Two Super Rugby title favourites revealed the pressure of the looming playoffs by lurching to victories over lower-ranked sides they should have destroyed in the final round of matches this weekend.
Others weren't so lucky.
When the dust settled on the competition's regular season, the Stormers and Chiefs had secured a week off and passage directly into the semifinals, the champion Reds lived to defend their title, but the Brumbies and Hurricanes suffered the heartbreak of missing out altogether.
The Stormers and fourth-placed Crusaders struggled to keep their feet on the throats of the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force - both were forced to withstand second-half fightbacks before finally achieving their wins last night.
But the Stormers' victory and Chiefs' loss to the Hurricanes on Friday ensured the South African champions topped the table, and while they failed to excite the crowds -- managing just two bonus points all season -- they showed how to win games by taking their opportunities and stifling their opposition.
"In playoffs, it's about winning and playing the percentages, and for the entire season, it's always been about winning for us," said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee. "We're comfortable with the way we play and won't make changes now.
"You don't need bonus points in the semifinals."
Despite securing the New Zealand conference title, the Chiefs have suffered a case of the yips in their final two weeks. They lost a match of Test-match intensity to the Crusaders in the penultimate round, before succumbingto the Hurricanes.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie managed to at least crack a smile afterwards, but he was frustrated at the way his side had finished, after leading the competition for much of the season.
The Chiefs would need to work on their option-taking in attack, after blowing "six or seven" potential tries against the Hurricanes, and try to be less predictable when they did have the ball, Rennie said.
"We've got to be sharp in that area and have a couple of weeks to work it out. We're not going to throw everything out, but we could've been a lot better and didn't quite have the edge.
"We have got a couple of weeks to sort something out."
After a stuttering start to their season, the Reds, on the outer before the final games began, did exactly what they needed by securing a bonus-point win over the Waratahs, after the Auckland Blues had done them a huge favour with a 30-16 win over the Brumbies.
"Since Round Four of the competition, we've been fighting to stay in finals contention, so I'm really proud," said Reds coach Ewen McKenzie. "We're in the finals now - it's a different scenario.
"We'll go week to week and get that right."
The Reds, who won the Australian conference, now host the Sharks, with coach John Plumtree happy to have avoided facing the Crusaders for the second successive year.
"We went there [to the Crusaders] last year, so I was hoping for another destination," Plumtree said in a reference to their 36-8 loss. "Wherever we go at this stage of the competition, there'll be a lot of pressure on the home team as well.
"Everyone says you can't win on the road, but we're going to prove everyone wrong."
The seven-time champion Crusaders host the three-time winning Bulls, with the Christchurch-based side needing to hammer home their advantage after they fell off in the second half against the Force when they were 32-3 up at the break.
The Crusaders have shown glimpses of the unstoppable force they can be with 50-point thrashings of the Blues and Highlanders on successive weeks, and will need to ensure they match that intensity and execution level against the Bulls.
"What happened during the season is now irrelevant," said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke. "It's a once-off game.
"Next week is a knockout, anything can happen and we're positive. Knockout games are all about pressure and taking your opportunities, and we know how to do that, we're very experienced in those situations."
Here's how the leading contenders settled after the final round of Super 15 games:
Won 14, lost two - 66 points
Placing: First (South African conference winners)
This week: Struggled to over overcome a determined Rebels side, who were within a dropped goal of victory with just four minutes remaining.
Next week: They have a week to prepare for a home semifinal.
Won 12, lost four - 64 points
Placing: Second (New Zealand conference winners)
This week: Led into the final round, but lost 25-28 to the Hurricanes, thanks to a contentious try in injury time - their second straight game to conference rivals.
Next week: They have a week to recover theri mojo before a home semi.
Won 11, lost five - 58 points
Placing: Third (Australian conference winners)
This week: Dispatched the Waratahs 32-16, but needed other results to go their way. Their prayers were answered when the Blues upset the Brumbies, enabling the Reds to edge their conference rivals on countback of wins.
Next week: They're the form horses of the competition, having won their last six games, and now host the Sharks, who beat them 27-22 at Durban on March 18.
Won 11, lost five - 61 points
Placing: Fourth (but third-highest competition points)
This week: Ran up a 32-3 first-half lead over the Force, before pulling their stars and loosing their composure somewhat. They got what they needed to maximise their finishing position.
Next week: The perennial favourites host the Bulls, who beat them 32-30 at Pretoria on April 7.
Won 10, lost six - 59 points
This week: Locked 20-20 with the lowly Lions at halftime, but managed 17 unanswered points - with a bonus-point try - in the second 40 minutes.
Next week: Travel to Christchurch to take on the Crusaders.
Won 10, lost six - 59 points
Placing: Sixth (their points differential was minus nine compared to the Bulls)
This week: Trailed 6-15 at halftime, but finished with a rattle to beat the Cheetahs 34-15 and secure a bonus point.
Next week: Travel to Brisbane to face the in-form champion Reds.
Won 10, lost six - 58 points
Placing: Seventh (lost to Reds on wins countback)
This week: Unbelievably fell 16-30 to the no-hope Blues, unable to secure the bonus point they needed to seal the Australian conference title.
Next week: At least they have Mad Monday to look forward to. New coach Jake White can reflect on an outstanding first season at the helm, but that's cold consolation.
Won 10, lost six - 57 points
This week: Did the unthinkable by beating the Chiefs in extra time, but just couldn't get that much-needed bonus point.
Next week: Coach Mark Hammett showed the value of a healthy team culture to take his little-fancied outfit to the brink - they can be satisfied with their finish.