It was a weekend of drama and excitement in South Africa as the DHL Stormers moved to the top of the local 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby log and the Emirates Lions kept alive their dream of reaching the top six.
The Emirates Lions beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 34-29 in an eight-try humdinger on Saturday afternoon to record their sixth victory of the season, making 2015 their second best yet but with six rounds to go.
Last year, the Emirates Lions finished with seven wins, two better than their five from 2007, but they are on track to better their best in the coming weeks.
The Toyota Cheetahs also deserve a lot of credit for never giving up as they returned to Bloemfontein with two bonus points.
The second local match on Saturday delivered heaps of drama and the result was in the balance right until the end, but the DHL Stormers hung on for their second victory over the Vodacom Bulls this season as they won by 15-13.
The visitors from Pretoria scored the only try of the match when Bjorn Basson went over early in the second half, but the match-clinching moment came at the death when Duane Vermeulen charged down an attempted drop-goal by Handré Pollard to lead his side to their seventh win of the season.
Emirates Lions 34 (7) Toyota Cheetahs 29 (10)
Eight tries were scored at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg where the Emirates Lions scored an entertaining 34-29 victory over the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday afternoon.
The victory – the Johannesburgers’ sixth of the season – means the Lions are still in with a shout of reaching the top six on the overall log.
The Cheetahs deserve a lot of credit for never giving up though, after a tight first half. On a number of occasions in the second half it looked like the home team were going to pull away, but the visitors stuck to their guns and fought back every time.
The Lions changed a 10-7 half-time deficit to a 24-10 lead within the first 10 minutes of the second half, mainly thanks to two quick tries by Ruan Combrinck and Lionel Mapoe, but the Toyota Cheetahs drew level 15 minutes later after Francois Venter and Johann Sadie scored.
A converted try by Faf de Klerk and another Elton Jantjies penalty sealed the result for the home team, but when Carel Greeff went over for the visitors in the 77th minute, it set up an exciting finale and ultimately secured the Cheetahs two bonus points.
The Emirates Lions came out tops in almost every category, but the visitors played with a never-say-die attitude which ensured the match will be remembered for a long time.
Emirates Lions: Tries: Faf de Klerk, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Warwick Tecklenburg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalty goals: Jantjies (2).
Toyota Cheetahs: Tries: Carel Greeff, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Venter, Johann Sadie. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3). Penalty goal: Pietersen.
DHL Stormers 15 (12) Vodacom Bulls 13 (3)
It was trench-warfare for most of the 80 minutes at DHL Newlands on Saturday, but ultimately the DHL Stormers came out tops with a 15-13 victory over the Vodacom Bulls in a very tough local derby.
The home team had to withstand a massive second half performance by the team from Pretoria and if it wasn’t for a superb charge-down of an attempted Handré Pollard drop-goal by Duane Vermeulen at the death, the result could have been different.
The DHL Stormers, who ground out victory thanks to a dominant scrum and superb defence, now lead the Vodacom Bulls by one point on the South African Log. Where the Pretorians still have their Australasian tour coming up, the Capetonians will play four of their remaining six matches at home.
The home side took a 9-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to three penalty goals by Demetri Catrakilis and at the break it was 12-3, but the Bulls showed their intentions and closed the gap to 12-10 with a brilliant try by Bjorn Basson which started deep in their own territory shortly after the break.
Thereafter the DHL Stormers had to do most of the defending, but they held on. The result could have swung late in the match when Pollard first missed a difficult penalty and then saw his drop-goal charged down, which was a fitting end to a superb match.
DHL Stormers: Penalty goals: Demetri Catrakilis (5).
Vodacom Bulls: Try: Bjorn Basson. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalty goals: Pollard (2).
Other results – Round 11:
Reds 19 Hurricanes 35
Waratahs 18 Rebels 16
Crusaders 29 Blues 15
Brumbies 31 Highlanders 18
Chiefs 35 Force 27