The Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers returned to winning ways on a weekend of Vodacom Super Rugby where six from seven home teams were victorious.
Ironically, both the teams from Pretoria and Cape Town were outscored by two tries to one in their respective matches against the Lions and the Hurricanes, but won mainly because of pin-point goal-kicking accuracy.
On Friday evening the DHL Stormers snuck through by 19-18 against the Hurricanes at DHL Newlands, while the Vodacom Bulls beat the Lions by 25-17 in the first Gauteng-derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.
It wasn’t a happy weekend for the Toyota Cheetahs though, as they lost their first tour match of the season by 35-14 to the Rebels in Melbourne. The Cell C Sharks had a bye.
Melbourne Rebels 35 (17) Toyota Cheetahs 14 (0)
The Melbourne Rebels recorded only their second ever victory in 13 matches over a South African Vodacom Super Rugby team when they capitalised on a lacklustre performance by the Toyota Cheetahs to win by 35-14 at AAMI Park on Friday morning.
The team from Bloemfontein will be the first to admit it wasn’t even close to their best as they conceded five tries in 80 minutes in Melbourne – this after keeping the Lions and Vodacom Bulls tryless in their two opening matches of the season.
The Toyota Cheetahs’ inability to hold onto the ball – especially at the breakdown – and their struggles in the line-outs were probably the two main reasons why they were behind by 17-0 at the break.
Unfortunately, their defence was also not as sharp as in their previous matches, while their kicking – tactically and at goal – was not nearly as good as a week ago against the Vodacom Bulls in Bloemfontein.
They never gave up though, with replacement forwards Jean Cook and Rayno Barnes crossing for tries in the second half. But it was the Rebels’ night as they also recorded their second biggest win ever – they played with pace, had the bounce of the ball and produced probably one of their best performances since joining the Vodacom Super Rugby ranks in 2011.
Melbourne Rebels: Tries: Lachlan Mitchell, Jason Woodward, Luke Burgess, Bryce Hegarty, Scott Higginbotham. Conversions: Bryce Hegarty (2). Drop-goal: Angus Roberts.
Toyota Cheetahs: Tries: Jean Cook, Rayno Barnes. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2).
DHL Stormers 19 (6) Hurricanes 18 (12)
The DHL Stormers, thanks to a late maul try by loose forward Deon Fourie, recorded their fourth successive win over the Hurricanes when they won a nailbiting Vodacom Super Rugby clash by 19-18 on Friday evening.
Fourie’s try, in the 77th minute, was the DHL Stormers’ only five-pointer of the night, but as it stood that was all they needed to win a match in which they showed a lot of resilience and character.
Their discipline at the death was also exemplary as the ‘Canes took the ball through numerous phases, within striking distance, until almost three minutes after the hooter had sounded.
It was a well-deserved victory for the DHL Stormers, who never let their heads hang despite making a host of bad mistakes, especially with the wet and slippery ball in hand. It didn’t deter them though and when they were awarded a couple of penalties close to the visitors’ tryline, they opted for the line-out, knowing full-well that their maul will be unstoppable if they get it going.
Bad line-out play earlier in the match almost cost them, while their tactical kicking and option taking also weren’t up to scratch in the first 50 or so minutes. Thereafter they knuckled down, did what was needed and ensured they leave South Africa with a win under their belts.
The Hurricanes also deserve a pat on the back for scoring two great first-half tries when their wingers Julian Savea and Cory Jane crossed, both after good kicks in the DHL Stormers’ 22. It was the only chances the visitors had and they took them – something the home team struggled with for almost 80 minutes.
DHL Stormers: Try: Deon Fourie. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goals: Catrakilis (4).
Hurricanes: Tries: Julian Savea, Cory Jane. Conversion: Beauden Barrett. Penalty goals: Barrett (2).
Vodacom Bulls 25 (19) Lions 17 (10)
The Vodacom Bulls recorded their 10th straight Vodacom Super Rugby victory over the Lions at a wet and windy Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon when they won the first Gauteng-derby by 25-17.
The Lions outscored the Vodacom Bulls by two tries to one, but in the end they simply conceded too many kickable penalties. It was the second time that the team from Johannesburg scored more tries than the Pretorians, but still ended up losing – this also happened in 2008 when the Lions got three tries to two, but lost 31-17.
In a match where both teams defended well, the Vodacom Bulls looked a bit more enterprising with ball in hand, built on a proper platform laid by their pack of forwards. They stole a number of the Lions’ throws at line-out time and also got a couple of penalties from scrums, which Jacques-Louis Potgieter duly converted into points.
Potgieter contributed 20 of the Vodacom Bulls’ points in his first game back for the side from Pretoria since the Vodacom Super Rugby final in 2010.
Jan Serfontein scored their only try, which came from good counter-attacking play from a turn-over. Had the home team been better and finishing off, the score could have been even bigger.
The Lions tried hard to throw the ball around but the adverse conditions didn’t help. Both the Johannesburgers’ tries, by Stefan Watermeyer and Willie Wepener, came after they put the Vodacom Bulls’ kickers under pressure and charged down kicks close to the tryline.
Vodacom Bulls: Try: Jan Serfontein. Conversion: Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Penalty goals: Potgieter (5). Drop-goal: Potgieter.
Lions: Try: Stefan Watermeyer, Willie Wepener. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2). Penalty goal: Boshoff.
Other results – Round Three:
Blues 35 Crusaders 24 (Auckland)
Chiefs 21 Highlanders 19 (Hamilton)
Waratahs 32 Reds 5 (Sydney)
Force 14 Brumbies 27 (Perth)