Sharks to play Otago, Brumbies face Chiefs in play-offs
Coastal Sharks' Tendai Mtawarira (C) during their Super 15 match against the Auckland Blues at Albany Stadium in Auckland on May 23, 2014 - by Michael Bradley
The New South Wales Waratahs, chasing their first southern hemisphere provincial title, finished top of the final standings with seven points to spare over the Canterbury Crusaders.
The Waratahs and the seven-time champion Crusaders will have next week off and host the play-off winners in the semi-finals on the following weekend.
The Crusaders edged out the Sharks for the crucial second spot with a bonus-point 34-8 victory over the Highlanders.
The win relegated their south island rivals to sixth spot and an unenviable trip to South Africa next weekend to face the Sharks in Durban.
Long-time leaders the Sharks had to settle for third place despite a clinical 34-10 away win over Western Stormers on Saturday.
Twice winners the Brumbies earned home advantage with a 47-25 romp over Western Force to claim fourth spot and they will take on the fifth-placed Chiefs in Canberra next Saturday.
Back-to-back Waikato scraped into the finals at the expense of the Wellington Hurricanes with a desperate 11-8 victory over the Blues in Auckland on Friday.
The Hurricanes could only look on and hope for results to go their way as they had a final round bye.
The Waratahs, who rested Wallaby star Israel Folau, were far too strong for the Queensland Reds winning 34-3 in Brisbane for their seventh straight win and finish top on the final standings.
The Crusaders left the Sharks with too much to do to overhaul them for second spot with a comfortable win over the Highlanders in Christchurch.
Canterbury led 17-3 at half-time, scoring their first try just ahead of the break, before adding three more for their bonus point in the second half.
Coastal Sharks took to the field in Cape Town later Saturday needing a 35-point bonus-point victory to snatch second place from the Crusaders.
But the improbable target soon became impossible and two tries in the final four minutes gave Sharks a flattering scoreline.
- Toomua scores hat-trick -
Matt Toomua scored a hat-trick of tries as the Brumbies powered into the play-offs with a barnstorming win in Canberra to knock Western Force out of finals contention.
Wallaby back Toomua was the hero of the Brumbies' bonus-point win scoring three of his team's seven tries.
It was the first time the Brumbies have won in the last round of Super Rugby since 2007.
The Chiefs needed a win in the final match of the regular season to make the top six and did it with a strong defensive effort against a committed Blues outfit.
While the Chiefs have endured a season marred by inconsistency and poor form, they head into the finals full of confidence after two wins in a row.
The Waratahs claimed a bonus point in their four tries to nil victory for their biggest win over the Reds in Super Rugby.
The momentum is building for the Waratahs as they chase their first Super Rugby title and coach Michael Cheika was able to place key player Folau in cotton wool from the Australian derby with the Reds.
In Folau's absence his Wallaby teammate Kurtley Beale was outstanding scoring two tries and having a hand in another.
In this weekend's remaining games with no play-off bearing, lock Paul Willemse scored two tries as Northern Bulls crushed the Melbourne Rebels 40-7 in Pretoria.
Golden Lions, who had scored only 23 tries in 15 previous Super 15 matches this season, ran in eight to humiliate Central Cheetahs 60-25 in Johannesburg.