Sharks, Chiefs and Stormers lead the way

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Sunday, March 20, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

That's when two of the competition leaders, the Chiefs, who head the New Zealand Conference, meet the best of the South African sides, the Sharks, in New Plymouth.

Given the fact the Chiefs have won their two tour games on the road, it will be an interesting challenge for the Sharks who face the Blues, the Highlanders and Chiefs on successive weekends on their major overseas tour of the season.

New Zealand Conference

New Zealand sides demonstrated their 'never-say-die' attitude in truckloads during round four. The Chiefs highlighted that in their 30-26 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Sunday morning (NZT) and they moved top of the NZ conference.

But the Highlanders withstood the Waratahs coming home with a wet sail to also win 30-26 in Sydney. And the Blues were satisfied with making do with a draw after coming back in the final moments to claim a 25-25 outcome. The Blues certainly believe in giving crowds their money's worth. It was the second week in succession they took play three minutes longer than scheduled.
The Crusaders looked ominous in unleashing 57-24 on the Kings while the Hurricanes brushed up their points differential with a 41-6 win over the Force.

Australian Conference

The Brumbies suffered a setback when running into a strong Stormers showing and going down for their first loss, 11-31, in Cape Town. They still sit atop the Aussie conference although they are joined by the Rebels who dealt to the Sunwolves 35-9.

The Waratahs showed glimpses of their ability in almost overhauling the Highlanders but still couldn't round out the win and they are struggling to get their continuity going.

The Force ran into reality against the Hurricanes when going down 6-41 and the Reds still couldn't get a win as the Blues came back to draw 25-25. They need a win sooner rather than later if they are to make any progress this year.
South African Conference 1

The Stormers have this Conference sewn up already it would seem. They don't have to tour New Zealand this year, they've got the Cheetahs and the Sunwolves in their group and the Bulls are still floundering in search of their former glory. Putting the Brumbies away 31-11 was a good effort.

The Bulls were only able to draw 16-16 with the Sharks and are sitting eight points behind the Stormers.

The Cheetahs were on the end of 39-22 lesson from the Lions while the Sunwolves were unable to do any better than 9-35 against the Rebels.

South African Conference 2

The Sharks lead with 15 points, and it would have been 17 if they hadn't drawn 16-16 with the Bulls. Their concern has to be the Lions who are two points behind after their 39-22 win over the Cheetahs.

The Jaguares still have only six points to show for their efforts in three rounds after their third round bye. Their ability to contest the play-offs later in the competition will depend on their ability to learn from some of the defeats, most notably that against the Chiefs, they have suffered. Based on that display, fitness in all but the forward slug fests they enjoy, might be their issue.

As for the point less Kings, life is going to be very hard – all season.