The Hurricanes and Brumbies were left heartbroken as the top three South African teams came up with the goods on Saturday to book play-off spots.
Every match in the final round of fixtures had an impact on which teams survived to fight another day, which made for plenty of drama as the regular season went well and truly down to the wire.
The Stormers' tense victory over the Rebels saw them move past the Chiefs and into top spot on the overall standings, which means that they could both host their first final if they manage to win their semifinal at Newlands.
The Reds' bonus-point victory over the Waratahs secured them top spot in the Australian conference, which would have left the Brumbies fuming as their inability to score a single log point against the lowly Blues in Canberra effectively ended their campaign.
The Hurricanes have finished the season in fine style with wins over the Crusaders and the Chiefs, but they were knocked out of contention for a play-off spot by the Sharks who claimed sixth position on the standings with a stunning second-half performance against the Cheetahs.
The Bulls neeeded a win against the Lions to end the Brumbies' hopes of sneaking into the knock-out phase of the competition and they duly delivered with a dominant display after half-time at Loftus Versfeld.
The upshot of all of this is that the Bulls will travel to Christchurch to take on the Crusaders next week whilst the Sharks will be in Brisbane to tackle the defending champion Reds.
The lowest-ranked winner will go on to Cape Town the following week to play the Stormers and the other victor will head to Hamilton to face the Chiefs.