The Vodacom Bulls flew the South African flag in Vodacom Super Rugby this weekend as the other four teams all lost their matches on Saturday.
The team from Pretoria won their traditional North-South derby against the DHL Stormers by 28-12 on Saturday evening and had to dig deep early on when the Capetonians scored two very good tries in the first 20 minutes.
It was the Vodacom Bulls’ biggest victory over the DHL Stormers since round 11 in 2007, when they won by 49-12 in Pretoria.
Earlier on Saturday, the Lions almost caused a massive upset in Dunedin when they came back from 23-0 down at half-time to lose 23-22 after scoring four great second-half tries against the Highlanders.
Had their kicking been better – the visitors’ kickers missed three conversions – the Lions could easily have become the first South African team to win in New Zealand this year.
The Cell C Sharks went down by 16-9 to the Brumbies in a top-of-the-table clash in a very wet Canberra, but managed to hold on to their first position on the log thanks to a losing bonus-point.
And on Saturday afternoon, the Force won in South Africa for the first time since March 2011 and beat the Toyota Cheetahs for the first time in three years when they won by 23-16 in Bloemfontein, putting a dampener on Naka Drotské’s 100th match in charge of the team from Central South Africa.
Highlanders 23 (23) Lions 22 (0)
If ever there was a typical game of two halves, it was the Lions’ one-point defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
It was the second time this season the Lions held their opponents scoreless in the second half, but other than when they beat the Reds at Ellis Park in round six, this time the Highlanders held out to win by 23-22.
The home team scored all the points in the first-half, through three well-worked tries, a conversion, penalty goal and a drop-goal, as the Lions struggled to really get into the game.
But as much as they struggled to get going in the in first half, the Lions were simply a different proposition in the second and played much better. They scored four tries during this time for rtheir first try-scoring bonus-point all season.
Three of these, by Lionel Mapoe, Armand van der Merwe and Courtnall Skosan, came in the final 13 minutes when the Highlanders’ tank ran dry, but between Marnitz Boshoff and Elton Jantjies they missed all three conversions, which probably would have seen the Lions win their first match in New Zealand since 2011.
Highlanders: Tries: Richard Buckman (2), Gareth Evans. Conversion: Hayden Parker. Penalty goal: Parker. Drop-goal: Parker.
Lions: Tries: Faf de Klerk, Lionel Mapoe, Armand van der Merwe, Courtnall Skosan. Conversion: Marnitz Boshoff.
Brumbies 16 (6) Cell C Sharks 9 (3)
The Cell C Sharks couldn’t repeat their Melbourne win from last weekend in terrible conditions in Canberra when they went down 16-9 to the Brumbies in a match dominated by tactical play.
In the end, the home team simply won the tactical battle as they added a second South African scalp to their 2014 collection with a 16-9 win.
The only difference on the score board was a converted try by Sam Carter – the only try of the match – in the 63rd minute. It was also the only real highlight of a typical wet-weather arm-wrestle where both teams took the safe option and kicked most of the time.
Unfortunately for the Cell C Sharks, their kicking game was not good enough on the night – both out of hand and at goal.
This match will not be remembered for long, but at least the Cell C Sharks managed to cling onto the top spot on the log before the New Zealand leg of their Australasian tour.
Brumbies: Try: Sam Carter. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalty goals: Lealiifano (3).
Cell C Sharks: Penalty goals: Frans Steyn (3).
Toyota Cheetahs 16 (6) Force 23 (16)
The Force won in South Africa for the first time in three years when they beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 23-16 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
Mistakes with ball in hand was probably the main reason the Toyota Cheetahs lost this game. Both the Force’s tries came from turn-overs with the home team on the attack, but the visitors also defended very well.
After a relatively poor first half, the Toyota Cheetahs looked much stronger in second half and Boom Prinsloo’s try shortly after the break saw them inch closer to 16-13. They created chances, but couldn’t round off as the Force turned over possession regularly in their own 22 or the home team coughed up the ball through unforced errors.
A couple of times, especially late in the second half, the Toyota Cheetahs were stopped inches short of the try-line. Good defence by the Force and bad ball control ultimately cost the home team.
But the Force also showed more enterprise during the game as they continued their best season ever, with Jayden Hawyard and Nick Cummins scoring their tries at the Free State Stadium.
Toyota Cheetahs: Try: Boom Prinsloo. Conversion: Johan Goosen. Penalty goals: Goosen (3).
Force: Tries: Jayden Hayward, Nick Cummins. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (2). Penalty goals: Ebersohn (3).
Vodacom Bulls 28 (12) DHL Stormers 12 (12)
The Vodacom Bulls suffocated and strangled the DHL Stormers for 60 minutes to win their North-South derby at Loftus Versfeld by 28-12 on Saturday evening.
The visitors from Cape Town started the match like a house on fire and by the 20th minute, they were leading by 12-0 thanks to two great tries, by Kurt Coleman and Juan de Jongh. Both came after some enterprising attacking play on the counter by the DHL Stormers.
Unfortunately for the DHL Stormers, they did not trouble scorers again as the Vodacom Bulls started to exert the pressure with their big pack dominant. In fact, the visitors didn’t even had an opportunity to kick for points again during the match.
The Vodacom Bulls was very effective in and dominated proceedings for the 20 minutes of the first half. They took the points on offer, with Handré Pollard slotting three penalty goals and a drop-goal to ensure the teams went into the break even at 12-12.
With their pack on the front foot and a kicking game that strangled the visitors, the Vodacom Bulls kept up their dominance for the final 40 minutes.
Pollard added two more penalty goals before Akona Ndungane rounded off a great counter-attacking move and with 14 minutes to go, the home team had done enough to edge the derby.
Vodacom Bulls: Try: Akona Ndungane. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalty goals: Pollard (5), Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Drop-goal: Pollard.
DHL Stormers: Tries: Kurt Coleman, Juan de Jongh. Conversion: Coleman.
Other results – Round 13:
Chiefs 32 Blues 20 (New Plymouth)
Rebels 15 Hurricanes 25 (Melbourne)
Reds 29 Crusaders 57 (Brisbane)