From next season, there will only be 15 sides competing in Super Rugby after the governing body SANZAAR decided to make changes to the competition's format.
Two of the current South African franchises will be cut, as will one side from Australia, with the Kiwis maintaining five alongside the Sunwolves and Jaguares in a three-conference tournament.
The news was announced on Sunday following the fixture between the Force and Kings in Perth, with both sides among those expected to be cut ahead of 2018.
It was the Force who came out on top 46-41 in a thrilling encounter with both sides scoring six tries. Malcolm Jaer grabbed a hat-trick in a losing cause for the Kings, with a penalty try and Ben McCalman's late effort leading the home side to a comeback win.
Stormers down Chiefs in Newlands classic
It has taken seven weeks, yet finally a New Zealand franchise has tasted defeat against opposition from outside their own country after the Stormers down the Chiefs 34-26 in Cape Town.
In a game which promised so much, it lived up to expectation, and it was the Stormers who showed they meant business from the first kick-off, scoring a try in just the second minute through last week’s hat-trick hero Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
A yellow card to Cobus Wiese stopped the Stormers in their tracks, and they soon found themselves behind on the scoreboard when the Chiefs set off on a stunning counter attack from their own line which involved both backs and forwards offloading at will, leading to a five-pointer from Toni Pulu.
Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi and Pulu then exchanged tries, before the home side retook the lead on the stroke of half-time when fly-half Robert du Preez crashed his way over from close range to bring down the curtain on an absorbing half of rugby.
Things got better for the South Africans early in the second-half, and after Aaron Cruden and SP Marais had each slotted penalties, Marais gathered in a ludicrous offload from Dillyn Leyds before racing clear to push the lead out to 13 with half-an-hour remaining.
That left the Chiefs plenty of time to produce a fightback, and they were the next team to cross when James Lowe dotted down in the corner, however no points were added in the final 20 minutes and Robbie Fleck’s side hung on to maintain their winning start.
Canes and Landers gain ground in Kiwi conference
The Chiefs defeat coinciding with the Crusaders first bye of the season opened the door to the rest of the Kiwi conference in what is already hotting-up as a tight race for the playoffs.
In the round seven opener on Friday evening, the Hurricanes hung on to a 38-28 win at home to the Waratahs to claim their fifth win of the season.
The Hurricanes started like a house-on-fire, racking up 21 points in the first 12 minutes of the game following tries from Ngani Laumape and the two Barrett brothers, Beauden and Jordie.
A yellow card to the elder of the brothers was followed by the Tahs first try of the game from Ned Hanigan, but once Barrett returned to the field the home side started to dominate again with Wes Goosen and Mark Abbott taking the first half try tally to five.
Staring down the barrel, facing a 33-7 half-time deficit, the Waratahs were much improved after the break and got themselves back into the contest following a pair of quick-fire tries from Jake Gordon and Bryce Hegarty in the opening five minutes of the half.
Laumape then finished off a fine break to score his second of the game yet the Canes weren’t able to hold on to their bonus point after Andrew Kellaway scored a late try for the visitors after being freed by Israel Folau. The Australians kept fighting until the final whistle and despite missing out on a bonus point of their own, they did force a second yellow card to Beauden Barrett which resulted in the playmaker seeing red two minutes from time.
On Saturday in the only Kiwi derby of week seven, the Highlanders fought back from a seven point deficit at the break to defeat the Blues 26-20 at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
First half tries from Charlie Faumuina and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti sandwiched an effort from Ben Smith to help build a 20-13 lead at the break for the Blues, yet they were unable to hold on despite the return of Sonny Bill Williams, with Malakai Fekitoa’s try and eight second half points from the boot of Marty Banks leading the triumphant comeback.
Sunwolves break season duck thanks to late surge against lacklustre Bulls
Ten unanswered points in the final ten minutes saw the Sunwolves claim their first victory of 2017, with a 21-20 triumph over the Bulls in Tokyo.
A sixth minute try from number eight Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco gave the Japanese franchise a dream start, however their defensive frailties were exposed soon after with Burger Odendaal breaking through three tackles on his way to the line from first phase ball.
That was as good as it got in an attacking sense for both teams in the first half, and when Travis Ismaiel raced through to touch down 17 minutes from time the Bulls looked to surging towards their second win over the Sunwolves in four weeks.
A yellow card awarded to Jan Serfontein for not rolling away left them a man down for the closing stages however, and the Sunwolves sniffed an opportunity. Defending with 14-men, the Bulls left right-winger Takaaki Nakazuru wide open and his try reduced the deficit to two, before Yu Tamura knocked over an elementary penalty to put the home side ahead.
In the closing moments, Francois Brummer had the opportunity to steal victory from the claws of defeat, yet his penalty attempt went wide and the Sunwolves held on for a famous win.
Over in Durban, early tries in either half from Cobus Reinach and Andre Esterhuizen, plus eight points from the boot of Curwin Bosch led the Sharks to a 18-13 win over the Jaguares.
Reds drop sixth game on the bounce following capitulation against Brumbies
The Brumbies scored five second-half tries to defeat the Reds 43-10 and extend their lead atop the Australian conference.
A try from Chris Kuridrani gave the Reds an early lead, before his cousin Tevita Kuridrani crashed over to tie things up as the sides headed to the halftime sheds locked at ten apiece.
The tight affair which had taken place in the first 40 was at the back of everyone’s minds following just four minutes of the second half after both Robbie Abel and Aidan Toua touched down for the Brumbies thanks to some poor defence from the away side.
The Reds continued to fall off tackles as well as being penalised in a woeful second half performance which ended 33-0 in the Brumbies favour, with Jarrad Butler, James Dargaville and Chris Alcock each scoring tries in the final half hour to confirm the bonus point victory.