The Vodacom Bulls secured first place in the South African Conference and booked their place in the Vodacom Super Rugby Finals Series with an emphatic win over the Southern Kings at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
At the same time, The Sharks and the DHL Stormers kept alive their slim mathematical chances of reaching the playoffs when they beat the Blues and the Toyota Cheetahs respectively.
The Sharks needed a try at the death by Riaan Viljoen (fullback) to beat the Blues for the ninth consecutive time, by 22-20 on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Durban.
The Vodacom Bulls outscored the Southern Kings by six tries to two for their eighth successive victory for the season as they beat the visitors by 48-18.
And in the final match of the weekend, the DHL Stormers capitalised on an error-strewn performance by the Toyota Cheetahs to win by 28-3 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town.
The Sharks 22 (17) Blues 20 (5)
The Sharks extended their Vodacom Super Rugby winning streak over the Blues to nine matches dating back almost a decade when Riaan Viljoen scored the winning try with the final move of the match to secure the Durbanites a 22-20 win at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday evening.
After 40 minutes The Sharks looked to be cruising to victory as they lead the team from Auckland by 17-5, thanks to first-half tries by Marcell Coetzee and Charl McLeod, but they went into a lull in the second half and allowed the Blues to fight back.
Frank Halai and Rene Ranger scored in the first 10 minutes after the break to draw level and when Baden Kerr added a penalty goal on the hour, the visitors took the lead for the first time in the match.
With 10 minutes to go Pat Lambie missed his fourth penalty attempt which would’ve seen The Sharks draw level and it seemed like the Blues were going to win their first match in Durban since 2004, but Viljoen was not done yet.
The Sharks’ well-deserved win was set up by a solid performance by their pack, with Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira walking away with the man of the match award.
Both teams were guilty of making too many unforced errors, but that will not bother fans of the embattled Durbanites, who in the end deserved this win after a tough few weeks off the field. Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo could thus celebrate his 50th match at this level with a few sips of champagne.
The Sharks – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Charl McLeod, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2).
Blues – Tries: Frank Halai (2), Rene Ranger. Conversion: Chris Noakes. Penalty goal: Baden Kerr.
Vodacom Bulls 48 (31) Southern Kings 18 (13)
The Vodacom Bulls will be crowned South African Conference champions in a fortnight’s time and will contest their seventh Vodacom Super Rugby playoff match in nine years when they comfortably beat the Southern Kings by 48-18 in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.
At the same time, Vodacom Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn became the first player to reach 200 season points when he contributed 16 of the home team’s points as they moved up to second position on the combined log.
The Vodacom Bulls scored six tries – four of them in the first half – to the two by the Kings, both by flanker Wimpie van der Walt. It was a burst of three tries in five minutes towards the end of the opening 40 minutes which ultimately broke the visitors.
At 31-13 at half-time, the game was basically in the bag for the home team, who set up the victory on the back of a very solid set piece and some enterprising play at the back, especially when they got into the Kings’ half of the field.
The Kings deserve credit though – they never gave up and managed to disrupt the Vodacom Bulls at certain times of the match, but they did make a few crucial mistakes on defence. As it stands, the home team won easily, although the performance was far from perfect.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Louis Fouché, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann. Conversions: Fouché, Morné Steyn (5). Penalty goals: Steyn (2).
Southern Kings – Tries: Wimpie van der Walt (2). Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goals: Catrakilis (2).
DHL Stormers 28 (10) Toyota Cheetahs 3 (3)
The DHL Stormers dealt the Toyota Cheetahs’ hopes of reaching the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs a huge blow as they won this local derby by 28-3 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday evening.
The home team kept things simple and took the points when they were on offer, while their defence again held firm against a Toyota Cheetahs attack that was not as sharp as earlier in the season.
It was especially in the first half where the Toyota Cheetahs’ spirits were crushed by rock-solid DHL Stormers defence. The visitors enjoyed a lot of territorial advantage, but simply could not breach the Capetonians’ defensive wall.
Conversely, the home team took their chances when they had to, with three well-worked tries – two of them after the break – the big difference between the two sides.
Deon Fourie crashed over from a maul in the first half, Siya Kolisi, who was named man of the match, ran a great line to round off a good attacking move and Bryan Habana went over in the left hand corner for the home team.
The Toyota Cheetahs could only show one penalty goal, by Riaan Smit, for their efforts as they left Cape Town empty handed, but still in the top six on the overall log with the playoffs a couple of weeks away.
DHL Stormers – Tries: Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi, Bryan Habana. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalty goals: Pietersen (3).
Toyota Cheetahs – Penalty goal: Riaan Smit.
Other results – Round 18:
Chiefs 34 Hurricanes 22 (Hamilton)
Highlanders 12 Crusaders 40 (Dunedin)