The Cell C Sharks will be the only South African team contesting the Vodacom Super Rugby play-offs this year after the Vodacom Bulls slipped up in Cape Town on Saturday, shortly before the KwaZulu-Natalians’ title hopes were dealt a blow in Bloemfontein.
The team from Durban dropped one position to third on the overall standings after their shock defeat by 27-20 to the Toyota Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium.
It was arguably the team from Bloemfontein’s best performance of the season as they moved up from the last spot on the log to 14th.
Earlier on Saturday afternoon, the DHL Stormers recorded the fourth-ever clean sheet in a local derby when they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 16-0 at DHL Newlands. Just before the June-break, the Capetonians did the same when they beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 33-0 in Cape Town.
It will be only the third time in the last 10 years that the Vodacom Bulls will not feature in the play-offs.
The other two times a South African side failed to score any points in local derbies, were in 1999 when the Cell C Sharks beat the Vodacom Bulls by 29-0, while the team from Pretoria beat the Southern Kings by 34-0 last year.
In total, it was the sixth time ever a South African team were kept scoreless in Vodacom Super Rugby and the Vodacom Bulls’ third zero. The Pretorians lost 27-0 to the Crusaders in Timaru in 2011 and the DHL Stormers lost 22-0 to the Crusaders in Cape Town in 2008.
On Friday evening, the Lions recorded their sixth win of the season when they beat the Rebels by 34-17 at Ellis Park, meaning 2014 will go down as the most successful for the team based in Johannesburg since the Cats franchise was dissolved before the 2006-season. Their previous best was five wins in 2007.
Although the Cell C Sharks lost, it was a special occasion for Springbok loose forward Willem Alberts, who became the 31st South African to reach 100 Vodacom Super Rugby points when he replaced Anton Bresler in the 45th minute in Bloemfontein.
This season alone nine players from South Africa moved past this magical mark. Alberts made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut in 2007 for the Lions, whom he represented in 37 matches until 2009. Since then, he has played 63 times for the Cell C Sharks.
Other players who went past 100 Vodacom Super Rugby appearances in 2014, are JP Pietersen, Akona Ndungane, Werner Kruger, Jean de Villiers, Keegan Daniel, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira and Peter Grant.
Lions 34 (14) Rebels 17 (10)
Twenty unanswered points in the final quarter saw the Lions win their sixth match of the Vodacom Super Rugby season when they beat the Rebels by 34-17 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Friday evening.
The Lions’ strong finish included tries by loose forwards Warwick Tecklenburg and Warren Whiteley, while Marnitz Boshoff capped another fine performance by contributing 19 points with the boot.
The home team started strongly when Anthony Volmink went over in the second minute for their first try, but thereafter the Lions struggled to assert themselves on the visitors from Melbourne, who slowly but surely crept their way back into the match.
Both teams tried to keep the ball in hand, which led to some exciting attacking rugby but also a lot of unnecessary errors.
Colby Faingaa’s try 10 minutes after the break saw the visitors take the lead for the first time, but thereafter the Lions got their challenge back on track and did what was necessary to clinch their sixth win of 2014.
They capitalised when Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham was sent to the sin bin in the 70th minute, with Whiteley crashing over for the try which saw the Rebels lose their seventh straight match on South African soil.
It also means that this year will go down as the Lions’ best in history since the Cats-franchise split at the end of the 2005 season.
Lions: Tries: Anthony Volmink, Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2). Penalty goals: Boshoff (5).
Rebels: Tries: Tom English, Colby Faingaa. Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (2). Penalty goal: Debreczeni.
DHL Stormers 16 (0) Vodacom Bulls 0
The DHL Stormers recorded only the fourth ever – but their second of 2014 – clean sheet in a South African Vodacom Super Rugby derby when they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 16-0 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.
The home team started like a house on fire and were ahead by 10-0 after only 15 minutes of relentless attacking play on a cold day in Cape Town. Jaco Taute scored the DHL Stormers’ try, while flyhalf Kurt Coleman added the rest via the boot.
Two more Coleman penalty goals saw the home team lead by 16-0 after a dominant first half for the Capetonians and where the Vodacom Bulls hardly got their hands on the ball. The main reasons for the visitors’ struggles were the DHL Stormers’ enterprising play, but also a slew of errors by the team from Pretoria.
The Vodacom Bulls’ scrum was under constant pressure in the first half and their line-out wasn’t as solid as always. The DHL Stormers also lost a line-out or two in the second half, but they didn’t make as many mistakes as their opponents.
When the rain came down in the second half, both teams struggled to put together anything resembling a proper attacking move and after the excitement of the first quarter, the match lost a lot of fizzle towards the end.
Supporters of the DHL Stormers won’t complain too much though as their team has now beaten all four other South African teams in the competition this year.
However, for the Vodacom Bulls this defeat spelled the end of their slim hopes of reaching the play-offs and they will now play for pride and second position in the SA Conference.
DHL Stormers: Try: Jaco Taute. Conversion: Kurt Coleman. Penalty goals: Coleman (3).
Toyota Cheetahs 27 (17) Cell C Sharks 20 (13)
The Toyota Cheetahs beat the Cell C Sharks for the first time in Bloemfontein since 2009, seriously denting the KwaZulu-Natalians’ title aspirations when they won this highly entertaining local derby by 27-20 on Saturday evening.
It was clear from the outset that the Toyota Cheetahs were not bothered too much by their last spot on the overall log, or that the Cell C Sharks were sitting pretty in second position.
The home team led by 10-0 early on after a try by Torsten van Jaarsveld. Shortly thereafter a scintillating solo-try from Cobus Reinach, who cut the home team’s defence to shreds from a line-out, woke the visitors up.
After 30 minutes, the Cell C Sharks led by 13-10, but a late first-half try from eventual Man of the Match Philip van der Walt saw the Toyota Cheetahs finish the first half in front by 17-13.
A third Toyota Cheetah try, by new Springbok lock Lood de Jager, followed by another penalty goal from Johan Goosen increased their lead to 27-13, but then the Cell C Sharks woke up again from their mid-game slumber, with the introduction of a host of Boks from the bench lifting the visitors.
The Cell C Sharks scored a second try – by Bismarck du Plessis after a superb maul – and with minutes to go they were behind by only seven points. That is how it ended, with the Toyota Cheetahs on the back foot but defending like Trojans as the visitors put up a massive fight for another log point at the death.
Toyota Cheetahs: Tries: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Philip van der Walt, Lood de Jager. Conversions: Johan Goosen (3). Penalty goals: Goosen (2).
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Cobus Reinach, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversions: Tim Swiel (2). Penalty goals Swiel (2).
Other results – Round 18:
Chiefs 24 Hurricanes 16 (Hamilton)
Crusaders 21 Blues 13 (Christchurch)
Force 30 Reds 20 (Perth)
Waratahs 44 Highlanders 16 (Sydney)