In a round where two South African teams, the Vodacom Bulls and the DHL Stormers, were expected to make their big moves in their respective quests to nail down either top two (in the Bulls’ case) or top four spots, the home defeats in Pretoria and Cape Town respectively saw Munster and the Ospreys emerge as the big winners.

Munster’s win in Pretoria has enabled them to leapfrog the Vodacom Bulls into third position, just five points adrift of second placed Glasgow Warriors, who - thanks to the Emirates Lions’ shock and surprisingly comprehensive win over Leinster - are now just one point behind the log leaders from Dublin.

Why Munster are big winners though is because their bonus point win means they are now six points clear of fifth-placed Benetton and eight ahead of the DHL Stormers, which means their top four position that was under threat at the start of the round is now suddenly looking a lot more secure.

Conversely the DHL Stormers now have to win all their remaining four games, two of which are overseas, and rely on other results going their way if they want to secure a home playoff for the third consecutive year.

The Ospreys' win in Cape Town did not propel them up the log and they ended the round in the same position they started it, seventh, but their bonus point win means they are now firm contenders at the end of a weekend where it was anticipated they would drop out of the top eight.

Not that there isn’t a lot of competition for places, and round 14 conspired to intensify the logjam not only at the top of the table but also in the middle reaches where the outcome of the bunfight for Investec Champions Cup qualification and play-off places has become even more difficult to predict.

Apart from the gains made by Munster and the Ospreys, there were also important wins for Edinburgh, who are now back in the top eight after they bounced back from their failure in South Africa to bank a comfortable five points against the Scarlets, as well as Benetton, who moved to fifth thanks to a good away win over the Dragons.

Glasgow won against the Hollywoodbets Sharks but you’d hesitate to suggest they’ve gained, because when it became clear that the Durbanites were going to Scotland under-strength, you would have anticipated that the hosts would pick up a full house of five log points. They didn’t do that, and were in fact lucky the KwaZulu-Natalians' changed up team didn’t make better use of their opportunities in a dominant second half.

The other teams that did their top eight pretensions no harm at all were of course the Emirates Lions, who took maximum points from their win over Leinster, while Connacht were also comprehensive winners over Zebre as they ensured they remain part of the group of teams tied together with eighth placed Edinburgh on 39 points.

The DHL Stormers would have made it a quintet of teams on 39 had they not been awarded the penalty try off the last move of the Cape Town game, securing the the losing bonus point that lifted them to 40 points. Ospreys coach Toby Flood said afterwards his players were disappointed to concede that bonus point and so they should have been, for it meant the DHL Stormers remain ahead of the Ospreys on points difference.

But with two teams on 40 points and four on 39, and Champions Cup places up for grabs along with a place in the playoffs, you could not ask for a more tense and intriguing log narrative as the competition heads into the last four rounds.

Given the log situation, there are some massive games this coming weekend, with the DHL Stormers and Leinster now going into their clash at the DHL Stadium on Saturday night with a lot on the line for both of them, while both the Capetonians and the Vodacom Bulls will be hoping the Emirates Lions can back up their great performance against Leinster with another against Munster.

After winning in Cape Town, and having won a Challenge Cup game against the Lions at altitude earlier in the season, the Ospreys also go to Pretoria thinking they have a chance of beating the Vodacom Bulls.

Ulster scraped a two point win over 12th placed Cardiff to further underline just how competitive the Vodacom URC has become, but their chances of getting back into the top eight from their current 10th will hinge heavily on the result of Friday night’s home clash with a Benetton team that is back in form and pushing strongly for a top four place.

Vodacom United Rugby Championship results - Round 14
Ulster 19 Cardiff 17
Glasgow Warriors 21 Hollywoodbets Sharks 10
Benetton 36 Dragons 19
Emirates Lions 44 Leinster 12
Vodacom Bulls 22 Munster 27
DHL Stormers 21 Ospreys 27
Edinburgh 43 Scarlets 18
Connacht 54 Zebre 16

Top 12 after 14 games:
1. Leinster 54 points
2. Glasgow Warriors 53
3. Munster 48
4. Vodacom Bulls 46
5. Benetton 42
6. DHL Stormers 40
7. Ospreys 40
8. Edinburgh 39
9. Connacht 39
10. Ulster 39
11. Emirates Lions 39
12. Cardiff 25

Vodacom United Rugby Championship Round 15 fixtures:

Friday, 26 April:
20h35: Ulster v Benetton
20h35: Scarlets v Hollywoodbets Sharks

Saturday, 27 April:
14h00: Zebre v Glasgow Warriors
15h00: Vodacom Bulls v Ospreys
16h05: Cardiff v Edinburgh
17h00: Emirates Lions v Munster
19h05: DHL Stormers v Leinster
21h00: Dragons v Connacht