'It is a shootout between Ospreys and the Scarlets'
THE Ospreys believe they are heading for a shootout with arch rivals the Scarlets for the final RaboDirect Pro12 play-off place.
Just one point separates the pair with six rounds of matches still to play.
The Ospreys are in fourth in the table with 47 points, just above the Scarlets, who are five clear of Munster.
Ulster, Glasgow and Leinster have forged clear at the top, prompting Ospreys assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys to suggest everyone else is playing for the final spot on offer, with the two Welsh sides leading the way. "I think it's between us two," he said. "Leinster picking up a bonus-point win against the Scarlets last week has taken them on a bit.
"We were hoping Leinster wouldn't get the bonus point so there would be the possibility of two Welsh sides going through. But after that result it is just going to be between ourselves and the Scarlets.
"Hopefully, we can be the ones to go through."
The Ospreys have made the knockout games every year since they were introduced in 2009-10, going on to win two finals.
But they have been playing catch-up this term since losing their opening three games, and the defeat in Connacht has left them with much to do.
They have a tough run in — Dragons and Treviso at home, Munster, Blues, Glasgow and Leinster away.
By contrast the Scarlets have four home matches, against Edinburgh, Glasgow, Blues and Treviso, with Zebre and the Dragons to be faced on the road.
Munster are not out of it, though defeats by the Scarlets and Treviso over their past two games have dented their chances.
"The Scarlets have a good run-in, so it's going to be really tight for us and I don't think we can afford to lose many more games this season," said Humphreys.
"It's important we get something out of Munster this weekend. It will put us there or thereabouts and in a straight shootout with the Scarlets."
The Ospreys clearly have little margin for error and have acknowledged as much with their points target for the campaign.
"We are looking at 64 or 65 points, minimum, to get where we want to go," said Humphreys.
The Ospreys are awaiting contact from Wales on how many players will be released for the game at Thomond Park on Saturday evening. Alun Wyn Jones and James King could come into contention, but Ryan Bevington's situation is complicated by Gethin Jenkins's injury.