It was a disappointing weekend for South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby franchises, with the best result among the four teams that took to the field being a 43-43 draw by the Toyota Cheetahs.
The Vodacom Bulls faced the Hurricanes in Napier on Saturday in their first tour game with the hope of becoming the first domestic franchise to win in the Antipodes this season, but penalties conceded at crucial times allowed the hosts to come away with a 25-20 victory.
The Toyota Cheetahs, meanwhile, built up an encouraging 34-10 half-time lead against New Zealand conference leaders and defending champions, the Chiefs, in Bloemfontein, but they allowed the visitors to fight back strongly after the break and had to settle for a 43-43 draw.
At Ellis Park, the Lions produced a competitive first-half performance against the Crusaders to trail only 6-0 after 40 minutes, but the home side battled to shut out the seven time Vodacom Super Rugby champions in the second half, and went down 28-7.
In the last match of the weekend, the DHL Stormers’ woes continued in their first home game after their Australasian tour, as they suffered their fifth back-to-back defeat after going down 22-11 against the Waratahs in a physical encounter at DHL Newlands.
The Cell C Sharks, meanwhile, enjoyed a bye, and despite this retained the top spot on the log. They are now two points ahead of Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies, and three points clear of the Chiefs and Waratahs.
Hurricanes 25 (16) Vodacom Bulls 20 (13)
The Vodacom Bulls produced a strong display against the Hurricanes despite undertaking the long journey to New Zealand only three days prior to the match, with their performance featuring solid attack and defence.
The Hurricanes’ only try of the match was scored by fullback André Taylor in the 16th minute, while the Vodacom Bulls outscored the hosts two tries to one. Unfortunately for the Pretoria side, they created a handful of other try-scoring chances, but battled to convert them into points.
Penalties at crucial times, however, proved to be the visitors’ downfall, as Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett slotted over six penalties in total – two of which were in the last nine minutes to seal the victory for his team.
The Vodacom Bulls’ defeat against the Hurricanes marked their first since the 2008 season in which they went down 50-22 against the Wellington team at Loftus Versfeld. Their last away defeat against the Hurricanes was in 2007 when they suffered a 17-9 defeat.
The result also brought an end to the Vodacom Bulls’ unbeaten run, which was capped at four matches.
Hurricanes – Try: André Taylor. Conversion: Beauden Barrett . Penalty goals: Beauden Barrett (6).
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Handre Pollard, Jurgen Visser. Conversions: Handre Pollard, Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Penalty goals: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (2).
Toyota Cheetahs 43 (34) Chiefs 43 (10)
The Toyota Cheetahs were left gutted at the Free State Stadium as they squandered a dream start to their match against the defending champions, which saw them secure their bonus point try before the break, but were denied their first victory ever against the Chiefs by a last-minute try.
The Toyota Cheetahs were in fine form in the first half as they scored their first two tries in the opening 15 minutes thanks to Sarel Pretorius and Rayno Benjamin. Pretorius added his second try later in the half and three minutes later Boom Prinsloo secured the bonus-point try, while Chiefs scrumhalf Augustine Pulu scored a try for the visitors.
The Chiefs, however, found their rhythm after the break and showed their class on attack by scoring an impressive five tries – the last of which was in the dying seconds - thanks to their effective passing and support play. For the second week in a row the team was two points behind on the scoreboard in the final play of the match and slotted over the kick to secure a draw.
The team drew 34-34 against the Vodacom Bulls last week at Loftus Versfeld.
The draw marked the third time the teams finish level on the scoreboard in their eight matches up to now, and interestingly all three were by more than 20 points.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the result extended their winless streak against the Chiefs, as they have never beaten the Chiefs since their entry into Vodacom Super Rugby in 2006.
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Boom Prinsloo, Rayno Benjamin, Sarel Pretorius (2). Conversions: Johan Goosen (4). Penalty goals: Johan Goosen (5).
Chiefs – Tries: Asaeli Tikoirotuma (2), Augustine Pulu (2), Tim Nanai-Williams (2). Conversions: Aaron Cruden (5). Penalty goal: Aaron Cruden.
Lions 7 (0) Crusaders 28 (6)
The Lions’ inability to convert their try-scoring opportunities into points against the Crusaders came at a high price at Ellis Park on Saturday, as it cost the side a possible fifth victory of the season.
The home side produced a competitive first-half performance, in which they showed courage on attack and defence and did well to contain the Crusaders.
Such was the competitiveness of the first half the only points scored were two penalties by Crusaders flyhalf Colin Slade in the 10th and 14th minutes respectively.
The Lions continued this impressive attacking display in the second half, but unfortunately so did the mistakes at vital moments, which left them with little to show for these efforts on the scoreboard except for a converted try by centre Lionel Mapoe.
In stark contrast the Crusaders capitalised on three of their attacking opportunities and earned the rewards with captain and centre Ryan Crotty crossing the tryline for their first-five pointer in the 45th minute.
A strong finish for the visitors with two tries in the last 10 minutes inflated their score to 28-7, but the Lions will take comfort from the fact that they denied the tourists a bonus point for four tries.
The Lions’ defeat marked their fifth successive loss against the Crusaders since 2008, and this was also the first time since then that they scored less than 10 points against the Christchurch side.
The loss also kept the team’s disappointing record of only one win against the Crusaders at home since 2006 intact.
DHL Stormers 11 (8) Waratahs 22 (10)
The DHL Stormers will also rue missed opportunities in their clash against the Waratahs at DHL Newlands, which resulted in the team dropping to the foot of the combined log table below the Toyota Cheetahs with only one victory in seven matches and only six log points.
The hosts were physical on attack and defence, and they did well to keep the Waratahs in check.
With the team’s attack being criticised heavily going into the clash, they rose to the challenge and showed more innovation with ball in hand and spread the ball well throughout the match. However, mistakes under pressure saw them score only one try in the 21st minute.
Trailing 10-8 at the break the DHL Stormers had a fair chance to win the match, but their discipline let them down, which allowed Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley and fullback Kurtley Beale to keep the scoreboard ticking and deny them a single point from the match.
The Waratahs’ victory ended an eight-year winning drought in Cape Town, as their last victory against the DHL Stormers at home was in 2006. They won 32-26 in that season.
The win catapulted the Sydney-based side one spot up the log into fourth position, while the Stormers sunk to the foot of the table to occupy their lowest position in the series this season.
DHL Stormers – Tries: Kobus van Wyk. Penalty goals: Peter Grant (2).
Waratahs – Try: Nick Phipps. Conversion: Bernard Foley. Penalty goals: Bernard Foley (3), Kurtley Beale (2).
Other results – Round 8:
Highlanders 33 – 30 Rebels (Dunedin)
Brumbies 26 – 9 Blues (Canberra)
Reds 29 - 32 Force (Brisbane)