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NSW Waratahs are the only Australian team in the Super Rugby finals, after the Melbourne Rebels just missed out.
The Australian conference-winning Tahs will host New Zealand’s Highlanders in a knockout quarter-final next weekend, but the Rebels (ninth) and Brumbies (tenth) both fell just short.
The Victorian franchise was edged out of a final eight spot on points differential by South Africa’s Sharks, who scored a 20-10 home win over Argentina’s Jaguares in the last match of the regular season on Sunday (AEST).
Both the Sharks and the Rebels, who lost 43-37 to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday, finished on 36 points.
Each finished level on wins, the initial tie-breaker, but the Sharks had a -5 points differential to the Rebels -21.
The Sharks will play away to the defending champions and overall ladder leader and New Zealand conference winners the Crusaders.
The Brumbies finished two points off eighth spot after a rousing final round 40-31 away win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.
The Lions, the losing finalist for the last two seasons, will host the Jaguares after clinching top spot in the South African conference with a 38-12 home win over the Bulls early Sunday (AEST).
The other quarter-final will be an all New Zealand battle with the Hurricanes hosting the Chiefs.
The Tahs dropped to third on the overall ladder after losing to the Brumbies on Saturday, with the Lions later replacing them in second spot.
The match between the Tahs and the sixth-placed Highlanders, who they beat 41-12 in Sydney back in May, is expected to be played next Saturday, with the details to be confirmed later on Sunday.
The Tahs conceded six tries to the Brumbies, whose own slim playoff hopes ended when the Rebels picked up a bonus-point in Dunedin.
NSW coach Daryl Gibson said captain Michael Hooper, who has missed their last three games with a hamstring injury, would not recover in time to face the Highlanders and revealed playmaker Kurtley Beale had been ill in the lead-up to Saturday’s game.
He said his team hadn’t been focused enough in Saturday’s defeat, their first in four games.
“Plenty to work on, but I think a lot of that work is between our ears,” Gibson said.
NSW lost a number of lineout throws and Gibson said they didn’t adapt well to the Brumbies strategy in that area.