Off to Christchurch for the Cell C Sharks – Vodacom Super Rugby Qualifiers Review
The Cell C Sharks will face their second opponent from New Zealand’s South Island in as many weeks when they travel to Christchurch for a Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders on Saturday.
The Durbanites progressed to the final four of the competition thanks to a hard-fought 31-27 victory over the Highlanders in Durban on Saturday, where two late Frans Steyn penalty goals paved the way to their eighth Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final.
Both teams scored three tries each during an entertaining 80 minutes of rugby where the Cell C Sharks’ pack, especially at scrum time, laid the foundation for victory in their 14th playoff match at this level.
Now the most successful team in the history await the Cell C Sharks. The Crusaders have won the title seven times, but the KwaZulu-Natalians have shown that they can win in Christchurch earlier this year when they became the first South African team in 13 years to beat the Cantabrians at AAMI Stadium.
The other Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final will be an all-Australian affair between the table-topping Waratahs and the Brumbies, who won their qualifier against the Chiefs, champions the last two seasons, in Canberra. It was a replay of last year’s final, but this time the team from ACT won 32-30.
2014 Vodacom Super Rugby Semi-finals
Semi-final A: Crusaders v Cell C Sharks
Date: Saturday 26 July 2014
SA time: 09h35
Venue: AAMI Stadium, Christchurch
Semi-final B: Waratahs v Brumbies
Date: Saturday 26 July 2014
SA time: 11h40
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Cell C Sharks 31 (13) Highlanders 27 (17)
The Cell C Sharks’ forward power was simply too much to handle for the Highlanders as the KwaZulu-Natalians won the second Vodacom Super Rugby Qualifier by 31-27 at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday afternoon.
But the home team had to delve deep before they could tick this one against a spirited Highlanders side who simply refused to give up.
This was perhaps best illustrated by the two late tries the visitors scored in the first half to give them a 17-13 lead after they were 13-3 behind shortly before the break.
The Cell C Sharks had the best of the opening exchanges and when Marcell Coetzee scored from a superb driving maul, they looked firmly in control. A couple of mistakes meant the home team could not stretch their first-half lead further.
However, Growthpoint Kings Park was shocked into silence when Malakai Fekitoa sliced through for a great try before Kane Hames went over after the hooter, which saw the Highlanders go into the break with a four-point lead. This was despite their pack struggling, especially in the set pieces.
An early Lima Sopoaga penalty goal stretched the Highlanders’ lead to 20-13 early in the second half, but the Cell C Sharks’ pack soon found their groove again and the visitors were under immense pressure yet again.
It was from yet another massive scrum by the Cell C Sharks that Bismarck du Plessis scored the home team’s second try in the 53rd minute and with Frans Steyn’s conversion, the scorers were locked at 20-20.
When Tonderai Chavhanga raced away for the home team’s third try to put them back into the lead by 25-20, Cell C Sharks supporters were roaring.
It wasn’t long though before the Highlanders found another hole and Phil Burleigh’s converted try but them ahead by 27-25 with just more than 15 minutes to play.
Two late penalty goals, calmly slotted by Steyn, was the difference though as the Cell C Sharks won a tense match. While their play in the set-pieces was brilliant and their discipline was superb, the Durbanites will have to work on their defence and tactical kicking this week before they face the Crusaders.
It has to be said though, the home team could’ve won further had Jean Deysel and Chavhanga scored late in the match – the barn-storming flanker lost the ball as he went over and the speedy winger had the ball knocked from his hands a couple of metres from an open try-line.
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Tonderai Chavhanga. Conversions: Frans Steyn (2). Penalty goals: Steyn (4).
Highlanders – Tries: Malakai Fekitoa, Kane Hames, Phil Burleigh. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (3). Penalty goals: Sopoaga (2).
Other result – Qualifiers:
Brumbies 32 Chiefs 30 (Canberra)
Brumbies – Tries: Jarrad Butler, Jesse Mogg, Robbie Coleman, Nic White. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (3). Penalty goals: Lealiifano.
Chiefs – Tries: Bundee Aki, Gareth Anscombe, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tim Nanai-Williams. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2). Penalty goals: Cruden (2).