With the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup pool rounds concluded, the five South African franchises now know exactly who they will face in their playoff matches in 10 weeks’ time in the European showpieces.
The round of 16 matches will all take place on the weekend of 31 March to 2 April, but dates and kick-off times must still be confirmed.
The Cell C Sharks will host Munster in Durban and the DHL Stormers welcome Harlequins to Cape Town, while the Vodacom Bulls will face Stade Toulousain in France in the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16.
The Toyota Cheetahs, meanwhile, will go up against Toulon in France in their EPCR Challenge Cup knock-out match, while the Emirates Lions will host Racing 92 in Johannesburg.
These fixtures were confirmed following a successful weekend for the Challenge Cup teams in which the Emirates Lions defeated the Dragons 30-25 in Wales and the Toyota Cheetahs edged Section Paloise 9-6 in Italy to finish in the top six in Pool B.
South Africa’s three Heineken Champions Cup teams had a mixed bag of results though, with the DHL Stormers being the only domestic side to win their match as they registered a 30-16 victory against ASM Clermont Auvergne in Cape Town.
The Cell C Sharks went down 39-29 against Harlequins in London, while the Vodacom Bulls suffered a disappointing 31-7 defeat against Lyon in France, but despite this they both finished in the top eight on their respective logs to advance to the playoff stages.
The Vodacom Bulls were forced to wait to find out if they qualified for the Heineken Champions Cup knock-out stages after they missed out on a vital bonus point in their 31-7 defeat against Lyon at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland on Friday in what marked their final pool match in the competition.
The Pretoria side entered the clash needing only a bonus point to cement their place in the top eight in Pool A of the competition for a playoff spot, but this task proved too tough for them in cold and wet conditions in Lyon, where the hosts registered their first victory of the tournament.
Lyon dominated the first half, capitalising on their try-scoring opportunities effectively, while the Vodacom Bulls struggled to convert their chances into points, and this saw the hosts score three unanswered tries in the first stanza for an encouraging 24-0 lead.
The second half proved much tighter as both sides threw everything at one another but only managed to score one try apiece.
Lyon 31 (24) – Tries: Guillaume Marchand (2), Jean-Marc Doussain, Leo Berdeu. Conversions: Berdeu (3). Penalty goal: Berdeu.
Vodacom Bulls 7 (0) – Try: Kurt-Lee Arendse. Conversion: Johan Goosen.
Harlequins won an exciting and free-flowing Heineken Champions Cup match against the Cell C Sharks by 39-29 (half-time 24-22) on a sunny afternoon at the Twickenham Stoop in London on Saturday, with the visitors grabbing a crucial try-scoring bonus point late in the game.
With this victory, Quins – boasting a number of Springboks in their ranks – passed the Vodacom Bulls on the log.
Both teams were clearly intent on scoring tries, with six five-pointers in the first half, followed by a further three after the break.
Harlequins 39 (24) – Tries: Danny Care, Alex Dombrandt, Cadan Murley, Stephan Lewies, Nick David. Conversions: Marcus Smith (4). Penalty goals: Smith (2).
Cell C Sharks 29 (22) – Tries: Lukhanyo Am, Jaden Hendrikse, Eben Etzebeth, Aphelele Fassi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Lionel Cronje. Penalty goal: Bosch.
The DHL Stormers delivered a strong second-half performance in their Heineken Champions Cup match against ASM Clermont Auvergne at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday to overturn a 6-3 halftime deficit into a 30-16 victory for a favourable playoff spot.
The Cape side entered the match in a comfortable position to earn a place in the knock-out stages, and they made sure of it as they broke away in the second half to secure a morale-boosting bonus-point victory.
The first half was uneventful as both teams ran hard at one another on attack but neither of them threatened to score a try, which resulted in the only points scored being compliments of penalty goals.
However, the hosts dominated the second half as they scored four tries to one by the visitors to snatch the victory.
DHL Stormers 30 (3) – Tries: Evan Roos, Herschel Jantjies, Dan du Plessis, Deon Fourie. Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (2). Penalty goals: Kade Wolhuter (2).
ASM Clermont Auvergne 16 (6) – Try: Bautista Delguy. Conversion: Gabin Michet. Penalty goals: Anthony Belleau (3).
An injury-time penalty goal by Siya Masuku not only secured the Toyota Cheetahs a 9-6 victory over Section Paloise in their final round EPCR Challenge Cup tie in Parma, but also booked the Free Staters’ spot in the playoffs of the European competition, at the expense of their French opponents.
Nothing separated the teams before Masuku’s final kick, which was out on the right at around 45m from the goal posts and came from a penalty conceded at the breakdown as the French club tried to run down the clock as a draw would have been enough for them to qualify for the round of 16.
The tryless encounter in Parma will probably not be remembered for long, but for supporters of the Toyota Cheetahs, it was just what they wanted as they finished with two wins and two defeats from their four pool matches.
Toyota Cheetahs 9 (3) – Penalty goals: Siya Masuku (3).
Section Paloise 6 (3) – Penalty goals: Thibault Debaes (2).
Jordan Hendrikse kicked 20 points as the Emirates Lions secured their place in the EPCR Challenge Cup playoffs with a 30-25 victory over the Dragons on a chilly afternoon at the CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynachon on Sunday afternoon, with the team from Johannesburg starting strongly to lead by 27-5 at the break.
Despite scoring four tries to two and keeping the Emirates Lions pinned in their own half for most of the game, the Welsh hosts conceded too many kickable penalties, which Hendrikse turned into points to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Dragons 25 (5) – Tries: Will Reed, Aki Seiuli, Jordan Williams, Rio Dyer. Conversion: Reed. Penalty goal: JJ Hanrahan.
Emirates Lions 30 (27) – Tries: Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty goals: Hendrikse (6).