Neither the Chiefs nor the Highlanders have been able to do any favours for the remaining New Zealand rugby sides still in contention for the Super 14 semi-finals.
The Chiefs lost 46-19 to the visiting New South Wales Waratahs to remain winless in Hamilton all season, while the ACT Brumbies thrashed the Highlanders 31-3 in Canberra to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
Those results push the Hurricanes into fifth and the Crusaders into sixth with one week to go.
Friday night's games now shape up as virtual quarter-final eliminators, with the Waratahs now third and hosting the Hurricanes, while the fourth-placed Brumbies visit the Crusaders.
The Sharks beat the Stormers 20-14 in Durban to set up another intriguing clash in the final game next Sunday.
The second-placed Stormers host the Bulls, who've already booked a home semi-final. A loss for the Stormers could still see them miss out on the playoffs.
In other results on Sunday, the Lions are now the worst side in Super Rugby history after their 12th straight loss, the Blues thrashing their old playmaker Carlos Spencer's new team 56-14 in Johannesburg.
The Cheetahs also routed the Western Force 29-14 in Bloemfontein.