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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Can Sale Reach the Premiership Playoffs?

The 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership started in earnest on October 13th, with the competitions playoff final scheduled for Saturday, June 8th at the iconic Twickenham Stadium.

Interestingly, the congestion around the middle of the table is becoming worse, with the Sale Sharks still in contention for a Premiership playoff price despite languishing eighth in the 10-team league.

But how have they fared recently, and how likely are the Sharks to reach the playoffs? Heres a breakdown of their chances.

A Potentially Game-Changing Win Against the Chiefs?

Prior to the visit of the Exeter Chiefs at the end of March, the Sharks had endured a six-matchlosing streak in all competitions. They were also winless in the Premiership since a home win over Saracens in December, while they arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium some eight points behind the Chiefs.

However, their previous win over third-place Saracens highlighted their ability to compete with the best in the division, and Exeter were ultimately put to the sword in a one-sided 41-5 win. They ran in six tries in front of their home fans, with Tom Roebuck plundering a stunning hat-trick for the hosts.

England star Manu Tuilagi also produced a superb performance that contributed to a truly emphatic victory, which close the gap on the Chiefs to just three points. Now, just five points separate Saracens in third and Sale in eighth, while there are seven teams on eight wins behind league leaders Northampton.

This win was even more impressive given that the reverse fixture had seen Sale thrashed by a similar margin of 43-0, while it further reinforced the quality that exists in the Sharks squad. However, these two results lay bare the teams inconsistency, notwithstanding the competitiveness of this seasons Gallagher Premiership.

Is it Do or Die for the Sharks?

England international Ben Curry was candid in his post-match interview, confirming that the Sharks were in a do or die situation ahead of the final four rounds of the Gallagher Premiership league phase.

We have backed ourselves into a corner so realistically it was do or die in every game as we had no other option,” said Curry after the game. It’s really exciting what we might do now.

Another key facet of the game was the kicking of George Ford, who dictated the game from the outset and added four conversions and a penalty to the score. He will be a crucial player in the seasons run-in, and if both he and Roebuck maintain their current form then theyll have an excellent chance of making the playoffs.

Of course, the Sharks are also strengthening their team, both now and ahead of the 2024/25 season. They recently added 31-year-old Racing 92 prop Will Griff to their squad as injury cover for the remainder of this campaign, for example, so this will help in the quest to reach the playoffs.

The bad news is that their rivals are strengthening too, with RugbyDump recently reporting that second-place Bath have signed young back row Guy Pepper on a long-term contract. So, Sale will have their work cut out this season and next, while they can ill-afford any slipups if theyre to make up the ground on their rivals.

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