The Southern Kings, The Sharks and the Vodacom Bulls set the tone with good opening round wins despite some rustiness as Vodacom Super Rugby got underway in South Africa in 2013.
It was a special evening on Saturday in Port Elizabeth, as the Southern Kings won their first-ever match at this level, by 22-10 against the Western Force.
By doing that, the Kings became the first debutant winner of the last four teams that joined Vodacom Super Rugby – in 2006 the Force lost 10-25 to Brumbies and the Cheetahs lost 18-30 to Bulls, and in 2011 the Waratahs crushed the Rebels 43-0 in the Melburnians’ debut.
There was another record in the Nelson Mandela Bay – at 18 years and 206 days old, Sergeal Petersen became the youngest South African to play Vodacom Super Rugby since 1997 (eighth youngest ever) and to make his debut even more special, last year’s Coca-Cola Craven Week Player of the Tournament scored two tries (fifth youngest try-scorer ever).
Previously, the youngest South African to feature in Vodacom Super Rugby was former Springbok back Jaco van der Westhuyzen, who made his debut for The Sharks on 4 April 1997 against the Hurricanes in Durban, two days before his 19th birthday.
In the two South African derbies played in Pretoria and Bloemfontein, it was two Springbok flyhalves that dominated proceedings. Morné Steyn and Pat Lambie both kicked seven from seven in their respective matches.
The Vodacom Bulls started the local season with a 25-17 win over the DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening, with Steyn kicking 20 points against the team that won the SA Conference in 2011 and 2012.
The Sharks, runners up last year, were too good for a resurgent Toyota Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium on Saturday afternoon, winning 29-22 with Lambie contributing 19 points.
Vodacom Bulls 25 (9) DHL Stormers 17 (0)
Morné Steyn’s 20 points in a flawless kicking display, both at goal and tactically, was probably the big difference in the Vodacom Bulls’ 25-17 win over the DHL Stormers in front of 44,282 spectators at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday evening.
His opposite number, Elton Jantjies, struggled in his first match of the season after missing the DHL Stormers’ warm-up fixtures because of a family bereavement. Jantjies missed four attempts at goal before being replaced as kicker by Joe Pietersen, who kicked one penalty goal and converted both the visitors’ tries – by Jean de Villiers and Andries Bekker.
Interestingly enough, both sides struggled in the lineouts and will no doubt be working hard at this facet of play in the next few days. The scrums were more solid and it seemed that the new engagement call helped clean up this set piece. The Vodacom Bulls probably had the upper hand here which helped keep the DHL Stormers on the back foot for most of the match.
The Pretorians started well and kept the DHL Stormers pinned back in their own half, forcing mistakes within kicking distance which Steyn duly converted into points. The Capetonians simply made too many mistakes and could not build any momentum.
The visitors started second half much better and fought back from 12-0 down to 12-10 by the 55th minute, with De Villiers scoring in the corner in the 50th minute. But Steyn wasn’t done yet as he added his fifth and sixth penalty goals before Chiliboy Ralepelle scored a converted try. At 25-10 with 12 minutes left, the match was basically over, despite a late try by Bekker.
Vodacom Bulls – Try: Chiliboy Ralepelle. Conversion: Morné Steyn. Penalty goals: Steyn (6).
DHL Stormers – Tries: Jean de Villiers, Andries Bekker. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalty goal: Pietersen.
Toyota Cheetahs 22 (5) The Sharks 29 (16)
Pat Lambie emulated Morné Steyn with seven from seven as The Sharks trumped the Toyota Cheetahs by 29-22 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
The Toyota Cheetahs got the first points of the game through a try by Philip van der Walt.
But as Lambie kept the score board ticking over, Johan Goosen, the fourth Springbok flyhalf on display this weekend, missed his first three attempts at goal. That allowed The Sharks to take a 16-5 lead into the break, with Lwazi Mvovo scoring an opportunistic try when ball went loose at the back of a lineout and he could sprint through untouched.
Early in the second half, Marcell Coetzee extended the visitors’ lead when he crashed over from a maul. With Lambie adding the extras and his fourth penalty goal three minutes later, The Sharks lead by 26-5 with 30 minutes left on the clock.
But Toyota Cheetahs never gave up and Lappies Labuschagne, following a great pass from Van der Walt, and Johann Sadie, took the home team’s try tally past that of their visitors as they clawed their way back into the match. It not enough though as the team from Bloemfontein was left to rue too many mistakes and ill-discipline.
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Johann Sadie. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalty goal: Goosen.
The Sharks – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Marcell Coetzee. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalty goals: Lambie (5).
Southern Kings 22 (5) Western Force 10 (10)
More than 32,000 people packed into the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday evening to witness the Southern Kings make history when they beat the Western Force by 22-10.
It was a night to remember for the Southern and Eastern Cape, but also for young Sergeal Petersen, who became the youngest South African to play Vodacom Super Rugby in almost two decades, but also scored both his team’s tries and was duly named Man of the Match afterwards.
The Kings had to dig deep in the second half though. They lost their captain, Luke Watson, towards the end of the first half and the Force simply looked more composed at that stage, with Pek Cowan and Alfi Mafi scoring their two tries in four minutes midway through the first 40.
Jacques Engelbrecht, who replaced Watson, helped the home team get back on the front foot as he put in many strong runs. Aided by Steven Sykes at lock and Bandise Maku at hooker, with flyhalf Dimitri Catrakilis putting in a good tactical kicking display, the Kings managed to swing the momentum.
Two penalty goals by Catrakilis in the second half put the Kings in front and when Petersen crossed for his second, on the hour, they started to believe that they can win this.
More solid defence was needed though, as well as two more Catrakilis penalty goals, but when the final whistle blew, the Kings had deservedly won their first ever match in Vodacom Super Rugby.
Southern Kings –Tries: Sergeal Petersen (2). Penalty goals: Dimitri Catrakilis (4).
Western Force – Tries: Pek Cowan, Alfi Mafi.
Other results – Round 2:
Reds 25 Waratahs 17 (Brisbane)
Hurricanes 20 Blues 34 (Wellington)
Rebels 13 Brumbies 30 (Melbourne)
Highlanders 27 Chiefs 41 (Dunedin)