Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Cheetahs can help Chiefs' run home

The Stormers-Cheetahs match will determine who plays where in the finals. Photo / Getty Images
The Stormers-Cheetahs match will determine who plays where in the finals. Photo / Getty Images

All eyes will be on the encounter in Bloemfontein this morning - the Chiefs will stay in control of the tournament if the Stormers fail to gain five points against the Cheetahs.

As much as the Chiefs will have rued Sonny Bill Williams' last-minute decision to go it alone instead of pass against the Crusaders, all can be forgiven if they head to Wellington on Friday knowing they can still top the table with a victory against the Hurricanes.

Five points ahead before the Cheetahs-Stormers game overnight, the Chiefs will retain top spot if they score four tries in beating the Hurricanes and the South Africans don't take the maximum 10 points from their final two games - the last being a home clash against the Rebels.

The Chiefs can still progress if they take four points but that will hang in the balance: if they finish equal on competition points with the Stormers, it will come down to points differential (they will both have the same number of wins). The Chiefs were at plus-90 last night, the Stormers at plus-84.

Staying top will be crucial - it will mean they have the first playoff week off, will play the lowest ranked team in the semifinals and, most crucially, will be able to host the final if they progress.

As things stand, the Chiefs and Stormers are on track to finish first and second (order to be determined). The Brumbies will take out the Australian Conference if they beat the Blues and be guaranteed third place.

The Crusaders can't finish higher than fourth - even if they better the total points of both the Stormers and Brumbies. They will guarantee that fourth spot if they beat the Western Force in Christchurch on Saturday and play a home playoff against the fifth-placed team.

If the Bulls beat the Lions in Pretoria and take a bonus point, they will stay fifth - setting up a classic encounter in Christchurch - and the Sharks will be heading to Canberra if they can take out the Cheetahs in Durban.

The Reds can make it only if they beat the Waratahs and any of the Bulls, Sharks or Brumbies are defeated in their final game.

The same goes for the Hurricanes, who need to beat the Chiefs.

- Herald on Sunday

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