The DHL Stormers were the only Vodacom Super Rugby team to win away from home this weekend as the Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs opened up a slight gap at the top of the South African Conference.
The Capetonians kicked off their Australasian tour on the best way possible when they beat the Hurricanes by 18-16 in Palmerston North on Friday morning, with the highlight coming just before halftime when Bryan Habana charged down an attempted conversion by the ‘Canes.
Those two points saved by Habana proved crucial in the end as the DHL Stormers won their third successive match over the Hurricanes.
The Sharks showed a lot of character to fight back from 24-0 down after only 16 minutes against the Chiefs, but in the end the gap was simply too big as the team from Waikato won the replay of the 2012 final by 37-29 in Hamilton on Saturday morning.
On Saturday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld, the Vodacom Bulls beat the Waratahs for the eighth consecutive time (30-19), but it wasn’t a performance that will be remembered for long by fans of the Pretorians.
The Toyota Cheetahs had a good opportunity to go top of the South African Conference, but could manage only three tries in their 26-12 win over the Southern Kings in Bloemfontein.
Down Under, the Reds (12-11 over the Blues), Brumbies (41-7 over the Force) and the Crusaders (30-26 over the Rebels) all won at home.
Hurricanes 16 (11) DHL Stormers 18 (7)
The DHL Stormers’ Australasian tour started with a solid 18-16 victory over the Hurricanes in a very windy Palmerston North on Friday morning (SA time).
A lot of factors contributed to the DHL Stormers’ victory – like their great defence and good tactical play – but the two point difference could also be attributed to an unlikely piece of individual brilliance by Bryan Habana, when he charged down an attempted conversion by Beauden Barrett on the stroke of half-time.
Habana’s special effort is something not seen all that much in the professional game these days and will probably be talked about for some time to come.
The charge-down wasn’t the only reason why the DHL Stormers won, though. The Hurricanes played a tactical game early on, which the visitors from South Africa absorbed and when they got within striking distance, the Capetonians made it count.
First Michael Rhodes drove over from a great lineout maul, after 32 minutes, which took the DHL Stormers into a 7-6 lead.
The Hurricanes scored their first try a couple of minutes later and Habana handled the conversion, which saw the sides go into the change rooms with the home team leading by 11-7.
Two Joe Pietersen penalty goals early in the second half made it 13-11 to the DHL Stormers, but a try by Andre Taylor took the home team back into the lead.
Gio Aplon had the final say with his try from a scrum following a strong run by Duane Vermeulen, which saw the DHL Stormers take the lead by 18-16 in the 63rd minute, and that was how it stayed until the end.
Hurricanes – Tries: Matt Proctor, Andre Taylor. Penalty goals: Beauden Barrett (2).
DHL Stormers – Tries: Gio Aplon, Michael Rhodes. Conversion: Joe Pietersen. Penalty goals: Pietersen (2).
Chiefs 37 (24) The Sharks 29 (19)
The Sharks showed some good old fighting spirit, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Chiefs repeated their win in the 2012 final when they trumped the KwaZulu-Natalians by 37-29 on Saturday morning (SA time).
The Chiefs won the match in the first 16 minutes, when they scored three converted tries and a penalty goal to take a 24-0 lead. At that stage, it looked like a massacre was on the cards for The Sharks, but they weren’t interested in getting trounced.
Refusing to give up, The Sharks scored three first-half tries of their own – two by Derick Minnie and one by Lubabalo Mtembu – as they clawed their way back to a half-time deficit of only 24-19. Their set piece was working very well and they kept the errors to a minimum in this time.
The Sharks played with more freedom and looked like they enjoyed the match – something that had been absent in their last few matches. Unfortunately, it also never looked like Chiefs would lose it.
Both teams added one more try in the second half – Keegan Daniel adding his name to the “loose forward try scorers list” for The Sharks – but the home team denied the Durbanites a second bonus point at the death when Aaron Cruden landed a penalty goal after Daniel was pinged for an infringement on the ground.
It was the Chiefs’ fifth consecutive victory over The Sharks, but John Plumtree’s team would’ve taken a lot of heart from this performance after they refused to go down despite probably their worst start to any match this season.
Even though the result was not the right one for Sharks fans, at least they could smile about the four tries, especially after their team could not score a single try in their last three matches before going to Hamilton.
Chiefs – Tries: Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Bundee Aki, Tim Nanai-Williams (2). Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (4). Penalty goals: Anscombe (2), Aaron Cruden.
The Sharks – Tries: Derick Minnie (2), Lubabalo Mtembu, Keegan Daniel. Conversions: Pat Lambie (3). Penalty goal: Lambie.
Vodacom Bulls 30 (12) Waratahs 19 (5)
A classic it wasn’t, but a win is a win for the Vodacom Bulls, who scored 15 points in the last 13 minutes as they beat the Waratahs by 30-19 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.
Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn contributed 25 points for the Vodacom Bulls, who were outscored by three tries to two.
And before the experienced pivot and Francois Hougaard, back from injury, dotted down late in the game, the visitors had scored all the tries in the match.
The Vodacom Bulls’ supremacy was laid in the lineouts, where they poached eight of the Waratahs’ throws. Unfortunately the same could not be said for their scrum, where the home team struggled yet again. They also missed too many crucial tackles, but forced a lot of kickable penalties, which Steyn duly converted into points.
All in all it wasn’t a great performance by the Vodacom Bulls, but they won, ensuring their impressive eight match winning streak over the Waratahs will be extended by at least another year.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Francois Hougaard, Morné Steyn. Conversion: Steyn. Penalty goals: Steyn (6).
Waratahs – Tries: Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Paddy Ryan. Conversions: Brendan McKibbin.
Toyota Cheetahs 26 (15) Southern Kings 12 (9)
The Toyota Cheetahs missed a great opportunity to go top of the South African Conference when they could only score three tries in their 26-12 win over the Southern Kings at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.
Despite creating a number of scoring opportunities, a combination of good defence by the Kings and over-eagerness by the Toyota Cheetahs cost the home team a valuable bonus point.
In fact, the Toyota Cheetahs had 35 minutes to get that fourth try after Willie le Roux scored their third shortly after the break. In the first half, Raymond Rhule and Lappies Labuschagne both rounded off long-range movements as it looked like the team from Central South Africa might run riot.
But the Kings’ defence has been solid all season and they kept the Toyota Cheetahs out. Unfortunately the visitors were also not able to score, thanks to very good defence by the home team. They created one or two chances, but simply could not get through.
Demetri Catrakilis’ boot kept the visitors in the game for the first 40 minutes though, but in the second half they simply had too much defending to do to really threaten.
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Raymond Rhule, Lappies Labuschagne, Willie le Roux. Conversion: Burton Francis. Penalty goals: Francis (3).
Southern Kings – Penalty goals: Demetri Catrakilis (4).
Other results – Round 11:
Reds 12 Blues 11 (Brisbane)
Brumbies 41 Force 7 (Canberra)
Crusaders 30 Rebels 26 (Christchurch)