The Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs are now firmly in playoff contention with the June break looming after crucial away victories on an exciting weekend of Vodacom Super Rugby.
The three-time champions from Pretoria entrenched their position at the top of the South African Conference – and their second spot on the overall log – when they beat The Sharks, 18-16, in a tense but scrappy match in Durban on Saturday evening.
Morné Steyn scored all of the visitors’ points with the boot as Vodacom Bulls replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak celebrated his 100th Vodacom Super Rugby appearance with an important victory.
Earlier on Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs scored four tries – three of them in the second half – in their 34-22 win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
The Toyota Cheetahs scored the only four-try bonus point of the weekend and moved up to fourth on the log after the Crusaders, Blues and Reds all lost.
The Reds, champions in 2011, went down to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town, where Springbok captain Jean de Villiers scored the only try of the match.
Southern Kings 22 (12) Toyota Cheetahs 34 (13)
Three second-half tries saw the Toyota Cheetahs record a bonus-point victory over the Southern Kings, which catapulted the side from Central South Africa to fourth on the Vodacom Super Rugby log.
The first half of this match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth was a typical South African derby arm wrestle. The Kings defended well and with their flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis punishing poor discipline by the Toyota Cheetahs, the home team remained in front.
But it all changed in the 39th minute, when Toyota Cheetahs wing Willie le Roux sliced through the Kings’ defence and put Johann Sadie away for the first try of the match. Elgar Watts’ conversion put the visitors in the lead and then went into the break firmly on the front foot.
The Toyota Cheetahs, showing much more enterprise as the Kings’ defence started to falter, scored three more tries in the first 22 minutes of the second half – by Piet van Zyl, Sadie and Le Roux – at which stage it was basically game over. Watts added the extras on each occasion and with 15 minutes left on the clock, the visitors were ahead by 34-15.
The Kings’ replacement scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo scored a consolation try for the home team late in the game, but they were never really in it since Sadie went over just before the break.
Southern Kings – Try: Nicolas Vergallo. Conversion: George Whitehead. Penalty goals: Demetri Catrakilis (5).
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Johann Sadie (2), Piet van Zyl, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Elgar Watts (4). Penalty goals: Elgar Watts (2).
DHL Stormers 20 (3) Reds 15 (0)
A superb try by Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was the difference as the DHL Stormers returned to winning ways when they beat the Reds by 20-15 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
In a match dominated by the boots of the two kickers, Joe Pietersen for the DHL Stormers and the Reds’ Quade Cooper, it was a moment of brilliance early in the second half that put the home team firmly in command of the match.
It occurred in the 43rd minute when DHL Stormers flyhalf Elton Jantjies spotted lots of space on the left and chipped across the field to a speeding Bryan Habana, who gathered the ball and fed Pietersen on the inside. The fullback then put De Villiers away for one of the better tries seen at DHL Newlands in a long time.
Pietersen could not convert, but by then the DHL Stormers were ahead by 8-0. It never really looked like they were going to let the Reds in for a try, which made the eight-point cushion a comfortable one.
Cooper got the Reds on the board in the 48th minute, but from then on the kickers swapped penalty goals until the visiting flyhalf’s fifth three-pointer, in the 69th minute, put his side ahead for the first time in the match at 15-14.
But Pietersen calmly added two more penalty goals as the DHL Stormers, showing great character against a team that can strike from anywhere on the field, celebrated their first win after three consecutive defeats on Australasian soil.
DHL Stormers – Try: Jean de Villiers. Penalty goals: Joe Pietersen (5).
Reds – Penalty goals: Quade Cooper (5).
The Sharks 16 (3) Vodacom Bulls 18 (9)
Morné Steyn’s goal kicking provided the platform as the Vodacom Bulls cemented their position in the top two on the Vodacom Super Rugby log with a hard-fought 18-16 win over The Sharks at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban.
Steyn slotted six from seven on a night where the boot dominated in a scrappy match as the wet ball made handling very difficult. And while it may not have been a classic, it was tough and very physical.
The Sharks’ discipline let them down on a night where they not only scored the only try of the match, but also dominated the Vodacom Bulls at scrum time.
However, the visitors made fewer mistakes and apart from destroying The Sharks in the line-outs, their defence and kick-chasing were also very good.
Late in the match, The Sharks enjoyed a period of territorial advantage, which they turned into points when scrumhalf Charl McLeod crashed over in the right corner. Pat Lambie’s superb conversion from out wide put the home team in the lead with less than 10 minutes left on the clock.
It was short-lived though, as yet another transgression at a line-out gave Steyn the opportunity to hammer the final nail into The Sharks’ coffin with his sixth penalty goal in the 75th minute as the game played out to a very tense finish.
The Sharks – Try: Charl McLeod. Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalty goals: Lambie (3).
Vodacom Bulls – Penalty goals: Morné Steyn (6).
Other results – Round 15:
Chiefs 28 Crusaders 19 (Hamilton)
Rebels 24 Waratahs 22 (Melbourne)
Blues 13 Brumbies 20 (Auckland)
Force 19 Highlanders 18 (Perth)