The Vodacom Bulls delivered their best performance of the season as the Cell C Sharks kept their grip on the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby table after four rounds.
The three-time champions from Pretoria scored four tries to one in their impressive victory over the Blues at Loftus Versfeld – their first try-scoring bonus-point of 2014 in a 38-22 win.
The Cell C Sharks’ score over the Lions was similar – 37-23 – and they also got a bonus-point for four tries which, as in the Vodacom Bulls’ case, was scored very late in the match.
The two South African teams currently touring Down Under both lost – the Toyota Cheetahs by 43-33 against the Reds in Brisbane, while the DHL Stormers put in a very spirited performance in Christchurch, but ultimately lost by 14-13 against the Crusaders – their 33rd successive home win over teams from the Republic.
Two of the three remaining unbeaten teams in the competition, the defending champion Chiefs and the Waratahs, had byes this weekend.
Reds 43 (29) Toyota Cheetahs 33 (20)
The Toyota Cheetahs lost their second successive Vodacom Super Rugby match in Australia when they went down by 43-33 to the Reds in Brisbane, their ability to hang onto the ball and build any form of meaningful momentum again costing the team based in Bloemfontein dearly.
It was the most points the Toyota Cheetahs have ever scored away against the team from Queensland, but also the most they’ve ever conceded at the Suncorp Stadium.
The first-half was a high-scoring affair, with more than a point a minute scored by the two teams. However, a try on the stroke of half-time by Reds hooker Rod Davies, after some iffy defence by the Toyota Cheetahs, put the visitors on the back foot.
Ultimately they slipped too many crucial one-on-one tackles close to their own try-line, which cost the Toyota Cheetahs dearly. They did score three good tries, by inside centre Francois Venter, flanker Boom Prinsloo and replacement flyhalf Elgar Watts but conceded five as they struggled to keep possession to build a good attacking platform.
Their line-outs and scrums were very good, but unfortunately the Toyota Cheetahs could not capitalise on this.
Reds: Tries: Chris Feauai-Sautia (2), Rod Davies, James Hanson, Penalty try. Conversions: Quade Cooper (3). Penalty goals: Cooper (4).
Toyota Cheetahs: Tries: Francois Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Elgar Watts. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2), Elgar Watts. Penalty goals: Goosen (4).
Crusaders 14 (3) DHL Stormers 13 (3)
It was heartbreak for the DHL Stormers as they got pipped at the post and lost to the Crusaders by one point, 14-13, in a tight Vodacom Super Rugby match at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday morning. (Read the full match report here.)
The Capetonians put in one of the gutsiest performances away against the Crusaders in more than a decade by any South African team, but they conceded 11 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes as the Cantabrians snuck home.
The one-point win was the Crusaders’ narrowest home victory over any South African team since they lost to Cats in 2001.
Typically, the DHL Stormers’ defence was again superb as they missed just five out of 122 tackles.
With 10 minutes left, the visitors, who only try was scored by Damian De Allende, were still in the lead and they were looking good to cause a major upset, but Crusaders flyhalf Tom Taylor had the last say with a penalty goal in the 76th minute, which saw the hosts take the lead and hold out for their first victory of 2014.
“The game was there for the taking but it just slipped away from us in those final 12 minutes,” said a dejected DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee afterwards. “In the end, some of our own errors cost us again – we left two tries out there for instance – but after an effort like that you cannot help but feel for the guys.”
Crusaders: Try: Kieron Fonotia. Penalty goals: Tom Taylor (3).
DHL Stormers: Try: Damian de Allende. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goals: Catrakilis (2).
Vodacom Bulls 38 (25) Blues 22 (12)
The Vodacom Bulls put in their best Vodacom Super Rugby performance of the season when they comfortably beat the Blues by 38-22 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.
The home team outscored their visitors from Auckland by four tries to one – three of these, by Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Jono Ross and Jan Serfontein, coming in the first half where the Vodacom Bulls controlled the game very well.
The Vodacom Bulls’ defence was rock-solid against a Blues team who scored seven tries in their first two matches, but could only get one on Saturday.
The foundation was again laid upfront, where the Vodacom Bulls pack simply had too much power for their opponents, and while the backline looked much better this weekend, they can still improve.
Potgieter had another good game for the Pretorians – he scored their opening try and contributed a total of 21 points, which included a well-taken drop goal, three penalty goals and two conversions.
Vodacom Bulls: Tries: Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Jono Ross, Jan Serfontein, Marcel van der Merwe. Conversions: Potgieter (2), Handré Pollard. Penalty goals: Potgieter (3). Drop goal: Potgieter.
Blues: Try: Pita Ahki. Conversion: Simon Hickey. Penalty goals: Hickey (4), Piri Weepu.
Cell C Sharks 37 (23) Lions 23 (9)
The Cell C Sharks cemented their position at the top of the log after beating the Lions by 37-23 in a hotly-contested local Vodacom Super Rugby derby at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday evening.
Like they did in their season-opener against the Vodacom Bulls a few weeks ago, the Cell C Sharks bagged the four-try bonus-point, but only got it in the dying moments of the game after having scored their third try in the 50th minute already.
After that, it seemed like the KwaZulu-Natalians went to sleep though, while their ill-discipline also cost them some momentum during the match.
They did well upfront and looked in control, but the Cell C Sharks’ wheels came off a bit as a bunch of substitutions were made. The Lions pounced with two quick tries midway through the second half, which saw them trial by only seven points with a tad more than 10 minutes remaining.
But the home team remained composed under pressure and in the end they were simply better at finishing their opportunities, with Frans Steyn putting in a good performance at flyhalf after moving into the position following the late withdrawal of Pat Lambie.
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane, Marcell Coetzee. Conversions: Frans Steyn (4). Penalty goals: Steyn (3).
Lions: Tries: Faf de Klerk, Deon van Rensburg. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2). Penalty goals: Boshoff (3).
Other results – Round Four:
Hurricanes 21 Brumbies 29 (Wellington)
Force 32 Rebels 7 (Perth)