It was a weekend of firsts in South African Vodacom Super Rugby history, with bragging rights in two derbies going to the Lions and the Cheetahs, whilst the Sharks cemented their position at the top of the standings.
On Friday evening, the Toyota Cheetahs turned around an 11-match losing streak against the Vodacom Bulls for their first-ever win over the team from Pretoria in this competition.
It wasn’t pretty and the conditions were dire, but the side from Central South Africa would not have been too bothered by that as they won 15-9.
Saturday afternoon saw the Cell C Sharks dismantle a spirited Hurricanes side by 27-9 in Durban, after which the Lions were responsible for yet another upset when they beat the DHL Stormers by 34-10 in Johannesburg – their first win over the Capetonians in 10 attempts.
Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff was his team’s hero with a personal haul of 29 points, meaning he has already reached 50 points this season after he got 21 last week against the Toyota Cheetahs.
His three drop-goals against the DHL Stormers also meant Boshoff joined a special group of only three players who have achieved this feat previously – Morné Steyn scored four for the Vodacom Bulls against the Crusaders in 2009, while Louis Koen (Vodacom Bulls v Cats in 2003) and Andrew Mehrtens (Crusaders v Highlanders in 1998) both slotted three drops each.
Boshoff’s efforts in the last two weekends is one of the fastest season fifties in the history of the game in SA, but it will take some doing to better the record held by Gavin Lawless, who scored 50 points in the opening match for the Sharks against the Highlanders in 1997.
Toyota Cheetahs 15 (12) Vodacom Bulls 9 (3)
The Toyota Cheetahs won the kicking contest in atrocious weather for rugby when they recorded their first-ever win over the Vodacom Bulls in eight years of Vodacom Super Rugby.
The score of 15-9 tells a story of a match where no tries were scored and all the points came via the boot. It was the first time the Toyota Cheetahs could not breach the Vodacom Bulls’ line, and vice versa.
The heavy downpour in Bloemfontein obviously didn’t help, but both sides struggled to get their game going in a match which will probably not be remembered for too long.
In the end, the Toyota Cheetahs probably played the conditions better, with fullback Willie le Roux underlining the massive improvement he’s shown in his tactical play by keeping his team in the right areas of the field with a number of superb kicks up field, along with Johan Goosen.
The Toyota Cheetahs were also very good on defence and won a number of turnovers from the three-time champions, who struggled to get going on a night which would’ve been bitter-sweet for Victor Matfield as he became the most-capped Vodacom Super Rugby player in the history of South African rugby with 126 matches.
Toyota Cheetahs: Penalty goals: Johan Goosen (4). Drop-goal: Goosen.
Vodacom Bulls: Penalty goals: Louis Fouché, Handré Pollard (2).
Cell C Sharks 27 (10) Hurricanes 9 (6)
The Cell C Sharks cemented their place at the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby standings with a 27-9 win over the Hurricanes at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday afternoon.
However, the KwaZulu-Natalians will be disappointed that their great forward ascendancy, especially in the first half, did not lead to more tries. The Cell C Sharks really had their visitors from the New Zealand capital on the back-foot, but simply could not find the tryline.
As it stands, they outscored the Hurricanes by two tries to nil, but one of those was a well-taken intercept from 40 metres out by speedster Lwazi Mvovo.
Bulldozing loose forward Willem Alberts celebrated his 50th appearance for the Cell C Sharks with their first try after a period of sustained pressure on the ‘Canes’ line.
The rest of the Cell C Sharks’ points came from the boot of Pat Lambie, who was spot-on with five of his six kicks at goal.
The Hurricanes, who play the DHL Stormers in Cape Town next weekend, never gave up though, but they were kept in the game by the Cell C Sharks finishing struggles.
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Willem Alberts, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalty goals: Lambie (5).
Hurricanes: Penalty goals: Beauden Barrett (2), Marty Banks.
Lions 34 (22) DHL Stormers 10 (10)
For a second successive week the Lions caused an upset as they kept on celebrating their return to Vodacom Super Rugby with a magnificent 34-10 win over the DHL Stormers at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday evening.
Unlike their victory over the Toyota Cheetahs, which came thanks to a last-minute drop-goal, the Lions were the dominant side from the opening play and they kept it up for most of the 80 minutes.
The victory was built on Marnitz Boshoff’s dominant boot and a superb defensive effort, which saw the Lions turning over the scoreboard with regularity and keeping the DHL Stormers scoreless in the second half.
The Lions started very strongly – by the 19th minute Stefan Watermeyer had scored a try and Boshoff had added a conversion, two drop-goals and two penalty goals as the home side scored at a point a minute.
Thereafter the DHL Stormers narrowed the gap, with Scarra Ntubeni scoring his first Vodacom Super Rugby try, but the Lions were not to let this one slip. They stepped up the intensity after the break, especially on defence, with Boshoff and co. effectively kicking for territory and turning any scoring opportunity into points.
This was the first time in seven years the Lions have managed back-to-back Vodacom Super Rugby victories – in 2007 they beat the Reds and Force on consecutive weekends in rounds four and five. It was also the Lions franchise’s biggest win in any local derby. As the Cats, they beat the Bulls by 57-24 in 1999 and the Stormers by 41-7 in 1998.
Lions: Try: Stefan Watermeyer. Conversion: Marnitz Boshoff. Penalty goals: Boshoff (6). Drop-goals: Boshoff (3).
DHL Stormers: Try: Scarra Ntubeni. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goal: Catrakilis.
Other results – Round Two:
Crusaders 10 Chiefs 18 (Christchurch)
Highlander 29 Blues 21 (Dunedin)
Brumbies 17 Reds 27 (Canberra)
Waratahs 43 Force 21 (Sydney)