The Vodacom Bulls lead the South African Conference in Vodacom Super Rugby, while The Sharks won a tough tussle in Durban against the DHL Stormers.
The team from Pretoria had to dig deep to beat the Western Force by 36-26 at Loftus Versfeld and despite a scrappy performance, they still bagged a try-scoring bonus point – their first ever against the team from Perth – on the eve of their tour to Australasia.
In Durban, The Sharks edged the DHL Stormers by 12-6 in a match where no tries were scored and the score board read 0-0 at half-time.
It was the fourth time no points were scored in the first half of a Vodacom Super Rugby match and the second time The Sharks were involved in such a match – it also happened in Sydney in 2008, when the Waratahs beat the MTN Lions by 26-3, in Dunedin in 2009 (Highlanders 6 Crusaders 0) and last year in the opening round in Pretoria, when the Vodacom Bulls beat The Sharks 18-13.
Earlier on Saturday, the defending champion Chiefs had too much gas at the end of their match against the Toyota Cheetahs, winning this match by 45-3.
Chiefs 45 (10) Toyota Cheetahs 3 (3)
Four converted Chiefs tries in the final 18 minutes crushed any hopes the Toyota Cheetahs had of kicking their tour off on a winning note as then went down 45-3 to the defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions in Hamilton on Saturday morning.
Behind 10-3 at the break, the Free Staters were still in it, especially since their flyhalf, Johan Goosen, could only succeed with one of his four kicks at goal.
And even after the Chiefs scored their second try two minutes after the break, the Toyota Cheetahs still hung in there. But the visitors struggled to break the home team’s strong defence and were too sloppy at times, resulting in their score tally remaining unchanged.
When the Chiefs found their rhythm late in the match, and the Toyota Cheetahs started tiring, the floodgates opened.
It was the Toyota Cheetahs’ third biggest defeat on tour since they joined the Vodacom Super Rugby fray in 2006 (in 2008 they lost 55-7 to the Crusaders and in 2010 by 61-15 to the Brumbies), and the third time they only had three points to show for their efforts.
Chiefs – Tries: Liam Messam, Ben Afeaki, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Marshall, Ben Tameifuna. Conversions: Anscombe (6). Penalty goal: Anscombe.
Toyota Cheetahs –Penalty goal: Johan Goosen.
Vodacom Bulls 36 (14) Western Force 26 (9)
The Vodacom Bulls collected a full-house of five Vodacom Super Rugby log points against the Western Force at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon, but it was a scrappy win and one that would not have left supporters of the three-time champions scratching their heads.
To sum up – the Vodacom Bulls won a scrappy match by 36-26 and while the log points are always welcome, more was expected of them against a team that has not yet won in 2013.
It started very well for the home team, with flyhalf Morné Steyn scoring their first try in the second minute, but after that it was a real scrap, with the unfancied visitors from Perth showing why they are regarded as the Vodacom Bulls’ bogey team.
Half an hour or so into the match, the Force took a 9-8 lead when their South African flyhalf, Sias Ebersohn, who left Bloemfontein for Perth at the end of 2012, added his second penalty goal to an earlier drop goal. However, Steyn added two more penalty goals to see the Vodacom Bulls go into the break ahead 14-9.
When Sampie Mastriet (wing), impressive on debut, scored early in the second half, moments after Ebersohn’s second drop goal, things looked better for the Vodacom Bulls, but the Force hit back with two converted tries and with an hour gone, they lead 26-19.
Kudos to the Vodacom Bulls though, who knuckled down and did was what needed in the final 20 minutes, with loose forward Jean Cook, also on debut, crashing over from a brilliant maul and Werner Kruger (prop) sealing the bonus point with the last movement of the match.
Steyn, who scored 20 points last week against the DHL Stormers, went one better this time and contributed 21 points against the Force on Saturday. He is now the joint top points’ scorer in the competition with the Chiefs’ Gareth Anscombe, on 41 points.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Morné Steyn, Sampie Mastriet, Jean Cook, Werner Kruger. Conversions: Steyn (2). Penalty goals: Steyn (4).
Western Force – Tries: Angus Cottrell, Toby Lynn. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (2). Penalty goals: Ebersohn (2). Drop goals: Ebersohn (2).
The Sharks 12 (0) DHL Stormers 6 (0)
It was humid and slippery at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday evening and it showed on the score board as The Sharks beat the DHL Stormers by 12-6 in a typically tough South African derby.
Both sides showed superb defence in a match where there weren’t a lot of opportunities to cross the try line. But it has to be said that the tricky conditions also lead to a number of unforced errors by both teams.
In the end, Pat Lambie’s boot was the winner in this war of attrition, with The Sharks’ flyhalf kicking four from five to score all of his team’s points. Joe Pietersen slotted two penalty goals for the visitors.
Those penalty goals conceded within kicking range by the DHL Stormers – The Sharks had a total of six attempts at goal, with Frans Steyn also missing a difficult kick from more than 60 metres out – were the difference in the end. The Capetonians’ discipline let them down at crucial stages of the match, something no team can afford in a tight match such as this one.
It was especially tough at scrum time, with both teams conceding a number of penalties in this facet of the game, while The Sharks’ loose forwards combined well to create the necessary momentum when necessary, or stopping the DHL Stormers when they build up some steam.
The Sharks recorded their second win of the season, while the DHL Stormers have now lost both their first two matches – admittedly tough away fixtures in Pretoria and Durban. To make matters worse for the two-time South African Conference winners, they host the defending champion Chiefs at DHL Newlands next week.
The Sharks – Penalty goals: Pat Lambie (4).
DHL Stormers – Penalty goals: Joe Pietersen (2).
Other results – Round 3:
Blues 34 Crusaders 15 (Auckland)
Waratahs 31 Rebels 26 (Sydney)
Reds 18 Hurricanes 12 (Brisbane)
Byes: Southern Kings, Brumbies, Highlanders