Vodacom Bulls, Toyota Cheetahs surge upwards in Vodacom Super Rugby – Round 19 Review
The Vodacom Bulls moved to the top of the log and the Toyota Cheetahs made Vodacom Super Rugby history during a weekend where the top six for 2013 was finalised with one round of action left to play.
Following their superb 34-13 win over the Blues in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon, next week’s bye means the Toyota Cheetahs will finish on 54 log points. It’s the same amount of point the Reds are currently on, which basically means the Central South Africans will finish the season in fifth or sixth position, depending on the result in the Queenslanders’ last game against the Waratahs in Sydney.
With one round to go, there are a number of permutations which will determine what the destination will be for the Toyota Cheetahs when they play in the qualifiers in two weeks’ time.
For the Vodacom Bulls, who earned a 20-19 win in an intense derby over The Sharks in Pretoria, things are a bit clearer, although they can still drop down to third position on the overall standings.
The Chiefs (away to the Blues) and Brumbies (away to the Force) can still pass them on the log, meaning the three-time champions simply have to beat the DHL Stormers at DHL Newlands next weekend to ensure they finish the season in the number one spot on the log.
The DHL Stormers moved up to seventh on the log after beating the Southern Kings by 24-12 in Port Elizabeth, but this match will not be remembered for too long as neither side showed the enterprise you’d normally expect to see when two teams are playing for nothing more than pride.
At 22 years and 262 days old, The Sharks’ Pat Lambie became the youngest South African and third youngest player ever to play in 50 Vodacom Super Rugby matches. The youngest is Kurtley Beale (21 years, 128 days), followed by James O’Connor (22 years, 246 days). Lambie replaced Quade Cooper (22 years, 327 days) in third place on the list.
Toyota Cheetahs 34 (19) Blues 13 (10)
The Toyota Cheetahs will contest a Vodacom Super Rugby playoff for the first time in two weeks’ time after they beat the Blues for only the second time, 34-13, at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
The home team finished very strongly and scored two of their three tries in the final 10 minutes, which was well-deserved after the Toyota Cheetahs squandered numerous try-scoring opportunities earlier in the match with some over-eagerness in the strike zone.
In the end these missed opportunities won’t mind though, as the men from Central South Africa head into a bye next weekend before they have to depart for Australasia for their qualifier.
After a few opportunities where the Toyota Cheetahs came within scoring range, they finally crossed the try-line when Phillip van der Walt crashed over from a heel against the head at a scrum on the Blues’ 5m-line.
It was just reward for the home team’s strong scrum, which set the tone for the victory, as well as their play in the lineouts and at the breakdowns, where the Toyota Cheetahs’ loose forwards played out of their skins.
Ultimately the team from Bloemfontein’s pack simply had too much fire-power for the Blues. In the final 10 minutes the visitors’ defensive wall finally broke when replacements Sarel Pretorius (scrumhalf) and Boom Prinsloo (flank) crashed over.
Riaan Smit (flyhalf) had a superb outing with the boot and contributed 19 of the Toyota Cheetahs’ points.
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Phillip van der Walt, Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo. Conversions: Riaan Smit (2). Penalty goals: Smit (5).
Blues – Try: Jamison Gibson-Park. Conversion: Baden Kerr. Penalty goals: Kerr (2).
Southern Kings 12 (9) DHL Stormers 24 (11)
Two tries by DHL Stormers captain and flank Deon Fourie was the big difference as they beat the Southern Kings, 24-12, at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday evening.
It was the DHL Stormers’ first away win in South Africa of the season and their second of 2013 after beating the Hurricanes by 18-16 in Round 11.
When this game started in Port Elizabeth, the DHL Stormers’ slim lifeline of qualifying for the playoffs had already been cut by the impressive Toyota Cheetahs, so both teams only had pride to play for at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The first half was a battle of attrition, with the DHL Stormers playing the most rugby and the Kings’ defence holding out in the face of a few strong onslaughts by the Capetonians.
On a number of occasions the DHL Stormers opted for lineouts instead of kicking at goal from penalties in the first half, but they only got their first try – from a maul by Fourie – in the 39th minute after throwing away a few other chances.
The second half was a rather drab affair until Fourie smashed his way through a few weak tackles to score shortly before the final whistle.
Southern Kings – Penalty goals: Demetri Catrakilis (4).
DHL Stormers – Tries: Deon Fourie (2). Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty goals: Jantjies (3), Joe Pietersen.
Vodacom Bulls 20 (13) The Sharks 19 (8)
The Sharks tried hard and gave it their all, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Vodacom Bulls surged to the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby standings with a hard-fought 20-19 win at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday evening.
Both sides crossed for two tries each – one each in both halves – but ill-discipline and terrible goal kicking probably cost The Sharks a famous victory in a dramatic but brilliant derby at Loftus where the duel between the two packs of forwards was one that would’ve had experts on the edge of their seats.
Apart from the yellow cards to Bismarck du Plessis and Butch James, who took over the captaincy from Keegan Daniel following a few late changes to The Sharks’ starting line-up, the visitors from Durban fluffed 16 points in missed kicks at goal.
Where Pat Lambie, who rounded off a superb try in the eighth minute which started almost on The Sharks’ own tryline, and Riaan Viljoen missed six kicks at goal between them, the Vodacom Bulls’ Morné Steyn was successful with all four his attempts at the posts.
It was a very tough match and a typical South African derby. Although The Sharks played for nothing more than pride, they never looked like giving up and played with heaps of passion, sadly lacking earlier in the season.
After going into the break leading by 13-8, the Vodacom Bulls saw their lead disappear as The Sharks scored all the points in the first 20 minutes of the second half to take the score to 19-13. With less than 10 minutes left on the clock, the home team’s replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak scored what turned out to be the match-winning try.
The Sharks had a late chance to scoop the win, but Viljoen’s aim was out and the Vodacom Bulls could celebrate as they moved to the top of the log.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Bjorn Basson, Jano Vermaak. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2). Penalty goals: Steyn (2).
The Sharks – Tries: Pat Lambie, Odwa Ndungane. Penalty goals: Lambie (3).
Other results – Round 19:
Crusaders 43 Chiefs 15 (Christchurch)
Hurricanes 44 Highlanders 49 (Wellington)