a far stronger point difference in the event of both teams finish on the same amount of league points.

From a South African perspective, the Stormers (46) have already made sure of their place in the playoffs thanks to a haul of 10 log points collected from their two recent away games in Australia. The Lions and the Stormers are the two African conference winners, while the Sharks (39) are currently two points ahead of the Bulls in the race for the local wildcard spot.

A win over the Sunwolves in Durban on Friday evening should see for the Sharks clinch eighth place on the combined standings, and with that passage to the knockout stage. Experienced Springbok back JP Pietersen will lead the coastal side in his last home match for Durban franchise.

The Bulls are not completely out of the playoff picture yet. The Pretoria-outfit must however depend on the Sunwolves upsetting the Sharks, while they must beat the Toyota Cheetahs in their crunch encounter in Bloemfontein.

Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss will make Super Rugby history when he leads the Pretoria outfit against his former team in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening (19h15). He is set to become the most capped South African hooker in the history of the competition when he runs out to play in his 132nd match. The 30-year-old Bok captain will move past fellow Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who played all of his 131 Super Rugby matches for the Sharks.

In other matches this weekend, the Blues host the Waratahs in Auckland on Friday morning (SA time) and the Reds are at home in Brisbane for their encounter with the Rebels. On Saturday the Crusaders and Hurricanes clash in Christchurch, the Highlanders entertain the Chiefs in Dunedin while the Brumbies and Western Force meet in an Australian derby in Canberra.

What are you predictions for the weekend? Let us know in the comments below and tweet us at @MenStuffZA.

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