After the feast of round four – with three victories over New Zealand teams – came the near famine of round five with only the Toyota Cheetahs of South Africa’s four teams in action picking up a victory.
The Toyota Cheetahs recorded a third successive win over the Waratahs to put themselves in sight of a slice of history. If they beat the Western Force in Perth on Saturday, it will be the first time they have won three matches on an overseas tour.
The feat has previously been achieved on five occasions by South African competitors with the DLH Stormers leading the way with a hat-trick of three-win tours (2008, 2011, 2012) while the Vodacom Bulls (2007) and The Sharks (2009) have one apiece.
The narrow margin of the Toyota Cheetahs’ 27-26 win mirrored their one-point victory over the Sydneysiders in Bloemfontein last year (35-34) to complete a third successive victory over the Waratahs following on their 23-3 win in Australia in 2011.
The Southern Kings had their first taste of international opposition in the shape of the Chiefs. They were unable to prevent them from taking a sixth victory from their last eight appearances in South Africa, but once again showed fighting spirit in going down 35-24.
Sergeal Petersen grabbed a breakaway try in the match to keep his team in the hunt and score his third try of the competition, making him the leading South African try scorer to date.
The unbeaten Vodacom Bulls and The Sharks both saw their runs come to an abrupt halt.
The Bulls suffered a 41-19 defeat in Christchurch while The Sharks ran into the buffers of the Brumbies and were held at arm’s length in a 29-10 defeat in Durban.
The Vodacom Bulls’ defeat continued a bleak away record against the Crusaders in which they have taken only one point from eight visits to the South Island (a losing bonus point in 2009) and was the fifth time they had lost by 20 or more points in those visits.
The Sharks defeat by the Brumbies, mirrored their only other defeat at home by the team from Australia’s capital. In 2007 The Sharks suffered a 21-10 defeat and were also rendered try-less – the only other occasion on which the Brumbies have won on eight visits to Durban.
Elsewhere it was a good weekend for away teams with the Hurricanes winning in Dunedin and the Force upsetting the Reds in Brisbane as five of the six away teams recorded victories – the only exception being the Vodacom Bulls.
Waratahs 26 (20), Toyota Cheetahs 27 (17)
The lightning the Waratahs feared would strike twice did indeed lay them low as Toyota Cheetahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius popped up to ensure his old team suffered a third successive defeat at the hands of the Cheetahs.
Pretorius had been lured to Sydney in 2012 having been inspirational in the Cheetahs’ 23-3 victory in Sydney the year before. However his stay was short lived as he fell out of favour and returned to Bloemfontein. Predictably, he returned to haunt the Waratahs once more.
Pretorius provided the scoring pass for wing Raymond Rhule’s second try to seal the match in the 70th minute as the Cheetahs finished strongly to add a victory to their demolition of the Highlanders the week before.
However wing Willie le Roux was the star of the show. It was his deft chip and collect that set up field position for Rhule’s second and he had started the show with a brilliant piece of off-loading, having collected his own kick ahead, to set Robert Ebersohn on a long sprint to the try line.
Rhule’s first try – after good recycling and quick movement down the backline – had given his side a 14-6 lead which was overhauled by halftime through Waratahs tries by Betham and Ashley-Cooper. But Rhule’s second try, ten minutes from time, allowed the confident Cheetahs to close out the game.
Waratahs – Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Betham. Conversions: Brendan McKibbin (2). Penalties: Brendan McKibbin (4).
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Raymond Rhule (2), Robert Ebersohn. Conversions: Johan Goosen (3). Penalty goals: Goosen (2).
Southern Kings 24 (13) Chiefs 35 (18)
The Southern Kings appeared to be heading for a chastening defeat by the rampant defending champions as they slipped into a 32-13 deficit with more than a quarter of the match remaining. By then, explosive winger Leila Masaga had completed a hat-trick and, with a fourth try by Sam Cane, the visitors had claimed a bonus point to add to the one they took against the miserly DHL Stormers in Cape Town the week before.
The Kings had held on – just – throughout the first half with Sergeal Petersen’s third try of the season on the stroke of halftime having kept them in the hunt at 18-13 down. Petersen took advantage of a dropped Chiefs pass ten metres from his own line to sprint away and swallow dive under the poles.
However the Chiefs’ scoring spurt at the start of the second half looked set to put them out of sight but, by the final whistle, they were happy to close out the game as the 19-point lead was whittled down to eight at one point.
The Kings were forced to throw caution to the winds and the freedom it provided allow No 8 Jacques Engelbrecht to dive over in the corner after a succession of pick-and-go’s.
Demetri Catrakilis kicked two penalties to narrow the gap to eight points before Gareth Anscombe had the final word for the Chiefs.
Southern Kings – Tries: Jacques Engelbrecht, Sergeal Petersen. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goals: Catrakilis (4).
Chiefs – Tries: Leila Masaga (3), Sam Cane. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (3). Penalty goals: Anscombe (3).
Crusaders 41 (22) Vodacom Bulls 19 (9)
The Vodacom Bulls had no answer to the commitment and determination of the Crusaders as they suffered an all-too-familiar 20-point defeat in Christchurch – the fifth time they lost by that margin or more in eight visits to the South Island.
Four penalties by Morne Steyn were all the Bulls had to show until the 67th minute when Deon Stegmann went over from a driven maul but, by then, the Crusaders had already scored five tries of their own as they dominated the collisions and recycled at pace.
Crusaders – Tries: Johnny McNicholl, Kieran Read, Robert Fruean, Tom Marshall, Willi Heinz, Wyatt Crockett. Conversions: Dan Carter (4). Penalty goal: Carter.
Vodacom Bulls – Try: Deon Stegmann. Conversion: Morné Steyn. Penalty goals: Steyn (4).
The Sharks 10 (3), ACT Brumbies 29 (26)
The Brumbies had claimed the four-try bonus point by the 35th minute as they left The Sharks in the starting blocks, silencing the crowd and making the second half a non-event as the visitors comfortably absorbed what pressure the Sharks could bring to bear in rainy Durban.
The home team ‘won’ the second half, 7-3, scoring the first points to be conceded by the Brumbies in the competition this season, but the well-drilled visitors were always in control.
Ryan Kankowski’s try – with 28 minutes remaining – provided a glimmer of hope but the only points to follow were from a Christian Lealiifano penalty.
The Sharks – Try: Ryan Kankowski. Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalty goal: Lambie.
Brumbies – Tries: Henry Speight, Jesse Mogg, Joseph Tomane, Matt Toomua. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (3). Penalty goal: Lealiifano.
Other results – Round 5:
Highlanders 19 Hurricanes 23 (Dunedin)
Reds 12 Force 19 (Brisbane)