(Reuters) - Highlights from week 18 Super Rugby matches:
The Sharks’ playoff hopes suffered a blow when they were surprisingly beaten by off-form Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.
The victory was a first in five games for the Cape Town-based side, who were missing skipper Siya Kolisi through illness and had rookie Josh Stander in the flyhalf position. They have now completed their Super Rugby season.
They outscored their opponents three tries to one in a tough, physical battle as lock Cobus Wiese, centre EW Viljoen and flying winger Raymond Rhule scored. Replacement wing Kobus Van Wyk managed the only try for the visitors.
The Sharks trail the eighth-placed Melbourne Rebels by three points on the overall table, needing to defeat the Jaguares in Durban in their final round-robin game next weekend to stand a chance of making the quarter-finals
Bulls fight-back ends Jaguares winning streak
McKenzie instrumental as Chiefs beat Brumbies
Bridge grabs brace as Crusaders seal top spot
Tunisia hit back at Zimbabwe players
Folau has no plans to change technique
The Jaguares were denied top spot in the South African conference after letting a 19-0 lead slip in Pretoria to end their seven-match winning streak in Super Rugby.
They remain three points behind the table-topping Lions in the conference with a game to go, as fullback Emiliano Boffelli also missed a late conversion that would have given them a losing bonus-point.
The Bulls scored their tries through centres John-Ben Kotze and Jesse Kriel, scrumhalf Embrose Papier, wing Jamba Ulengo (two) and lock Marco van Staden.
The Jaguares managed five tries of their own, a fine solo effort from flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez to go with two each from flank Pablo Matera and scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou.
Israel Folau, Taqele Naiyaravoro and Alex Newsome all scored two tries as the Waratahs ran rampant against a Sunwolves side reduced to 14 men for about 40 minutes and to 13 for the final 10 in Sydney to seal the Australian conference title and a guaranteed home quarter-final.
The Japanese team had winger Semisi Masirewa sent off in the final minute of the first half for a lifting tackle on Bernard Foley while Fumiaki Tanaka was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle on Jake Gordon in the 70th minute.
Sekope Kepu, Kurtley Beale Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Curtis Rona and Michael Wells all also crossed for the home side, who moved to 44 points, nine ahead of the Melbourne Rebels and into the playoffs for the first time since 2015 with the victory.
Michael Leitch and Aki Yamada, who grabbed a second try after halftime, scored for the visitors, who had been in the game and trailing only 24-18 when Masirewa was sent off.
Ngani Laumape scored four tries and set up another for Julian Savea as the Hurricanes ended a three-game losing skid and kept alive their hopes of a home quarter-final.
Laumape scored twice in the first half and his bullocking running set up Savea, all from attacking scrums, while he grabbed his third from an attacking lineout late in the second half.
Blues number eight Akira Ioane’s try had followed two from his brother Rieko to make the score 28-24 with 15 minutes remaining before Laumape completed his hat-trick then finished off an intercept made by Beauden Barrett, who had earlier also crossed.
The Hurricanes have 50 points and are second in the New Zealand conference and fourth overall, five ahead of the Waikato Chiefs, who they play next week in Hamilton.
Damian McKenzie again showcased how dangerous he is at turning defence into attack as he scored one try and set up another to help the Chiefs to a tense victory over the Brumbies in Hamilton on Saturday.
The win pushed the Chiefs level with the Wellington Hurricanes in second place on the table on 45 points. The Hurricanes, who have lost their last three games, play the Auckland Blues later on Saturday.
McKenzie’s influence was telling in the tight game, with the utility back sparking, then finishing off a counter-attack to score, while his intercept of Joe Powell’s pass set up Johnny Fa’auli’s five-pointer in the second.
The Brumbies, who were kept scoreless in the first half, fought back in the second with tries to winger Henry Speight (two) and fullback Tom Banks but were unlucky not to snatch the win.
Fullback Jono Lance slotted two late penalties and added a converted try as the Reds dented the Rebels’ hopes of clinching the Australian conference title in Brisbane.
The Rebels have 35 competition points, four behind the Australian-conference leading New South Wales Waratahs and are still in the hunt for the playoffs but have a tenuous hold on the eighth and final position with South Africa’s Sharks on 32 and the ACT Brumbies on 29 and both with two games remaining.
The Reds’ scrum was impressive, earning a penalty try and setting up winger Filipo Daugunu’s five-pointer late in the first half while Izack Rodda charged down a clearing kick from Jack Maddocks.
Flanker Angus Cottrell and Maddocks scored first half-tries for the Rebels, who face the Otago Highlanders next week while the Waratahs play the improving Sunwolves in Sydney on Saturday and then finish against the Brumbies.
Winger George Bridge scored two tries as the Crusaders sealed the top spot throughout the playoffs with victory over the Highlanders to celebrate Wyatt Crockett’s 200th match milestone.
David Havili, Scott Barrett and Richie Mo’unga all crossed for the Crusaders in the highly entertaining encounter, which moved them to 58 points and means all of their playoff matches, including the final if they make it, will be at home.
The Crusaders also received a massive boost ahead of the playoffs with All Blacks captain Kieran Read returning after back surgery last year and putting in some solid hits and bruising runs before he was replaced in the 48th minute.
Tyrel Lomax, Ben Smith and Waisake Naholo all crossed for the visitors, who in reality did not deserve to lose by as much as they did but just ran into a Crusaders side marching ominously towards a likely ninth title.
Compiled by Greg Stutchbury and Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Christian Radnedge